History and Memory Lesson 2: What Do You Know About JFK?

Exploring Prior Knowledge
Official presidential portrait of John F. Kennedy, taken by Seth H. Muse, c. 1960-63

John F. Kennedy and his collective memory legacy are introduced in this lesson. Students learn firsthand how collective memory is passed on through generations by examining their own knowledge (or lack of) regarding JFK’s presidency and assassination. Students interview a person who lived through JFK’s assassination and present their experiences to the class.

Suggested Time Frame:

Review: 5 minutes
"What Do You Know?" Handout: 10 minutes
Discussion: 10 minutes
Homework: 3 nights
Homework Review: 40 minutes

Total time frame: 2 class periods over one week if using homework option, 3-4 consecutive class periods if using in-class option 


  • Students will brainstorm and list thoughts about John F. Kennedy
  • Students will recall and discuss elements of contemporary collective memory
  • Students will reconstruct pre-existing knowledge about JFK and the assassination
  • Students will form opinions on the importance of JFK’s assassination in American history
John and Jaqueline Kennedy as newlyweds
John and Jaqueline Kennedy as newlyweds


The following handouts are
included in the Lesson PDF: 

JFK Brainstorm Handout Intergenerational Interview Handout


  1. Present, review and discuss the following information with your students:
  2. - The defining events students listed in the Lesson 1: Collective Memory.

    - How collective memory is passed on.

    - How collective memory is selective and subject to revision in the retelling of an event over time.

    - The role of present-day people—students, historians and artists alike—who interpret the past based on all the old and new information available to them.

  3. Brainstorm answers to the questions in the handout "JFK Brainstorm."
  4. Discuss what (if anything) has been passed on to your students’ generation as the collective memory of John F. Kennedy.
The gravestone and memorial to President John F. Kennedy
The gravestone and memorial to President John F. Kennedy

Homework Option: Intergenerational Interview

Interview a person who lived through and remembers the assassination of JFK. Use the Intergenerational Interview Handout.

In-Class Option: Audio Points of View

Play the audio files in this unit to hear a previous generation’s response and collective memory to the assassination of JFK. Discuss the similarities and differences of the accounts.


Warhol Education Rubrics

Click the Warhol Rubric headers below to reveal associated rubrics to which this lesson applies.

Critical Thinking
Creative Process
Historical Context
Media and Related Items
Intergenerational Audio Memories of the Kennedy Assassination