- Complete a worksheet about Thomas Jefferson
- Conduct independent research for a historical fiction short story
- Write and edit a historical fiction short story
- Whiteboard or chart paper and markers
- Computers (with printer access) for student use
- Writing paper
- Optional: Print materials about Thomas Jefferson
- Optional: Graphic organizers for note taking
- Optional: Bulletin board for displaying student writing
- Prepare the Thomas Jefferson's Life worksheet using the text from Part I, Step 2. Print a class set of copies.
- Preview the following websites or bookmark ones you would like your students to use to research the answers to the worksheet. Alternatively, you can have students use print materials to find the answers.
- Optional: Depending on the age and maturity of your students, you may decide to forgo the Critical Thinking Question. If you decide you do want students to research and answer the question, prepare to have a class discussion about slavery. You may want to have students read The Smithsonian's "The Dark Side of Thomas Jefferson" for more information about slaves at Monticello.
- Preview A Day in the Life of Thomas Jefferson from The Jefferson Monticello, as students will use this resource to find background information for their short story.
- Optional: You may want to create a rubric for the short story assignment (described in Part 2, Step 1).
Part 1: Who Was Thomas Jefferson?
Step 1: Ask students what they know about Thomas Jefferson. Ask what students consider his most important achievement. Write all answers on the board or chart paper.
Step 2: Hand out the Thomas Jefferson's Life worksheet. Instruct students to use the print materials you gathered or one of the following websites to answer all of the questions on the worksheet. Depending on your class, you may want to have students work in small groups to complete the worksheet.
- The Jefferson Monticello
- The History Channel
- The White House
- UVA: Miller Center
- If students are interested in doing more research before answering the Critical Thinking Question, the Smithsonian published an article called "The Dark Side of Thomas Jefferson."
Thomas Jefferson's Life
- When and where was Thomas Jefferson born?
- Which college did Jefferson attend?
- After college, what did Jefferson do?
- What was the name of Jefferson's plantation?
- What important document did Jefferson write?
- What university did Jefferson start?
Write in Jefferson's occupations during these years.
Critical Thinking Question
In the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson wrote that all men are created equal. Do you think that, as a slave owner, he practiced what he preached?
Step 3: When students are finished with the Thomas Jefferson's Life worksheet, go over the answers as a class or collect the worksheets.
Part 2: Life at Monticello
Step 1: Explain that students' next task will be to write a short fictional story about a child living at Monticello in Thomas Jefferson's time. The child may be one of Jefferson's children, the child of a slave working on the plantation, or another invented character. Discuss your requirements for the short story assignment, including historically accuracy.
Step 2: In order to write a story that is historically accurate, students will need to know more about the Monticello estate and Thomas Jefferson's day-to-day life there. Direct students to A Day in the Life of Thomas Jefferson from The Jefferson Monticello. Encourage them to take notes on information they feel may be useful when writing a story that takes place at Monticello.
Step 3: When students have a solid base of knowledge about Monticello, they should begin writing their first draft of the story. Allow students to start writing during class and assign the completion of a first draft for homework.
Part 3: Polishing the Short Story
Step 1: Students should come to class with a complete first draft of their short story. Break students into pairs or small groups to share their stories and provide feedback.
Note: If students are used to a more structured peer-review and editing process, conduct the reviewing steps as you would for any other writing assignment.
Step 2: Have students revise their writing based on peer feedback. You may want to meet with students one-on-one during this revision process.
Step 3: Have students type their final short stories. Encourage them to experiment with fonts and add photos of the Monticello plantation.
Step 4: Before students print their stories, have them reread their writing and check for spelling and grammatical errors. Remind students that their writing should be polished and something they are proud of!
Step 5: When students have printed their final stories, hold a class sharing session or display the stories on a bulletin board so students can read each other's work.