Fact Checking History


Students will be able to describe the significance of the Battles of Saratoga using primary and secondary sources. Students will explain the importance of using multiple primary sources to become an informed citizen.

Coin Type(s)

  • Quarter

Coin Program(s)

  • America the Beautiful Quarters


Students will be able to describe the significance of the Battles of Saratoga using primary and secondary sources. Students will explain the importance of using multiple primary sources to become an informed citizen.

Major Subject Area Connections

  • Social Studies
  • Language Arts
  • Art


  • 9th
  • 10th
  • 11th
  • 12th

Class Time

  • Sessions: One
  • Session Length: 45-60 minutes
  • Total Length: 0-45 minutes

Background Knowledge

  • Students should have a basic knowledge of primary and secondary sources, annotating text, and the American Revolutionary War.

Terms and Concepts


Reverse (back)

Obverse (front)



  • 1 overhead projector or other classroom technology
  • 1 overhead transparency (or equivalent) of the following:
    • "Saratoga National Historic Park Quarter" page
  • Copies of the following:
    • "Saratoga National Historical Park Quarter" page
    • "The Battles of Saratoga Essay Question and Rubric"
  • 1 class map of the United States
  • Highlighters (one per student)
  • Bookmark websites that provide background on the Battles of Saratoga.


  • Make an overhead transparency (or equivalent) of the following:
    • "Saratoga National Historical Park Quarter" page
  • Make copies of the following:
    • "Saratoga National Historical Park Quarter" page (one per student)
    • Document analysis worksheets for multiple types of documents (letter, report, diary, etc.)
    • "The Battles of Saratoga Essay Question and Rubric" (one per student)
  • Familiarize yourself with the Trumbull painting by visiting the Architect of the Capitol Web site at http://www.aoc.gov/capitol-hill/historic-rotunda-paintings/surrender-general-burgoyne. Bookmark this page if you have projection capability.


Worksheets and files (PDF)

Lesson Steps

  1. Display and examine the "Saratoga National Historic Park Quarter" page. Locate this site on a class map. Note its position in relation to your school's location.
  2. As background information, explain to the students that the United States Mint began to issue the quarters in the America the Beautiful Quarters® Program in 2010. By the time the program ends in 2021, there will be a total of 56 designs. Each design will focus on a different national site—one from each state, territory, and the District of Columbia.
  3. Tell the students that the front of a coin is called the "obverse" and the back is called the "reverse." Ask the students to read the inscriptions on the image of the coin's reverse. Ask the students what information may be inferred from the inscriptions. As students make their inferences, list them on the board or chart paper. Student responses should include that the British surrendered in Saratoga, New York, in 1776; that this must be an important event in United States history since it is inscribed on United States currency; and that "E Pluribus Unum" means "Out of Many, One."
  4. Explain that the image depicts the surrender of the British General John Burgoyne to the American General Horatio Gates. Have the students examine the coin image again to identify which hand belongs to Burgoyne and which to Gates. Have the students justify their answers with support from what they know about the event and the image.
  5. Display the painting, "The Surrender of Burgoyne at Saratoga, October 17, 1777," by John Trumbull, 1821. Tell the students that this painting is on display in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, DC. If available, use computer projection and the Internet site www.aoc.gov/capitol-hill/historic-rotunda-paintings/surrender-general-burgoyne to display high-resolution images that can be examined more closely.
  6. Emphasize to the students the two figures in the center of the painting, one handing his sword to the other. Lead the students to make the connection between the coin design and the painting. Ask the students to identify the two figures at the center of the painting.
  7. Ask the students to point out other details in the painting that provide information about the battles and surrender at Saratoga. Student observations should include: time of year (fall), weapons used (cannon, swords, rifles), and cavalry transportation (horses).
  8. Ask the students what inferences they can draw about the battles based on the painting and its present location in the Capitol Rotunda. The students should infer that these were important battles during the American Revolution and that they helped the Americans win their independence.
  9. Give the students background information about the painting and the artist from the website Architect of the Capitol at www.aoc.gov/capitol-hill/historic-rotunda-paintings/surrender-general-burgoyne.
  10. Lead a class discussion about the reliability of the painting as a source of information. Students should note the creation date of 1821. Have them discuss whether it was possible for the painter to have been an eyewitness to the event. Ask them how they could locate this information.
  11. Tell the students that analyzing the primary sources is only the first step in corroborating sources of information. The next step is to return to the "Turning Point" worksheet and confirm the accuracy of the information in this secondary source against the primary sources.
  12. Facilitate a class discussion about why it is important to corroborate sources of information in history. Ask the students if they think this is a skill that can be applied to other academic fields or in daily life. Have the students provide specific examples and details with their answers.
  13. Tell the students that tomorrow they will write an essay explaining the importance of the corroboration of sources of information in daily life.
  14. Distribute the "Battles of Saratoga Essay Question and Rubric." Review the essay question and rubric with students.
  15. Allow time for the students to write the first draft of their essays. Provide individual assistance as needed.
  16. Allow time for peer editing and feedback.
  17. Have the students write the final version of their essay.
  18. Have the students fill in the self-assessment on their rubric. Collect the rubrics and essays.


  • Have students conduct research on the role of Benedict Arnold in the Battles of Saratoga and its impact on his later role in the Revolutionary War.
  • Have students research Frederika Charlotte Louise von Massow, wife of Major-General Friedrich Riedesel, Baron of Eisenbach and commander of German troops.
  • Have students select a topic from their textbook and conduct research to find primary sources that corroborate or refute the information in their textbook.
  • Examine additional paintings by John Trumbull and use the "Analyzing Photographs and Prints" worksheet at www.loc.gov/teachers/usingprimarysources/resources/Analyzing_Photographs_and_Prints.pdf


  • Note participation in class discussions.
  • Use the "Document Analysis" worksheets, essay, and rubric to evaluate whether the students meet the lesson objectives.

Common Core Standards

Discipline: Language Arts
Domain: W.11-12 Writing
Grade(s): Grades 11– 12
Cluster: Text Types and Purposes

  • W.11-12.1. Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence. 
    • Introduce precise claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims and create an organization that establishes clear relationships among claim(s), counterclaims, reasons and evidence.
    • Develop claim(s) and counterclaims fairly and thoroughly, supplying the most relevant evidence for each while pointing out the strengths and limitations of both in a manner that anticipates the audience's knowledge level, concerns, values and possible biases.
    • Use words, phrases, and clauses as well as varied syntax to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion and clarify the relationships between claim(s) and reasons, between reasons and evidence and between claim(s) and counterclaims.
    • Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone while attending to the norms and conventions of the discipline in which they are writing.
    • Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the argument presented.
  • W.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. 
    • Introduce a topic; organize complex ideas, concepts and information so that each new element builds on that which precedes it to create a unified whole; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., figures, tables) and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.
    • Develop the topic thoroughly by selecting the most significant and relevant facts, extended definitions, concrete details, quotations or other information and examples appropriate to the audience's knowledge of the topic.
    • Use appropriate and varied transitions to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion and clarify the relationships among complex ideas and concepts.
    • Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to manage the complexity of the topic.
    • Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone while attending to the norms and conventions of the discipline in which they are writing.
    • Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the
    • information or explanation presented (e.g., articulating implications or the significance of the topic).
  • W.11-12.3. Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences. 
    • Engage and orient the reader by setting out a problem, situation or observation, establishing one or multiple point(s) of view and introducing a narrator and/or characters; create a smooth progression of experiences or events.
    • Use narrative techniques, such as dialogue, pacing, description, reflection and multiple plot lines, to develop experiences, events and/or characters.
    • Use a variety of techniques to sequence events so that they build on one another to create a coherent whole and build toward a particular tone and outcome (e.g., a sense of mystery, suspense, growth or resolution).
    • Use precise words and phrases, telling details and sensory language to convey a vivid picture of the experiences, events, setting and/or characters.
    • Provide a conclusion that follows from and reflects on what is experienced, observed or resolved over the course of the narrative.

National Standards

Discipline: Visual Arts and Music
Domain: 9-12 Visual Arts
Cluster: Standard 4: Understanding the visual arts in relation to history and cultures
Grade(s): Grades 9–12


  • Students differentiate among a variety of historical and cultural contexts in terms of characteristics and purposes of works of art
  • Students describe the function and explore the meaning of specific art objects within varied cultures, times, and places
  • Students analyze relationships of works of art to one another in terms of history, aesthetics, and culture, justifying conclusions made in the analysis and using such conclusions to inform their own art making


  • Students analyze and interpret artworks for relationships among form, context, purposes, and critical models, showing understanding of the work of critics, historians, aestheticians, and artists
  • Students analyze common characteristics of visual arts evident across time