Which Came First?


Students will be able to distinguish between the past and present. Students will identify inventions in the past that have changed our lives.

Coin Type(s)

  • Quarter

Coin Program(s)

  • 50 State Quarters


  • Students will be able to distinguish between the past and present.
  • Students will identify inventions in the past that have changed our lives.

Major Subject Area Connections

  • Social Studies
  • Language Arts
  • Art


  • K
  • 1st

Class Time

  • Sessions: Three
  • Session Length: 20-30 minutes
  • Total Length: 91-120 minutes


  • Whole group
  • Individual work

Background Knowledge

Students should have a basic knowledge of:

  • Past
  • Present

Terms and Concepts

  • Quarter
  • Obverse (front)
  • Reverse (back)
  • Invention
  • Crossroads
  • Electricity


  • 1 overhead projector (optional)
  • 1 overhead transparency (or photocopy) of the "Utah Quarter Reverse" page
  • 1 overhead transparency of the "Which Came First?" worksheet
  • "Past and Present" worksheet
  • "Which Came First?" worksheet
  • 1 class map of the United States
  • Chart paper
  • Drawing paper
  • Markers, pencils, crayons
  • Scissors
  • Glue sticks


  • Make an overhead transparency (or photocopy) of each of the following:
    • "Utah Quarter Reverse" page
    • "Which Came First?" worksheet
  • Make copies of the following:
    • "Past and Present" worksheet (1 per student)
    • "Which Came First?" worksheet (1 per student)


Worksheets and files (PDF)

Lesson Steps

Session 1

  1. Discuss the terms "past" and "present" with the students. Ask the students what they think each word means and record responses on chart paper.
  2. Explain to the students that the past is something that has already happened and the present is something that is happening now.
  3. Ask the students to give examples of the past by using the prompt "I used to" and then ask them to give examples of the present by using the prompt "Now I."
  4. Tell the students that in the past things were different than they are today. Discuss the word "invention" and come up with a definition as a class. Write the word, the responses, and the definition on chart paper. Explain to the students that many of the inventions that we have today people did not have in the past.
  5. Discuss with the students that years ago people did not have electricity. Ask the students how they think people did things without electricity. Model what it would have been like to not have electricity in your classroom. Identify items in the classroom that use electricity such as lights, computer, pencil sharpener, and radio. Discuss how school must have been different in the past without these inventions. Then discuss how electricity makes things easier for us today.
  6. Ask the students to give other examples of inventions that we may not have had in the past like computers, telephones, radios, and pencils. and record appropriate responses on another piece of chart paper.
  7. Distribute the "Past and Present" worksheet to each student. Tell the students that they are to think of something in the past and draw it on one side and then draw something from the present on the other. Encourage the students to use the chart paper as a reference.
  8. Allow appropriate time to complete the assignment and then share with the class.

Session 2

  1. Review the charts and terms "past" and "present" from the previous session.
  2. Describe the 50 State Quarters Program for background information, if necessary, using the example of your own state, if available. Then display the transparency or photocopy of the "Utah Quarter Reverse" page, mentioning that an object must be special to be on a quarter. Locate Utah on a classroom map. Note its position in relation to your school's location.
  3. With the students, on an overhead transparency, examine the design on this coin. Tell the students that the back of the coin is also called the reverse, and the "obverse" is another name for the front of the coin. Read the coin inscriptions to the class. Show them the date at the top of the coin and tell them that is the date that Utah became a state.
  4. Discuss the "Crossroads of the West" phrasing on the coin. Explain that a crossroads is where two roads cross. Give examples of crossroads near your school.
  5. Lead a class discussion regarding the coin images and tell the students that the images of the trains and the words "Crossroads of the West" are part of a special event that took place in Utah on May 10, 1869. At Promontory Point, Utah, two sets of railroad tracks met to make the first railroad to cross the United States from the east coast to the west. The large spike shown on the coin is the "golden spike" which is a symbol of the final spike to be struck into the tracks.
  6. Explain to the students that the "golden spike" and the railroad were important to the history of Utah because the railroad helped to connect the East and West faster and created more jobs for many people. This also made it easier to travel through the canyons, also depicted on the coin. Tell the students that all of these things made Utah the "Crossroads of the West."
  7. Discuss with the students how people traveled before the invention of the railroad and the connection of the railroad across our country. Ask the students why they think it may have made it easier with the railroad.
  8. Review the chart from the previous session and other inventions that we have in the present that people did not have in the past that makes life easier today. Add any new ideas to the chart.
  9. Distribute a piece of drawing paper to each student and tell them to choose one of the things from the list to draw and to write why it has made life easier.

Session 3

  1. Review the chart from the previous sessions.
  2. Display the "Which Came First?" worksheet and explain to the students that they are to cut out the pictures on the page and pair them with the more modern invention. They will then glue them in the appropriate place on the next page indicating whether it is past or present. Once they have done that they are to choose one of the inventions and write why it has made life easier. Allow an appropriate amount of time to complete this activity.
  3. Review the worksheets with the class. Discuss how important the past inventions are to the present.

Differentiated Learning Options

  • Allow students to work in pairs.
  • Allow students to use a scribe to label their drawings.
  • Provide a worksheet with one of the columns already filled in with the drawings so they only have to provide the match.


  • Have students think of something we don't have in the present that could make life easier in the future. Tell them to illustrate and explain in writing how it will help.
  • Have students create skits of the past and present and what life was like before and after one of the inventions.
  • Have students read a selected text about changes in the house from past to present.
  • Have students use archival pictures from the Library of Congress (www.loc.gov) to examine changes in our lives from past to present.


  • Take anecdotal notes about the students' participation in class discussions.
  • Review the students' worksheets to evaluate whether they met the lesson objectives.

Common Core Standards

This lesson plan is not associated with any Common Core Standards.

National Standards

Discipline: Mathematics
Domain: K-2 Measurement
Cluster: Apply appropriate techniques, tools, and formulas to determine measurements.
Grade(s): Grades K–2

In K through grade 2 all students should

  • measure with multiple copies of units of the same size, such as paper clips laid end to end;
  • use repetition of a single unit to measure something larger than the unit, for instance, measuring the length of a room with a single meterstick;
  • use tools to measure; and
  • develop common referents for measures to make comparisons and estimates.

Discipline: Mathematics
Domain: K-2 Measurement
Cluster: Understand measurable attributes of objects and the units, systems, and processes of measurement.
Grade(s): Grades K–2

In K through grade 2 all students should

  • recognize the attributes of length, volume, weight, area, and time;
  • compare and order objects according to these attributes;
  • understand how to measure using nonstandard and standard units; and
  • select an appropriate unit and tool for the attribute being measured.