Curricular Unit Information

Unit Title: The Three Ballous
Course: US History / DC History
Grade Level: 11 or 12
Unit Length: 4 Instructional Days, Ongoing Project, 1 Day of Presentation
Length of Class Period: 90 Minutes

Personal Stake:

As long as I have been at Frank W. Ballou Senior High School the idea of The New Ballou has been a rallying cry for administrators, teachers, and often students who seek to move our school towards the goal of "developing and graduating globally competitive students for college, careers and leadership."  As a relative newcome to Washington, I could not help but ask what it meant to be the Old Ballou. 

We are scheduled to move into a new building in the fall of 2014, so this upcoming school year should be the last one in a building whose openning was heralded in the Washington Post as being cheaper than the previous high school because of cheaper construction materials.

This upcoming year is a chance to pause and reflect on what Ballou - the school and the man - have meant in the history of this city, as well as the image we as a school want to present as our mark on its history.

Unit Topic:

Students will analyze primary and secondary sources to gain a better understanding of our school's place in the history of the District of Columbia Public Schools.  Students will use historical thinking skills to assign meaning to each of the three Ballous - Frank W. Ballou, the Old Ballou, and the New Ballou.

DCPS Content and Skills Standards:

United States History - 11th Grade 

  • 11.4. Students analyze the changing landscape, including the growth of cities and development of cities divided by race, ethnicity, and class.
  • 11.6. Students describe how the battle between traditionalism and modernity manifested itself in the major historical trends and events after World War I and throughout the 1920s.
D.C. History and Government - 12th Grade
  • 12.DC.10. Students compare the employment (e.g., skilled and unskilled trades, entrepreneurs) and educational opportunities (e.g., elementary through postsecondary training) for white and black Washingtonians.
  • 12.DC.15. Students describe efforts to overcome discrimination in employment, public accommodations, housing, and education in the District (examine the National Committee on Segregation), and explain the local and national effects of these efforts.

Historical and Social Studies Skills

  • 9-12.HCI.1: Students compare the present with the past, evaluating the consequences of past events and decisions and determining the lessons that were learned.
  • 9-12.HCI.3: Students show the connections, causal and otherwise, between particular historical events and larger social, economic, and political trends and developments.
  • 9-12.HCI.4: Students recognize the complexity of historical causes and effects, including the limitations on determining cause and effect.
  • 9-12.HCI.6: Students interpret past events and issues within the context in which an event unfolded rather than present-day norms and values.
  • 9-12.HREP.4: Students construct and test hypotheses; collect, evaluate, and employ information from multiple primary and secondary sources; and apply it in oral and written presentations.

Common Core Standards (connections):

Reading for Literacy in Social Studies Standards

  • 11-12.3. Analyze a complex set of ideas or sequence of events and explain how specific individuals, ideas, or events interact and develop over the course of the text.
  • 11-12.7. Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.

Writing for Literacy in Social Studies Standards

  • 11-12.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
  • 11-12.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1–3 above.)

Methods of Inquiry:

Primary Document Based Instruction

  • Change Over Time - Students will trace the changing attitudes surrounding Ballou Senior High School through archived newspapers and DCPS material, as well as community interviews.
  • Alternative Perspectives - Students will consider different perspectives through discussion of sources and in coversation with community member.
  • Sourcing - Students will consider which sources they believe create the clearest picture of Ballou Senior High School.  They will be asked to conisder the time of the creation of each docuement.
  • Knowledge Limits / Questioning - Students will ask further questions and pursue indepdent research.

Final Project

  • Collecting Evidence - Students will collect artifacts and interviews from the community.
  • Argument Construction, Writing - Students defend individual choice of artifacts through a brief paper and script for the museum exhibit.
  • Questioning - Students consider why they include one artifact while excluding others.
  • Connecting - Student will connect old identities of Ballou withe their views of the future of the shcool.


This unit is designed to help students contextualize the construction and naming of their school.  As one of the first schools built after Brown v. Board, there is an irony to our name.  Students should be able to relate to the struggles - and hopefully the successes - of students, faculty, and staff of Ballou Senior High School throughout its 54 year history.  It is my hope this leads to a greater appreciation of the culture of the school and individual ownership of the history and future of the school.

Essential Questions: 

  • Who was Frank W. Ballou?
  • What is (was) special about the Old Ballou?
  • What do we want to bring from the Old Ballou to the New Ballou?
Assessment of Student Learning:

Diagnostic Assessment:

Students will be show their prior knowledge of Ballou Senior High School through a series of prompting questions.  This will be followed by a brief discussion to introduce the topic.

  1. For whom is our school named?
  2. What does it take to get a school named after you?
  3. When did this school open?
  4. What was the first graduating class?
  5. Name three things that happened at Ballou Senior High School before you enrolled here.
  6. Do students like going to Ballou?
  7. Do teachers like teaching at Ballou?
  8. How will the new school change attitudes about attending Ballou?

Formative Assessment:

At the conclusion of each class, students will be asked to identify which document they feel in most important to answering our essential questions.  They will write a brief paragraph that will be an exit-ticket. 

Summative Assessment:

After considering multiple sources on Frank W. Ballou and the history of Ballou Senior High School, students will choose and artifact to include in a class exhibit on Ballou.  Each student must:

  1. Choose an artifact,
  2. Write a formal description for the exhibit,
  3. Defend his or her artfact in a brief paper. 


Sources must be differentiated for students.  Generally, this can mean assigning particular sources to students based on their learning styles and reading abilities.  Every lesson should include visual and reading sources, though this may be using the photographs within otehr documents.

For the purposes of preparing this lesson plan to be functional with my current students, many of the sources are visual in nature.  Literacy is a major obstacle, therefore questions are included within class readings to slow the pace and allow for more information to be processed.  This will also allow for discussion when neccessary.

The methods of inquiry should remain the same for the class, though primary sources are differentiated.  For a more rigorous approach, documents with excerpts may be assigned for completion outside of class.

Community and Cultural Resources:

  • Frank W. Ballou papers (Sumner School)
  • School Board Minutes 1921 - 1960 (Sumner School)
  • Building / Insurance Records (Historical Society of Washington)
  • Washington Post Archive, via ProQuest
  • Nadine Cohodas, journalist and friend of Ballou SHS
  • Informal Community Survery, Oral Histories
Daily Instruction:
  1. Frank Washington Ballou
  2. The Old Ballou, 1950 - 1980
  3. The Old Ballou, 1980 - 2014
  4. The New Ballou
  5. Unit Project / Assessment