Example Concept Formation Lesson

Nationalism: A Concept Formation Lesson

Grade Level: This lesson is designed primarily for 9th Grade World History classes, and incorporates the main learning objectives for the 9th Grade World History Curriculum in regards to the definition of nationalism and its role in modern society.

Topic: Critical examination of the concept of nationalism

Length: about 55 minutes

Instructional Model: The instructional model is a Concept Formation Lesson. This model is used to explain abstract ideas to students, providing them with case studies that typify the concept being studied rather than presenting them with a specific, yet hollow definition. Students are asked to examine teacher-provided case studies and look for similarities and differences among them, which they will then use to develop a definition and label of the concept. The student-established definition is employed to classify additional examples and non-examples. With this model, students must independently develop a definition of key ideas in order to gain a fuller and more lasting understanding of the concept. Students expand upon their critical thinking skills and gain an introduction to the content related to the concept.

Overview: Nationalism is a concept that is critical to studies of 20th century world history given its pivotal function as a motivating factor in international relations. Despite its important role, nationalism is, in some ways, difficult to define; its meaning evolves depending on the context in which it is being applied. Certain qualities are true of all forms of nationalism: extreme devotion to one’s nation, a desire for national independence and advancement, and a belief in the supremacy of one’s own nation. However, its exact characteristics change with each specific circumstance; nationalism during the Italian Risorgimento did not look exactly the same as German nationalism under Bismarck. Nationalism can also be classified according to different ideas of “nations.” Given that “nations” can be religious, ideological, geographic, cultural, or ethnic, it is important that students understand the basic principles of nationalism so they can clearly identify it in all of its forms. Students will look at a series of case studies, some of which will be historical; others will pertain to modern society. Through these studies students will see the enormous impact that nationalism has had historically and its ability to propel nations to drastic actions. This lesson will provide students with an understanding for the both basic principles of nationalism and the critical role that it has played in society.

Rationale: Nationalism is concept that students must understand in order to progress in their studies of modern world history. The interplay between and among nations during the 20th century can largely be defined by their reactions to nationalistic developments and ideologies. Since nationalism is such an important concept to understand, it lends itself well to a concept form lesson. Students must have a working understanding of nationalism in order to comprehend the recent interactions among nations. Further, the specific expression of nationalism is different with each situation, so it is important that students understand its critical attributes in order to later apply their definition and identify cases of nationalism in their studies.


– After the concept formation lesson students will understand the critical attributes of nationalism, demonstrated by their ability to create their own definition of the concept, incorporating all four of the critical attributes.
SOL Objectives: WWII.7C, WWII.7D, WWII.8E
NCSS Standards: 1.5 (individuals, groups, and institutions, 1.6 (Power, Authority, Governance), 1.9 (Global Connections)

– After the concept formation lesson, students will employ their definition of nationalism by correctly classifying 4 teacher-prepared cases as either examples or non-examples.

– After the lesson, students will be able to analyze case studies for similarities and differences when given a description of a situation.

– Students will demonstrate their understanding of nationalism by independently completing an in-class assignment in which they must use their definition of the concept to change a teacher-provided non-example into an accurate example of nationalism.

– Students will display their ability to utilize their definition and critical attributes by completing an at-home assignment in which they must identify an additional case of nationalism (or create their own case) and support their example by writing one to two paragraphs about how it meets all four of the critical attributes.


– Assess students as they participate in the identification of similarities/differences and the establishment of the concept definition, listening to the quality of their contributions to both class discussion and partnered discussion. Contributions should be based on the examples and should demonstrate students’ abilities to draw connections between the cases and accurately compare them. Notes will be taken on individual student participation which will be shared with students in private conferences at the conclusion of the lesson (or in the days following).

– After the concept has been identified and the critical attributes have been established, students will complete a worksheet in which they must identify 4 cases as examples or non-examples of nationalism. They will work in groups in order to complete the initial assignment but will then work independently to write a paragraph explaining why one non-example fails to meet the critical attributes and then changing it so that it would fit the definition. Paragraphs must address each of the critical attributes. Worksheets will be collected at the end of class and graded for completeness and will then be returned to students with comments on the quality of their work.

– Students will complete a homework writing assignment in which they must find an additional example of nationalism (or create their own) and then write a paragraph about the example which clarifies how it demonstrates the critical attributes. Students will receive credit for completing the assignment if they: (1) turn it in on time (2) find an appropriate example and (3) use at least two critical attributes to support their example.

Content and Instructional Strategies 

The Concept Definition

– Critical Attributes:
o Extreme devotion to one’s nation
o Belief in the supremacy or majesty of one’s own nation and/or national heroes
o Desire for national advancement
o Willingness to pursue national independence

– Definition:
o A feeling of extreme devotion to one’s nation characterized by the belief in the supremacy of one’s own nation, a desire for national advancement, and the willingness to pursue national independence.

– Have desks set up in pairs of two so that students will have a partner with whom they can work on the project. Prior to class create heterogeneous pairs of students based on skill level. As students enter, tell them who they are partnered with and ask them to sit with their partner.
– Hand students the article on American patriotism and the first packet of worksheets as they enter the classroom. Ask them to sit down and begin reading the American Patriotism article silently.

Hook (8 minutes)
– After students arrive and sit down allow them time to read through the worksheet.
– After students finish reading, give them a few minutes to write down their reflections.
– Have students share their reflections with their partners
– Ask students if they would like to share anything that they discussed with their partner. Encourage students to share their thoughts and reactions.
– After the discussion, explain that this article relates to a concept that will be discussed for the remainder of the class. Clarify what a concept is and explain how the class will run, preparing students to begin looking at the examples.

Data-Retrieval Chart and Example Analysis (10 minutes)
– Have students turn to the “Examples of Concept” worksheet. Have students work with a partner to fill out the critical attributes chart (same partners as before). Explain that all of the worksheets and written work that students complete in class during this lesson will be collected at the end of class and evaluated for participation credit.
– As students are working on the chart, walk around the room and note student participation (frequency and quality).

Defining and Labeling the Concept (35 minutes)
– After students complete the “Examples of Concept” worksheet, instruct them to turn to the “Concept Formation Notes” worksheet and fill it out with their partner.
– Once students seem to have completed this worksheet, lead a class discussion about the similarities and differences that they identified.
– First go around the room and ask that each pair share a difference that they came up with, polling students to see if other groups came up with similar responses.
– After discussing the differences, turn to the similarities. Ask each group to share their best similarity, going around the room until all similarities have been identified. As students identify similarities list them on the board.
– Once all similarities have been listed, ask students to select which attributes they believe are most important. Tell students to list the class-determined critical attributes in the appropriate space on their worksheet.
– Ask students to work with their partners again to come up with a definition of the concept using the critical attributes.
– Ask students to share their definitions with the class.
– Ask students if they have an idea about the correct label of the concept. After students share their ideas, tell them that the real name of the concept is “Nationalism”.
– Hand out the second worksheet package. Have students turn to the “Further Examples” worksheet. Ask students to continue working with their partners and identify the provided cases as either examples or non-examples. Go over the answers with the class by calling on student to share their responses and then seeing if the class as a whole agrees.
– Ask students to pick one non-example from the most recent worksheet and independently write a short paragraph explaining how it fails to meet the critical attributes, citing all of the applicable critical attributes.
– Once students finish writing, they should share their paragraph with their partner. At the end of class these papers and all other class work should be collected so that it can be evaluated and participation credit can be given.
– Before students leave ask them to look at the “Finding Examples” worksheet at the back of their packet. Explain the assignment to students so they understand that they must find an additional example of the concept (or create their own) and then write a paragraph or two explaining how their example fits the definition they created of nationalism. Much like the in-class paragraph, it should refer to all four attributes.


– Class set of copies of “Celebrating American Patriotism” article
– Class set of copies of the following worksheets put together in two groups:
o “Examples of Concept” worksheet
o “Concept Formation Notes” worksheet
o “Further Examples” worksheet
o “Finding Examples” worksheet


For this lesson students are working in deliberately created heterogeneous pairs. Students of a high skill level are paired with students of lower skill levels. In this way, the students can assist each other as they work through the case studies. The case studies are written in clear language so that they are accessible to students at lower reading levels. The material in the case studies will be read individually and then discussed in pairs and as a class. This is beneficial because students who learn better when verbally receiving information will have an opportunity to really take something from this lesson as well as those students who learn best from reading the material.

This lesson also offers students the chance to participate in multiple ways. By first having students discuss the information in pairs, they are forced to participate, but in a “low stakes” situation. Those students who do not care to share information in front of the whole class will have the chance to express their ideas without the pressure of speaking in front of everyone. For those who enjoy class discussion, there are opportunities for large group dialog. Further, for those students who really do not feel comfortable sharing their ideas verbally, there are written assignments which allow them to demonstrate their knowledge without having to speak extensively.


This lesson could easily be modified to assist students with IEP’s, 504 plans, and other special needs. Since all of the case studies have been teacher-created, the writing can be altered so that it is simpler for a struggling reader. The case studies could also be annotated for students who need a little more assistance accessing the texts. If reading is a severe challenge, the case studies could even be read aloud to a student. Further, pictorial or video sources could be provided if students really cannot comprehend a written text. If the case studies are too simple for students additional case studies could be prepared and handed out if students seem to move through the first examples too quickly so as to keep them engaged in the lesson.


A possible problem that could arise from this lesson plan is that students might not be able to make the leap from their similarities to the critical attributes or might have difficulties forming their definitions from the critical attributes. The best way to avoid this problem is to be prepared with some leading questions that will help students find the correct information and elicit the desired responses. Additionally, the teacher could carefully direct the conversation as students are identifying similarities so as to be certain that students are headed on the right track. It is also possible that students may lose interest in the process of reading examples, identify similarities/differences, etc., which can at times be a little tedious. It is important that the teacher stay excited and positive about the material in order to increase student excitement. It would also be beneficial to stress to students the important role that the unidentified concept will play in their future learning.


Overall I felt that the lesson went fairly well. Some of the students responded better than others to the lesson. I think that part of the problem with the specific execution of this lesson was that my CT spoke somewhat extensively about nationalism right before the lesson, so the student were a little confused about why they were “guessing” at a concept about which they had just learned. I think that the lesson did do an effective job of giving students examples of nationalism. They seemed to be interested in the cases that they looked at and were engaged in the actual material. They were able to fill out the chart without much difficulty, although it was evident that it was an easier task for some students than for others. They were given the option of working in groups with the person sitting next to each other, but few took advantage of this. I think that in the future if I really want them to work together I would make more structured groups so it is clear to students that they are expected to work together. I also think that I would model the lesson a bit more before beginning so that students would have a better idea of what is expected of them. I was facing some time limits, so I think my directions were a little rushed and unclear. Also because of timing the lesson was divided by lunch. I think that in the future I would try to avoid this and do the lesson without interruption.

The lesson met a fair amount of PASS standards. I think that students were encouraged to participate in some higher order thinking as they worked through the examples and had to apply the critical attributes to other cases. In order to successfully do this they had to manipulate some of the information that they had acquired during the first portion of the lesson and then apply it. I feel as though many of the students were able to do this, although there were certainly some who could not. I think that some students were able to acquire deep knowledge of the nationalism concept, but others seemed to only gain “thin” knowledge. During the lesson some students were really getting into the discussion and seemed to be really analyzing the concept. They were able to find relationships between the examples and were adept at applying the concept to other examples.

I felt as though more substantive conversation could have been had. The students were really waiting for me to initiate dialog and I did not feel that we were having a conversation so much as they were responding to questions that I asked. There was some conversation, but I think that the sharing of ideas was limited. Some of the examples allowed for students to make connections to the world beyond the classroom because they were fairly contemporary in nature, but I think that the lesson could be altered to include more modern examples so that students could make additional real world connections. The lesson did not include ethical valuing. It was informative, but did not really require students to make value-based decisions. I think that there could have been more integration in the lesson as well. It would have been hard to have curricular and interdisciplinary integration, but I think that technology could perhaps be use to enhance examples by showing visual images. I think that the lesson contained a fair amount of integration of time and place with examples from many different times and places, but the connections between these examples could have been more explicit in order to enhance integration.

Connor, Todd. “Celebrating American Patriotism.” FoxNews.com 8 September 2002.
17 October 2008 < http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,62336,00.html>.
Miller, Sue, ed. World History, the Human Journey, Modern World. Austin: Holt,
Reinhart, Winston, 2003.
“Palestinian Nationalism.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. 2008. 15 October 2008