Middle School Curricular Resources

Biographical Resources

Biography of John F. Kennedy
Biography of Jacqueline B. Kennedy

Written for upper elementary to adult readers, these narratives summarize the life and legacy of the 35th president of the United States and his wife.

Campaign, Election and Inauguration

USASCPC-PX-65-108-CC18209. President Kennedy delivers his Inaugural Address at the Capitol, Washington, D. C., 20 January 1961

Lesson Plan: Political Debates: Advising a Candidate
Students analyze excerpts from the first Kennedy-Nixon debate (September 26, 1960) and a memo assessing the debate from one of Kennedy's advisers. They then watch a current political debate to consider the strengths and weaknesses of the candidate they support.

Lesson Plan: Recipe for an Inaugural Address
Students consider what "ingredients" might go into the speech that will launch a President's term in office as they examine some of the most memorable inaugural addresses of the past.

Lesson Plan: Red States, Blue States: Mapping the Presidential Election
Students analyze the results of the 1960 election, collect data for a recent presidential election, and identify changes in voting patterns.

The Kennedy White House

The President's Desk: A Resource Guide for Teachers, Grades 4-12
Invite your students to take a seat at The President's Desk and discover what it means to hold the highest office in the land. This online interactive exhibit features JFK's treasured mementos and important presidential records. Primary sources ranging from recordings of meetings in the Oval Office to family photographs populate the site and provide an engaging and fascinating look into John F. Kennedy's life and presidency. The President's Desk Resource Guide provides an overview of the Desk and suggested curriculum-relevant lesson plans and activities. 

Lesson Plan: A President's Day
If you are elected to the nation's highest office, what are you actually expected to do? Spend a day at the White House with John F. Kennedy to learn about some of the president's most important roles and responsibilities.

Lesson Plan: Why Choose the Moon?
Using primary source materials, students investigate the motivation for President Kennedy's ambitious space program.

Americans in Space 
Primary source material and classroom activities reveal why exploring space was a priority for the Kennedy administration.

Lesson Plan: Plant a Tree
Using primary source materials, students investigate the use of metaphor in presidential oratory and apply to a piece of persuasive writing on a current national or global issue.

Lesson Plan: Jacqueline Kennedy's White House Restoration
Students learn about ancient symbols and ornamental and architectural elements to identify some symbols of American democracy in the White House as an introduction to the origins of common symbols which represent the United States and its values.

Activity: Breaking Gender Barriers: A Female Space Trainee Advocates for Women in Space
Students gather historical evidence about gender discrimination by analyzing a primary document.

Civil Rights

1963: The Struggle for Civil Rights
Bring the pivotal events of the civil rights movement in 1963 to life for your students through more than 230 primary sources ranging from film footage of the March on Washington and letters from youth advising the president to JFK’s landmark address to the American people and secret recordings of behind-the-scenes negotiations on civil rights legislation. To foster your students' understanding of this era, lesson plans on each of the seven topics are available in the "For Educators" section of the website.

Integrating Ole Miss 
Students witness civil rights history firsthand through primary source material. Includes guiding questions for classroom activities and assignments.

Leaders in the Struggle for Civil Rights
These letters and telegrams from key figures help tell the story of the civil rights movement during the Kennedy years. Documents include communications from James Farmer, Martin Luther King, Jr., John Lewis, A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, Roy Wilkins, and Whitney Young.

Lesson: Addressing Racial Discrimination in Voting
Students examine primary source material to learn how the tools of democracy have been used to challenge racial discrimination in voting. Includes "The Most Powerful and Precious Right": A Voting Rights Photo Book and a research activity on current voting rights.

Lesson: Barriers to Voting: Poll Taxes
Students consider the impact of poll taxes as a barrier to voting by examining four primary sources.

Lesson: What if Laws are Unjust?
Students read and analyze segregation ordinances, and learn how Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights activists challenged these unjust laws through peaceful protest and civil disobedience during the 1963 civil rights campaign in Birmingham, Alabama. The lesson highlights the vital role that young people played in the campaign.

Lesson: The President Takes a Stand: Kennedy's Report to the American People on Civil Rights
Students analyze President Kennedy’s June 11, 1963 Report to the American People on Civil Rights as a persuasive speech.

Lesson: The 1963 March on Washington: A Montage of the Civil Rights Movement
Students examine the official program for the March on Washington to learn about the event itself and about others who played a leading role in the civil rights struggle. They research different organizations and civil rights leaders and then create a montage to depict the diverse makeup of the movement in visual form.

Activity: Art as a Civic Language: Analyzing a Jacob Lawrence Painting
Students examine a Jacob Lawrence painting to explore the experiences of participants in the civil rights struggle during the 1950s and 1960s.

Activity: What Do You Hear?: Investigating the Integration of the University of Mississippi
Students read a transcript and listen to an audio recording of a secretly taped phone conversation excerpt between President Kennedy, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, and Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett to answer the question: "How can an audio recording enhance historical interpretation?"

Activity: Joining the Struggle: Young Activists in Birmingham, 1963
Adapted from the longer lesson plan, What if Laws are Unjust?, this activity asks students to consider young people’s rationales for participating in civil rights demonstrations in Birmingham, and the risks and rewards of their inclusion.

Activity: Martin Luther King Jr. on Just and Unjust Laws
Adapted from the longer lesson plan What if Laws are Unjust?, this activity asks students to analyze Dr. King’s discussion of when laws are unjust from his “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”

Historical Resources

JFK in History
This section of the website contains topic guides on the significant events that occurred during President Kennedy's years in office. These essays are intended to give an overview of challenges and issues that defined Kennedy's administration, and include relevant primary source material.

Historical Literature Resources for Elementary and Middle Grades
Annotated bibliographies of both recommended biographies and literature about American history. Includes guidelines for critically analyzing biographies and history-based literature.

Peace Corps Resources from the JFK Library Website
In 1961, President Kennedy signed Executive Order 10924 establishing the Peace Corps. Teachers who are working on civic engagement projects with students may be particularly interested in primary and secondary resources related to the formation and first years of the Peace Corps including audio, video and textual materials.