Create a Headline


By creating a concise headline to represent what they learned, students must identify main ideas and patterns and then make a judgment about which of those ideas and patterns are most important. Often the source or sources used in this activity shed light on underlying issues that influenced the events of a particular historical era.


  1. Review a Collection of Sources

    Students first read and/or examine a set of sources (i.e. documents, readings, images, or videos). As needed, you may want to present a focus question (for instance, “What do these sources tell us about the effects of the new law on the country?”) to guide students’ examination. Remind students that they should be looking for patterns across the documents.

  2. Compose a Headline

    Students are then asked to compose a headline based on the information and patterns contained in the sources that they just reviewed. The headline that students create must be different than titles from any of the resources they examined. Headlines also should contain both subjects and verbs and are usually no more than 12 words in length. You might ask students to write a brief (no more than three sentences) explanation of how they arrived at their headline.

  3. List Evidence

    Below their headlines, have students write three pieces of evidence they recorded from the resources they examined that support or explain their headline.

  4. Share Headlines

    Students should have an opportunity to share the headlines they created. Consider using a wraparound or a gallery walk to share the headlines.


Use a Single Source: While the above activity asks students to synthesize what they have learned using a variety of sources, you might instead ask students to analyze a single source and create a headline for it. Have students follow the steps above, eliminating step number three unless the source they’re examining is particularly long or complex.

Rethink Perspective: In addition or as a substitute to their original headline, you might ask students to write a headline with a particular perspective in mind. For instance, if teaching the Reconstruction Era unit, you might ask students to imagine they are writing a headline for a newspaper with a Radical Republican or Southern Democrat bias. If students are doing this activity in addition to the original activity, ask them to consider the following question: How is their headline for this activity different from their original headline?1


Related Content

Race in US History

Interracial Democracy

Through a video-based activity, students explore how Radical Reconstruction changed the nature of voting rights and democracy in the South.

Teaching Strategy

Shadow Reading

Use this strategy to help students consider, compare, and analyze various perspectives on a complex topic.

Teaching Strategy

Found Poems

Students compose poems using only words, phrases, or quotations from a text that they find meaningful.


The Child Refugee Debate

Students consider how the debate around the Wagner-Rogers Bill reflected competing ideas in the United States about national identity, priorities, and values.

Search Our Global Collection

Everything you need to get started teaching your students about racism, antisemitism and prejudice.