Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Navigating Through Capital History

Julie Thompson
Bay District Schools


Students research the history of Tallahassee using a Website and other materials to determine why the capital is where it is today. Students organize the information on a timeline and investigate the question, Where's the heart of Florida?


The student uses a variety of reference materials to gather information, including multiple representations of information for a research project (for example, maps, charts, photos).

The student writes notes, comments, and observations that reflect comprehension of fourth grade or higher level content and experiences from a variety of media.

The student writes for a variety of occasions, audiences, and purposes (for example, journals to reflect upon ideas, reports to describe scientific observations).

The student uses electronic technology to create, revise, retrieve, and verify information (including but not limited to word-processing software, electronic encyclopedias).

The student understands ways geographic features influenced the exploration, colonization, and expansion of Florida.

The student understands some ways industrialization and urbanization have affected Florida (for example, the growth of railroads and highways, the development of large population centers, tourism).

The student knows selected economic, political, and social transformations that have taken place in Florida since World War II (for example, civil rights movement, space program).

The student understands the contributions of selected significant men and women, including African Americans and Hispanics, on the development of Florida (for example, Ponce De Leon, Henry Flagler, Mary Bethune Cookman, Chief Osceola, Governor Bob Martinez).

The student understands the unique and diverse cultural make-up of Florida (for example, Caucasian, Hispanic, Haitian-Creole, African-American).

The student knows ways various cultures contributed to the unique social, cultural, economic, and political features of Florida.


-Internet-ready computers
-Research materials, such as textbooks, library books, or Websites (see Weblinks) that tell about the history of the capital of Florida
-Copies of Navigating Through Capital History Timeline (see Associated File)
-Map of Florida (see Teacher Preparation)
-Where's the Heart of Florida? Criteria Checklist
-Reference List (located in students' Research Portfolios)
-Conference Form (located in students' Research Portfolios)


1. Visit and review the Internet sites for suitability and content.
2. For the reinactment, select two students to participate in the role play activity and give them the information needed to prepare. (See Weblinks)
2. Download the Navigating Through Capital History Timeline (see Associated File) and make copies for each student.
3. Each student needs a map of the state of Florida and maybe a street map of Tallahassee. Either prepare a map or make copies of one that's available. This will help students visualize the physical locations of the capital through history.
4. Students should have a Research Portfolio in which to record their findings and house any handouts provided by the teacher. Simply provide each student with a letter or legal sized file folder.
5. If you are conducting the Problem-Based Learning unit with your students, you should have a copy of Where's the Heart of Florida? Criteria Checklist for each student. If not, a copy is available in the Associated File of this lesson. It contains the criteria and performance levels for each assessment in the unit.
6. Brief yourself on the standards that are addressed and assessed within this unit for the purpose of guiding your instruction and preparation for assessment.


Session: 3 of Where's the Heart of Florida? Problem-Based Learning unit (see Extensions)
This is the inquiry and investigation portion of the unit.

1. Prior to asking students to recall the Memo and information from the previous lesson, re-distribute the pre-test to the students and allow time for reflection and discussion about their performance. Again, re-emphasize that this pre-test was not used for grading purposes. Assure the students that the purpose of the pre-test continues to be to help guide the course of instruction during the unit. Also tell the students that during the course of the unit, they will become familiar with the information presented on the pre-test and that upon completion of the unit a post-test will be given that will measure student understanding of this information.

2. Refer back to the T-chart constructed with the class in the previous lesson (see Extensions). Tell the students that in this lesson they work on defining the problem. They do this by using their questions as a focus for their research. Strive for a variety of questions. Student input is necessary to initiate the inquiry. Encourage students to share as many different questions as possible.
Possible questions might include:
-Why was Tallahassee chosen for the site of the capital?
-How did the capital change over time? Why?
-What other cities were proposed sites for the capital?

Perhaps a face-to-face role play would also work to get at the problem. The Website, Florida Kids gives details about a first encounter between the Seminole chief and the governmental representatives sent to investigate possible sites for the first capital (see Preparation Section). Acting this out would give students a glimpse of the different perspectives of that time concerning where to place the capital. Suggestion: Print the information a day or two ahead of time and select two students to do the roleplay. This way, the students will be prepared and the role play activity will be more effective.

After this reinactment, distribute student copies of the -
Navigating Through Capital History Timeline. Students should select one or two of the questions from the class T-chart and record them on the bottom of the Navigating through Capital History Timeline handout (see Associated File). Students form groups according to the questions selected for their research. To effectively manage this, work it like a jigsaw. Each group takes different questions from the T-chart and different time periods for research and then shares what they have learned with the group while the rest of the students record the findings on their timelines. (When assigning cooperative groups, small groups should contain no more than 4 or 5 students. Roles should be assigned for students to insure involvement by all. Use your own cooperative worker tools or assign students the following roles: Recorder, Fact Finder (1 or 2 students), Materials Manager, Reporter.)

3. In whole group, preview the Florida DOE Website (see Weblinks and Preparation) that tells about the history of Florida's capital. Show students how to navigate the site, narrowing their research to the state capital links. Place bookmarks at the appropriate sites. Set the parameters of the research with the following guidelines:
-Assign each group a certain period in history (for example from 1820 - 1826) to research and gather information that is then recorded on the timeline.
-Model the first date for the class so students know what you are expecting in terms of their written explanations. Then monitor students who are using the Internet for research.
-Allow ample time to conduct the research, but set a time limit for group share (ie. 20 minutes per group).
-Remind students to stick to their selected questions to focus their investigation.

4. After setting the parameters, students research the history of the present capital, Tallahassee, using appropriate Internet resources, textbooks, and library books. Students organize pertinent information on the teacher-made timeline.

Coach students in their research to help them not only focus on dates and times in history, but also people's perspectives toward the capital. People from different regions and cultural backgrounds had very different ideas about the capital and still do. Also remind them that the information that was included in the diagnostic assessment should give them clues concerning important information to look for during the research process. This should be a clear focus of the research. If time permits, students can go on to answer the Focus Questions below the timeline located in their Research Portfolios. Students will need to discuss these questions with others to delve deeper than their own present understandings.

5. When each group has compiled their information on the timeline, it's time to complete the jigsaw. Each group shares the information collected on the timeline with the class. As they share, the other students record the information on their timelines. As students share, this is a good time for the coach to continue to ask questions and keep the investigation and inquiry moving toward defining the capital problem.

6. Conclude the session with these questions: So, what is the problem? Have we clearly defined it? Discuss findings as needed and the Focus Questions found below the timeline to determine the problem. At this point more research may be necessary. This continues with the next lesson (see Extensions).

7. Allow time for students to record their personal reflection entries for this session's activities in their Reflections Log which should be in their Research Portfolios. Entries may include student insights, answers to the probing or focus questions (see step 1 in Procedures), or comments about information gleaned from the jigsaw activity. Remind students to keep their Reflections Logs in their Research Portfolio. This would also be an appropriate time for students to make any notes on their Reference Lists. As students are recording their entries, the teacher uses this time to formatively assess student progress and understanding as is evidenced by recorded information on individual student timelines, student responses to the Focus Questions... section of the timeline, and student entries in their Reflections Log.- Refer to the Where's the Heart of Florida? Criteria Checklist for assessment criteria. Desk-side conference with individual students for the purpose of this formative assessment.

Ask students to have handy their Conference Form for notations by you or the student concerning the discussion during the desk-side conference. It is unreasonable to expect the teacher to conference with all students daily. Therefore, it is suggested that the teacher stagger these desk-side conferences so that each student has at least been conferenced with twice throughout the duration of the unit.

Embedded instruction: Students may need some direction about how to gather research from and how to navigate the Internet if they do not have previous experience with this tool. This can be accomplished with direct instruction in a lab setting with Internet access before this lesson. Instruct students on using bookmarks, navigational tools (forward, backward, and hyperlinks), and designated URL's.

-reading maps and texts for information
-reading/making a timeline to organize information
-measuring time in broad categories
-history tells a story
-purpose of a capitol and capital city


The timeline and the written explanations in the Research Portfolio are formative assessment products. The importance of assessment at this time is to let students know where they are in their learning so they know where they are going. Remember, this is the beginning of the unit and students might have only surface understanding of the content. The purpose of this assessment is not for a grade, but to allow you and the students to adjust instruction so that it is more effective in improving their performance next time.

The criteria and performance levels for the assessment are detailed on the Where's the Heart of Florida? Criteria Checklist. Notice that assessment of the Goal 3 Standards is embedded within the GLEs identified on the checklist. You can handle this assessment by conducting desk-side conferences with individual students. The Criteria Checklist should guide the course of the discussion between you and the student in order to ensure quality formative assessment. What follows is an abbreviated list of the criteria.

The timeline criteria is as follows:
The student
-takes notes during research that applies to the inquiry question(s)
-records events, individuals, and characteristics of different time periods in Florida's development

The Research Portfolio criteria is as follows:
Written entries
-reflect after research upon why the capital is where it is
-record groups of people and how they helped Florida and the capitol to develop
-explain political, economic, and social characteristics of the times during the state's development
-record of a variety of appropriate reference materials used for research


1. This lesson is second in a series of lessons in a Problem-Based Learning unit entitled Where's the Heart of Florida? The preceding lesson is called MEMO from the Governor and the one that follows is called TOP SECRET: Sensitive Information.

2. The Beacon Unit Plan associated with this lesson can be viewed by clicking on the link located at the top of this page or by using the following URL: Once you select the unitís link, scroll to the bottom of the unit plan page to find the section, Associated Files. This section contains links to the Unit Plan Overview, Diagnostic and Summative Assessments, and other associated files (if any).

Web Links

Role play activity: Click facts and then click The Capitol. Read the condensed version and follow the link to The History of the State Capitol for a detailed version
Florida Kids

Web supplement for Navigating Through Capital History
Department of Historical Resources

Web supplement for Navigating Through Capital History
Census Bureau

Attached Files

The Navigating Through Capitol History Timeline†††††File Extension: pdf

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