Educators Smithsonian Education
The Wright Brothers
Lesson Plan
Preparation - Background on Virginian-Pilot Story - Activity Steps - Assesment and Enrichment

Who, What, When, Where, Why

For this lesson, students get into five groups.  Each group examines one primary source document, looking for answers to specific questions about the Wright brothers’ first flights.  The students come together to compare answers, to discuss the reliability of the sources, and to reach conclusions about the best—or most likely—answers to the questions.  They then compare their work to a secondary source, an article that appeared the next day, December 18, 1903, in the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot.   

Primary Sources Used

The primary source documents are a) Orville Wright’s diary entry for December 17, 1903, b) a telegram Orville sent to Bishop Milton Wright on the same day, c) a letter in which Bishop Wright reports the news to a journalist, d) an oral history of the first flights by the lifesaving man John T. Daniels, and e) the Wright brothers’ recollections of the flights, from a magazine article they wrote in 1908.

What to Hand Out

Make enough copies of the primary source documents to give every student a copy of his or her group’s document.  Make enough copies of the graphic organizer and the newspaper article for everyone in the class. 


aeronautics, alchemist, altitude, ascent, breakers, discontinuance, glider, hummock, lateral, maneuver, mythical, navigator, rigors, rudder, sidling, stature, velocity
Required Materials

Graphic Organizer

Group A: Diary

Group B: Telegram

Group C: Letter

Group D: Interview

Group E: Magazine

Entire Class: Newspaper
The First Flight

The First Flight

The first flight, December 17, 1903, at the moment of takeoff

Previous Page Next Page

Smithsonian Institution

Websites A-Z

Adult Learning

Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access ©2013 Smithsonian Institution About UsContactSite MapTerms of UsePrivacy PolicySubscribe