Lesson Plan Ideas for Teachers

Thinking about Places

Students will think about the significance of place and the role of place in studying history. 
Students will use critical thinking skills to compare the present to Truman's day.

Starting Off:
Begin with students brainstorming about places that are significant to them. 
Are 'everyday' places such as homes and schools overlooked in favor of more exciting places like the mall and amusement parks? How does asking students to rank their places based on necessity change their thoughts about place?

Next students will examine Truman's places.


  • What do you notice about Truman's childhood? How do you think the frequent changing of homes and schools he experienced affected him? What sort of traits might he have acquired by having to constantly move to new places and meet new people? 

  • Do you think that all the places listed on the map are significant? Do we really need to know about the Kansas City Star building where Truman spent only two weeks or the places where Truman got his hair cut? How can one justify the inclusion or removal of these places from the map? Is it better when studying history to know every single detail about a person or event or to understand the significance of that person or event?

  • How important is it that Truman's places be preserved? As long we know the role a particular place played in Truman's life, is their any benefit to the place being preserved long after Truman's death?

  • How do the students' places compare with Truman's significant places? What accounts for the similarities and differences? What role do things like geography, technology, and societal values play in shaping these similarities and differences?

  • Does examining Truman's places make the students reevaluate their own significant places in any way?

    Possible activities: 

  • Students will become tour guides. Each student will be assigned one or more place(s) and be asked to describe the place(s) and their significance.

  • Take a closer look at one specific category of Truman places, such as work places. Do some of Truman's places of employment seem more "presidential" than others? What skills would Truman have learned from his various jobs? What sort of employee traits did the various employers probably look for? Keeping those traits in mind, how well suited was Truman for his various jobs? Students could create a "Truman Resume" that would list Truman's various jobs and the skills he learned in those jobs that would later help him to lead the United States.

  • A hypothetical situation: only five or ten of Truman's places can remain due to the pressures of modern-day growth and the high cost of preserving these old buildings. Which places should be saved and why? Students can prepare arguments as to why a particular place should or should not be preserved and then the entire class can vote on which will be preserved.

  • Read about/research Truman's values as President of the United States. In what ways might the places where he spent his time helped shape these values?

  • Thinking about modern day cities: are the modern-day urban and suburban areas students are familiar with ideal? Students will draw a map of their ideal city/town, and then evaluate whether or not such a plan is feasible in the present day. This could be tied in with a lesson about the urbanization and suburbanization movements in the United States.

  • Thinking about transportation: what modes of transportation are mentioned in Truman's places? How did the modes of transportation available at different points during Truman's lifetime influence his lifestyle? In general, how has transportation influenced history? Students could research different modes of transportation, such as the railroad, automobile, and airplane and find out how their introduction changed the way cities were structured, the way government operated, etc.

  • Using a world map, ask students to indicate any other places where they have lived as well as the places their parents and grandparents are from, and mark those places on the map. Students could then each research one or two of these other places to learn significant things such as population, climate, landmarks, etc. Their reports could then be compiled into a "tour guide" booklet.