Activity Overview

When introducing historical documents, it can be helpful for students to create a simple analysis to understand the background and aim of the document. In this activity, students will use a spider map to detail the major components of the Emancipation Proclamation. They will define who wrote it, why it was written, where, and when and what the document did. The crucial details about the document can then be easily located and organized to expand on and discuss in groups, or as a class, and the final product will provide a basis on which students can better understand historical context.

Extended Activity

Have students create a spider map for Martin Luther King Jr.'s “I Have a Dream Speech”. The speech was given at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation was written and passed. Have students connect the ideas of progress, human freedom, and equality between the two documents, and discuss why the Emancipation Proclamation did not necessarily constitute absolute freedom and equality for African Americans.

Template and Class Instructions

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Activity", update the instructions on the Edit Tab of the assignment.)

Student Instructions

Create a 5W analysis of the Emancipation Proclamation: Who, What, When, Where, and Why.

  1. Click "Start Assignment".
  2. In the title box for each cell, type Who, What, When, Where and Why.
  3. In the descriptions, answer the question.
  4. Create an image for each cell with appropriate scenes, characters, and items.

Lesson Plan Reference

Common Core Standards
  • [ELA-Literacy/RH/9-10/1] Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.
  • [ELA-Literacy/RH/9-10/2] Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.
  • [ELA-Literacy/RH/9-10/6] Compare the point of view of two or more authors for how they treat the same or similar topics, including which details they include and emphasize in their respective accounts.
  • [ELA-Literacy/RI/9-10/2] Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
  • [ELA-Literacy/RI/9-10/9] Analyze seminal U.S. documents of historical and literary significance (e.g., Washington's Farewell Address, the Gettysburg Address, Roosevelt's Four Freedoms speech, King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail"), including how they address related themes and concepts.


(You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

5 Ws Rubric
Rubric that can be used with any 5 Ws activity.
5 Points
3 Points
1 Points
The student clearly, thoroughly, accurately chooses and answers the who, what, where, when, and why questions.
The student chooses and answers the who, what, where, when, and why questions. Some of the information is clear, thorough, and accurate.
The who, what, where, when, and why questions and answers are incomplete, confusing, or inaccurate.
The illustrations represent the written information using appropriate scenes, characters and items.
The illustrations relate to the written information, but are difficult to understand.
The illustrations do not clearly relate to the written information.
Evidence of Effort
Work is well written and carefully thought out.
Work shows some evidence of effort.
Work shows little evidence of any effort.
Spelling, grammar, and punctuation are mostly correct.
Spelling, grammar, and punctuation are somewhat correct.
Spelling, grammar, and punctuation are mostly incorrect.

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