What's the Most Important?
Last updated 5-15-2014
Overview: This Web-based lesson plan
is designed to introduce students to key events in the history of American
education as they explore an educational history timeline and choose events
they believe to be the most important. They then discuss their choices
in small groups and attempt to reach a consensus on the five most important
events in American educational history. The lesson can serve as an introduction
to the topic of educational history or as a stand-alone activity.
Grade Level: This activity is intended
for college students but could probably be successfully completed by
high school students.
Outcome: Students will learn about key
events in the history of American education as they explore an educational
history timeline and make choices about their relative importance.
Procedure: Assign students the task
American Educational History: A Hypertext Timeline
and clicking on links to additional information regarding events
they believe are interesting and/or important. Explain that their task
is to choose the five events included in the timeline that they believe
are the most important in the history of American education. Define "important"
as events having the greatest impact on American society. Tell them that
they should write a short paragraph about each event they choose that
briefly describes it and explains why it is important.
During the next class period, divide students into groups of four or five.
Direct them to share their lists and then reach a group consensus on the
five most important events in the history of American education. They should
decide on a rank order for their five events and then write their list
on the board in order of importance (with the most important event at the
top of the list). Have each group choose a spokesperson.
When all groups have put their lists on the board, ask each group
spokesperson to explain their choices. Initiate a whole-class discussion
regarding similarities and differences between the lists as well as students'
reasons for including their choices. Add any important events you believe
the students have overlooked. Write them on the board and explain why you
consider them important.
Closure: Conclude the discussion by
trying to reach a consensus regarding the events the class believes make
up the top five. Though actually reaching a whole-class consensus may not be
possible, the resultant discussion should prove both valuable and interesting.
Extension: Assign your students the task of
using the Internet to identify other important events in the history of
American education that do not appear in the timeline. Have them send their
If I deem their ideas worthy, I will add
Have questions or comments about this activity?
My name is
Edmund J. Sass, Ed.D.
You can reach me at