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Using Primary Sources:
Letters from the Presidents


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  • Arts & Humanities
    Language Arts
  • Educational Technology
  • Social Studies
    Civics, U.S. History, World History


6-8, 9-12

Brief Description

This lesson introduces students to the minds and thoughts of presidents through their actual letters.



  • learn about the personal lives of presidents.
  • learn about presidents' personal and familial relationships.
  • learn about the character and personalities of presidents.
  • learn about how presidents reacted to the historic events in which they participated.


biography, diary, journal, letter, president

Materials Needed

  • paper and pencils
  • Internet access (Ideally, the activity should be completed using the Internet resources that are noted; however, creative teachers and students will have just as much success using other library resources as an alternative to Web sites.)

    Lesson Plan

    This lesson by seventh-grade teacher Steven Vetter comes from American Presidents: Life Portraits, a companion Web site to C-SPAN's 20th Anniversary Television Series American Presidents: Life Portraits. In the activity, students learn about the presidents by touring the American Presidents Web site. Then they choose one president and read a letter written by him. They use the letter to respond in writing to a set of questions that deal with its components and what it reveals about the writer. As a wrap-up to the activity, students create essays in response to one of five assignments.

    See the complete lesson at Using Primary Sources: Letters from the Presidents. There Vetter shares his rationale for the lesson and for using primary source documents in Using Letters of the Presidents in the Classroom.


    Evaluate students' written compositions.

    Lesson Plan Source

    American Presidents

    Submitted By

    Cara Bafile

    National Standards

    LANGUAGE ARTS: English




    • GRADES 5 - 8
      NSS-C.5-8.1 Civic Life, Politics, and Government


    • GRADES 9 - 12
      NSS-C.9-12.1 Civic Life, Politics, and Government



    SOCIAL SCIENCES: World History




    • GRADES K - 12
      NT.K-12.5 Technology Research Tools

    See more lessons at Presidents' Day Activities!

    Click here to return to the Hail to the Chief! lesson plan page.

    Last updated 2/13/2012