Analyzing Primary Sources

Students will read the New York Times coverage of President Woodrow Wilson’s address to Congress on April 2, 1917. Students will analyze the New York Times coverage using a document analysis tool called SOAPSTone.

Guiding Questions

  • Was the media’s (New York Times) coverage of Wilson’s address favorable or unfavorable?
  • What was the significance of Wilson’s request for a war declaration?

Learning Outcomes

The student will be able to:

  • Analyze a primary source.
  • Interpret the significance of a primary source.

Activities

  • Begin the activity by engaging the class with a brief class discussion about isolationism. Prompt students with the following question: What justifications are necessary for American involvement in foreign wars?
  • Direct students to read the New York Times’s coverage of President Wilson’s address to Congress.
  • Review each component of the SOAPSTone organizer with students.
  • Direct students to complete the SOAPSTone graphic organizer.
  • Direct students to record written responses to the following questions:
    • Was the media’s coverage of Wilson’s address favorable or unfavorable?
    • What was the significance of Wilson’s request for a war declaration?
    • After students analyze the primary source, debrief the class, ultimately returning to the opening discussion: What justifications are necessary for American involvement in foreign wars?

Assessment

The following questions could be used to gauge student understanding of the primary source:

  • Do you think the media supported President Wilson’s address? How do you know? What evidence leads you to that conclusion?
  • What reasons does President Wilson offer to justify American involvement in Europe? Are his reasons valid?
  • What is the significance of Woodrow Wilson’s request for a Congressional declaration of war?

Assess students’ understanding by monitoring their completion of the worksheet and reviewing their SOAPSTone and discussion responses.

Modifications

The New York Times coverage is quite long. For the purposes of time, you may wish to excerpt the coverage. Relevant subsections include: “Unreservedly With the Allies,” “A Roar Answers No “Submission,” “A World ‘Safe for Democracy’” Alternatively, you can place students in small groups (2-3 students per group) and have the students analyze a specific subsection of the coverage.

Teacher Planning

Time Required

30 minutes

Materials Needed