Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Analyzing Historical Figures in Psychology

Analyzing Historical Figures

Mariana DeLoera, Kelsey Willems | Published: August 21st, 2023 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th
  • Subject Subject Social Studies
  • Course Course Psychology
  • Time Frame Time Frame 120
  • Duration More 2-3 class period(s)


This lesson invites students to analyze historical figures in the field of psychology and to make connections regarding their impact in their field of study. Students will research a historical figure and examine that person's impact during the period in which they lived, as well as their long lasting impact. This lesson can be used in any course, but it is best suited to introduce key historical figures at the beginning of a unit or to review key historical figures at the end of a semester.

Essential Question(s)

What impact do researchers and their discoveries have on a field of study?



Students participate in a Tell Me Everything activity.


Students each choose a historical figure and begin completing a KWHL chart about that person.


Students research their historical figures to finish the KWHL chart.


Students create posters to profile their historical figures.


Students participate in a Gallery Walk, complete a graphic organizer, and submit their posters and KWHL charts.


  • Lesson Slides (attached)

  • KWHL Chart (attached, one per student)

  • Historical Figures Name Strips (attached, one copy)

  • Research Guide (attached, optional class set)

  • Historical Figure Profile Template (attached, one per student)

  • Historical Figure Profile Sample (attached, optional class set)

  • Historical Figure Profile Rubric (attached, optional class set)

  • Markers, colored pencils, crayons, pens, pencils, etc.

  • Posters

  • Student devices with Internet access (optional)

  • Sticky Easel Pad (optional)


10 Minute(s)

Use the attached Lesson Slides to guide the lesson. Using the Tell Me Everything strategy, begin the class by displaying slide 2 and pose the following question to students. “What do you know about the field of Psychology and those who study this field?” Allow for a few responses and transition to the next question, “Who are the key foundational researchers in psychology?” as students share their answers and write them down on the board. 

Transition to slide 3 and ask students if they notice any trends in the list. For example, students may know only one or two names, the list may include only men, or the list may not include anyone of color.

Display slide 4 and ask students if they recognize any of the figures. Share with students that the figures are a few, often recognized key psychologists. Explain to students that over the course of this lesson, they will be exposed to various other historical figures. 

Transition to slides 5-6  and review the essential question and lesson objectives with the class. Invite them to think about these questions in relation to the field of psychology as they further explore different historical figures.


15 Minute(s)

Display slide 7 and have each student draw a historical figure at random, or you can allow students to select which historical figure they'd like to research. Have at least one student per historical figure.

Once students have a historical figure, tell them that they will use a KWHL Graphic Organizer to help them as they learn more about their figure.

Display slides 8-9 and pass out copies of the attached KWHL Chart handout. Have students write the name of their historical figure at the top of the chart.

Explain to students that they will use a modified version of the "K/W" column. Students should write out everything they already know about the individual in the “K” column. Additionally, they should write everything they want to know in the “W” column. 

If students are unfamiliar with their figure, explain to them that they will use a modified version of the "K/W" column.  Students will instead combine their “K/W” and use this column as a way to generate questions or identify knowledge gaps regarding their historical figure. Pose the question to the class "What do I need to know about my historical figure?” Allow 3–5 minutes of writing time. 

Display slide 10. Ask students to fill in the "H" column with ideas about how they might find the information they listed in their "K/W" columns. Tell students that this will serve as an action plan as they research their historical figures.


25 Minute(s)

Using their KWHL Charts as a reference, students will now consult their textbooks and/or appropriate online resources to research the information that they identified in the "K/W" column. An optional Research Guide handout is attached. 

Display slide 11. As students research, ask them to take quality notes about their findings in the “L” column and write down where they found the information in the “H” column of their handout. In their notes, students might include the following information relating to their historical figures:

  • Notable accomplishments

  • Education

  • Area of study

  • Connections to other historical figures

  • Interests or hobbies

  • Contributions to their field

  • Interesting facts

  • Lasting Impact


30 Minute(s)

Day 2

Reintroduce the lesson and have students refer back to their KWHL Charts and their Historical Figure.

Give each student a sheet of white paper or pass out copies of the attached Historical Figures Profile Template.

Display slide 12. Explain to students that they will fill in the required information that they found during their research and draw/print any images and symbols that they associate with their historical figures on their handout or on a sheet of white paper. As a class, walk students through each category they will be including. An optional rubric can be found on slide 13 to discuss with the class prior to beginning.

  • Quote: Which quote would best reflect the historical figure? If students find that their figures have many quotes attributed to them,

    suggest that they select one that they find particularly interesting or meaningful.

  • Fast Facts: What are five key pieces of information about the historical figure? Students should highlight these using brief bullet points.

  • Historical Importance: Why is the figure important in the scope of history? What was their contribution to the field of psychology? Students should write a quick sentence or two explaining why their historical figure is important.

  • Six-Word Memoir: Instead of having students write longer biographies of their historical figures, have them create a concise "memoir" of their figure that sums up their historical importance in just six words.

  • Image: What does this historical figure look like? Students should draw a picture of their figure in the large oval.

  • Symbols: Based on students' research, what four symbols would they most associate with their figures? Students should draw these symbols in the small square boxes.


25 Minute(s)

Display slide 14. Once students have completed their profile, explain that they will be participating in a Gallery Walk activity. Have students hang their profiles around the room.

Distribute the attached Gallery Walk Graphic Organizer to students and have them go around the room filling out the graphic organizer based on the profiles created by their classmates. Students will fill in the name of the Historical Figures on the handout based on the finalized class list. 

Once time has been given for students to complete the handout, have them return to their seats. Invite a few individuals to share what stood out the most to them about a different figure than the one assigned to them. 

Transition to  slide 15 with the essential question: “What impact do researchers and their discoveries have on a field of study?”. Leave students on this final thought and invite a few to share their response to the class. 

Have students turn in their completed KWHL Chart and Graphic Organizer. A Historical Figure Profile Rubric is attached, which you can use to assist with grading students' projects.


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