An exterior view of historic Ford’s Theatre, a three-story brick building with five arched windows on the second and third floor. The bottom floor is white and has five arched entryways.
Photo © Maxwell MacKenzie.

Narrative Writing: Lesson Activity Three

Introduction of Circle of Viewpoints Thinking Routine and Class Discussion

Learning Objectives and Standards:

  • I can make inferences about points of view of historical figures in “Lincoln’s Assassination Told by an Eye Witness.” (RL.5.6)
  • I can use evidence from a historical text to write about a character’s point of view of Lincoln’s assassination. (W.5.9)
  • I can participate in group discussions about “Lincoln’s Assassination Told by an Eye Witness” when making inferences about the text. (SL 5.1)


  • Say: Remember that the letter written by Julia Adelaide Shepard on the night of President Lincoln’s assassination is written in the style of a memoir. A memoir is a type of narrative, or story, with specific characteristics.
  • Display characteristics of a memoir again on the board:
  1. Provides factual information
  2. Written in a narrative style
  3. About a significant time, place, person, or event
  4. About the author’s life
  5. Explains why the memory is significant
  6. Reveals feelings of the author or storyteller
  • Read through each characteristic individually and ask students whether Julia’s letter qualifies as a memoir based on these characteristics. Call on students to share using the “Pick-a-Stick” method.
  • Say: Yesterday we considered Julia’s point of view on the assassination. Today we will use her letter to make inferences about the points of view of other people who are mentioned in the letter.

Introduction of Circle of Viewpoints Thinking Routine and Class Discussion

  • Say: Today we will use the Circle of Viewpoints Thinking Routine to help us consider different and diverse perspectives on a topic. In our case, the topic is Lincoln’s assassination.
  • Show students the Circle of Viewpoints document below. Note that the words in brackets provide guidance but should not be written down when students fill out these sentences:
 Circle of Viewpoints Thinking Routine
I am thinking of ______________________ [the topic or event, in this case the assassination of President Lincoln] from the point of view of ______________________ [the viewpoint you’ve chosen or been assigned].I think ______________________ [describe the topic from your viewpoint; be an actor – take on the character of your viewpoint].A question I have from this viewpoint is, ______________________ [ask a question from this viewpoint]?
  • Randomly assign a viewpoint to each student or allow students to choose. The following viewpoints are from historical figures mentioned in Julia’s letter:
  1. Miss Harris (Senator Harris’ daughter)
  2. General Lee (not present for the assassination, so his reactions will be based on what he hears instead of witnesses)
  3. Dr. Webb
  4. John Wilkes Booth (“A man leaps from the President’s box…”)
  • Give the following notes to students:
  1. These historical figures are not described in much detail in Julia’s letter, so students will need to make inferences, or conclusions based on evidence, about their points of view.
  2. For the “I think_____” portion of the Circle of Viewpoints, students should write as many sentences as possible in the time allotted. Similarly, they should write as many questions as possible and not feel limited to just one.
  3. Students can use background knowledge about the Civil War, either from this class or outside sources, but should remember to also use evidence from Julia’s letter to support their points of view.
  • Ask: From your historical point of view, what do you think about Lincoln’s assassination?
  1. Students engage in a Think-Pair-Share first with someone with their same point of view, and then with someone from a different point of view [if time permits].
  2. During the Think-Pair-Share encourage students to ask each other, “What Makes You Say That?” This will encourage students to describe their evidence and build on their explanations.
  3. After the Think-Pair-Shares, call on students to respond with their thoughts.

Independent Work

  • Students work independently to fill in Circle of Viewpoints document, either in their notebooks or by filling in the blanks on a teacher-provided worksheet. Make sure to leave ample space for the “I think_____” part of the worksheet to allow students to write as many sentences as possible.
  • After students have completed their independent work, call on one student from each point of view to share with the whole class, so all students can hear about the topic from each of the different points of view.


  • Ask: What new ideas do you have about the topic that you didn’t have before? What new questions do you have?
  1. Students engage in a Think-Pair-Share.
  2. During the Think-Pair-Share, encourage students to ask each other, “What Makes You Say That?” This will encourage students to describe their evidence and build on their explanations.
  3. Use the “Pick-a-Stick” method to call on students to share their responses.
  • Say: Tomorrow we will use the inferences we made today to write our own short letters about the Lincoln assassination.