At a Glance

American Tourists in the Holy Land
Focus on historical thinking, Inclusion of multiple perspectives, Multiple Sources, Scaffolding of close analysis of text, Useful for differentiating instruction
90 minutes
7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Lesson Format


American Tourists and the Holy Land, 1865-1900

Students analyze maps, travel posters, and the writings of Mark Twain to explore expectations versus reality. They then plan their own itinerary for American tourists.  


In this teaching module from the Shapell Manuscript Foundation in collaboration with the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Mediastudents learn how to examine engaging primary sources including travel posters, train tickets, maps, and a letter written by Mark Twain to better understand the attitudes and experiences of Americans who travelled to British Palestine in the late 1800s.

Students work in small groups to analyze sources and think through what kinds of expectations Americans might have had about the Holy Land before they travelled there. Students are also encouraged to explore what technological changes allowed tourists the opportunity to travel across the ocean. Primary sources such as travel posters present an idealized version of the places that Americans were familiar with from the Bible. 

After analyzing these primary sources students work in groups to create their own travel itineraries and promotional posters or pamphlets to advertise tours in the Holy Land. These can be physical materials or students may use digital tools to create their promotional materials. The modules also contain guidance on differentiation for diverse learners and connections to standards.  

Notes Lesson Plan Rubric
Field Criteria Comments
Historical Content Is historically accurate?


Includes historical background?


Requires students to read and write?

Students show their understanding through primary source analysis and creating visual media. 

Analytic Thinking Requires students to analyze or construct interpretations using evidence?
Requires close reading and attention to source information?

Requires close reading and attention to source information.

Scaffolding Is appropriate for stated audience?


Includes materials and strategies for scaffolding and supporting student thinking?


Lesson Structure Includes assessment criteria and strategies that focus on historical understanding?


Defines clear learning goals and progresses logically?


Includes clear directions and is realistic in normal classroom settings?