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Lesson Plan

A Primary Source Picture Book by NNWP


English Language Arts (NYS P-12 Common Core), Social Studies (NYS K-12 Framework Common Core)

Grade Levels

Elementary, Intermediate, 3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th Grade

Writing skills (traits) to stress while teaching this lesson

  • The focus trait in this writing assignment is idea development; students will look for a theme--or BIG idea--in the primary source document they choose to use, and their illustrations and book title will need to hint at this theme throughout its pages.
  • The support trait students will work on is conventions; Jackson explains how she made several important editing decisions when transferring the primary source into her picture book. Students will be encouraged to think similarly and be able to justify their editing decisions as part of their book's assessment.


Inspired by Ellen Jackson's picture book, My Tour of Europe by Teddy Roosevelt, Age 10, students will explore primary source documents they have studied throughout a year of study to decide which primary source from their notebooks would translate into the most interesting picture book. Working in teams of three or four, students will serve as editors, layout designers, illustrators and publishers of a book. The teacher will keep the best books in the classroom library for next year's class, and each contributing student will sign.


The Northern Nevada Writing Project: HistoryFix
The Northern Nevada Writing Project: WritingFix


This writing across the curriculum lesson was created by Northern Nevada Writing Project Consultant Corbett Harrison.


  • At least one classroom copy of My Tour Of Europe: By Teddy Roosevelt , Age 10 by Ellen Jackson.
  • At least one classroom copy of The Boyhood Diary of Theodore Roosevelt, 1869-1870
  • A variety of primary source documents from a year of study to choose from. There should be enough choices so that each group can use a different one for its book.
  • Materials for creating and binding a picture book.
  • Lesson plan

Background Information

In 2007, author Ellen Jackson contacted me and offered me a perusal copy of My Tour Of Europe: By Teddy Roosevelt , Age 10. She had been following the development of our HistoryFix website, and felt her picture book might inspire the types of writers and teachers for whom we were building the site. The book arrived during a very busy time for me, and I had only a chance to glance at it at the time it showed up. Because I was swamped, I had to temporarily shelve the book. Over 6 months later, I was working with some teachers from the American History Project, and their discussion of using primary source documents in the classroom jogged my memory of Ellen's unique book, which is a primary source (Teddy Roosevelt's actual boyhood journal) translated into a picture book. When I grabbed it from the shelf and re-read it in a new context, I became genuinely excited. I created this lesson, which is intended to be an end-of-year lesson for any teacher who uses many primary source documents in the classroom.

Step-by-Step Procedure

Step one...sharing the mentor texts:  Share from My Tour of Europe: By Teddy Roosevelt, Age 10 by Ellen Jackson. Discuss how great it is that we can know more about a fascinating man like Theodore Roosevelt because he actually kept a diary as a boy. Explain that author Ellen Jackson wanted students to really enjoy the diaries of this future president as he went on a life-changing journey with his family, so she took the primary source documents--his saved diaries and journals--, edited them, and illustrated them in picture book form.

Next, share with students several of the passages about T.R.'s European trip from The Boyhood Diary of Theodore Roosevelt, 1869-1870. Have students compare the complete primary source documents in this book to the version in Ellen Jackson's picture book. Talk about what good editors do and the decisions they would have to make. Most primary source documents would not make a very interesting text for a picture book, but might one if it was edited?

Finally, revisit My Tour of Europe: By Teddy Roosevelt, Age 10 once again. Ask students to find a theme or BIG idea in the picture book. Ask, "What did Ellen Jackson want us to learn about the president? What lessons about life do her pictures and text hint at more than once in this story?" Discuss, hopefully discovering themes like

Step two (revising with specific trait language): To promote response and revision to students' first drafts, attach WritingFix's Revision and Response Post-Its to your students' drafts. Make sure the students rank their use of the trait-specific skills on the Post-Its, which means they'll only have one "1" and one "5" . Have them commit to ideas for revision based on their Post-It rankings. For more ideas on WritingFix's Revision & Response Post-Its, click here.

Step three (editing for conventions): After students apply their revision ideas to their drafts and re-write neatly, require them to find an editor. If you've established a "Community of Editors" among your students, have each student exchange his/her paper with multiple peers. With yellow high-lighters in hand, each peer reads for and highlights suspected errors for just one item from the Editing Post-It.

Content Provider

The Northern Nevada Writing Project: WritingFix

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