The thematic lessons address a specific issue, such as religious freedom, women’s rights, and immigration. These lessons have a larger timeframe that demonstrate change and continuity over time. Religious freedom is guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, yet throughout our nation's history, religious groups have fought to practice free from abuse and discrimination. The scope of the lesson may need to be edited by a teacher looking at religious freedom in the early republic but left intact to accommodate a government teacher dealing with religious freedom overall. Therefore, it is encouraged to edit or model a lesson based on those provided.
The traditional lesson plans are designed to fit into a specific textbook chapter or subject, such as slavery and emancipation or labor in the early 20th century. The lesson on slavery and emancipation examines the Underground Railroad and its role in helping fugitive slaves reach Philadelphia. The lesson continues to compare and contrast the experience of blacks living in Philadelphia during the Civil War and the change that followed the Emancipation Proclamation. The assessment for both the thematic and chronological lessons are similar in having students take notes and use their notes to answer essays or have a discussion (teacher- or student-based).
Document-based questions (DBQs)
The scope of the documents allows teachers of advanced-level students to create Document Based Questions (DBQs). The use of DBQs does not need to be limited to AP or IB courses but can be used in any class format. Preserving American Freedom's educators' section provides a guide to creating your own DBQ from the 50 documents. In order to better facilitate the process, two DBQs have been provided that can also be used as a form of assessment. These illustrate how a teacher may create a DBQ using multiple sections or a single section of Preserving American Freedom.
Teachers are not limited to all of the above suggestions. Teachers who have more time or less restrictions may want to go further with the documents to create non-traditional forms of assessment. Group projects that analyze several documents in a particular section or based on a theme may challenge the students to dig deeper into the documents and context of the period. Teachers may also focus on a particular person or organization and assign students research papers that would require the use of other primary and secondary sources. (The Historical Society of Pennsylvania has an entire digital library with documents and images.) Presentations, group or individual, could easily be devised to have students address a significant issue or organizations. Preserving American Freedom touches on such themes as religious freedom, consent of the governed, economic liberty, slavery, anti-slavery organizations, suffrage, labor rights, civil rights, imperialism, and equality. Preserving American Freedom also addresses many different disciplines within the field of history; documents may be used for the study of intellectual, political, economic, cultural, gender, military, religion, immigration, race and ethnicity.