The Civil War is an excellent place to begin incorporating lessons with primary sources and inquiry based learning. There are numerous primary sources to be found online including photographs, letters and diary entries.
This lesson includes powerpoint presentation with maps and photographs as well as two primary sources. One primary source is a letter from a Bull Run soldier to his family. The other is a first hand account of how the battle affected the Henry Family. The powerpoint includes a photograph of their destroyed house.
I use this exploration as an introduction to the causes of the Civil War. I encourage students to make inferences and ask questions about the images they view on each slide. When we finish, we have a discussion about their inferences and questions.
This inquiry from c3teachers.org is designed for 7th grade students. Students explore the effect the novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin had on public opinion. Based on the compelling question, “Can Words Lead to War?” this inquiry prompts students to examine how slavery was described in the novel, why Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote it and how people in both the North and South reacted to the book.
I frequently use sources and graphs that other teachers have posted online to create bellringers, group activities and assessments. Here’s some that I’ve used in the past: