The Newark Museum would like to know how educators around the country are teaching about the events of the 1860s during the time of the American Civil War. What topics do you cover? How do you approach a topic so large?
To supplement classroom learning, the museum has produced curriculum material for teachers that utilizes artifacts and artworks found in the Newark Museum collection to teach about the effect of the war at home, on African Americans, on women, and on the President. Lesson plans, links, and discussion topics can be found at the Civil War Sesquicentennial hosted by the Newark Museum.
Here are some resources from ReadWriteThink.org on the Civil War:
Using Historical Fiction to Learn About the Civil War (http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/lesson-plans/using-historical-fiction-learn-779.html)
Comparing Electronic and Print Texts About the Civil War Soldier (http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/lesson-plans/comparing-electronic-print-texts-68.html)
Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address in 1863 (http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/calendar-activities/abraham-lincoln-delivered-gettysburg-20347.html)
Engaging Students in a Collaborative Exploration of the Gettysburg Address (http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/lesson-plans/engaging-students-collaborative-exploration-888.html)
Myth and Truth: The Gettysburg Address (http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/lesson-plans/myth-truth-gettysburg-address-885.html)
Critical Perspectives: Reading and Writing About Slavery (http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/lesson-plans/critical-perspectives-reading-writing-1060.html)
Strategic Reading and Writing: Summarizing Antislavery Biographies (http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/lesson-plans/strategic-reading-writing-summarizing-1017.html)
I have very strong memories of an 8th grade trip to Gettysburg...but they are mostly of some of my less-than-studious peers torturing our poor tour guide. I don't think I fully appreciated it at the time, myself.
Now that I am much older and living in Washington, D.C., one of my favorite things to do is run from my house east of Capitol Hill down to the Lincoln Memorial. I run up the steps and admire the tourists, and then spend a few minutes reading the Gettysburg address on the wall of the monument while I stretch. It truly is amazing how you can read a great speech dozens of times and still find new meaning with each re-reading.
National Geographic Education has some nice articles about the Civil War:
The Past in the Present tells the story of five Civil War reenactors (grades 5-8)
A Tale of Two Generals tells the all-too-common story of friends who fought on opposite sides of the War (grades 5-12)
The Underground Railroad in Indiana describes how the Hoosiers played a role in securing freedom for slaves (grades 4-12)
Sarah Jane — love your routine of revisiting and rereading the Gettysburg address! It's an awesome use of a memorial space and a very cool way to think more deeply about a text. Our perspectives on texts do change so much with time and in the context of things going on in our own lives. Interesting to think about how to communicate to students that you don't just "learn it once" and move on; that you revisit concepts throughout the course of your OWN history and that your perspective on them changes and deepens.
The History Explorer has been thinking about this same issue, and to better help teachers navigate our resources, we led a webinar on our Civil War materials last April. Anyone interested in that presentation can find the recorded session here!
National Museum of American History
I have taken the Civil War Study Guide, which includes the essential questions, people and events and arranged it in the order I plan on teaching it. The entire unit comes to about 30 or so topics. The students read a short version of the war an selected from the Study Guide something they would like to present. They are using a variety of web 2.0 creation devices to present in the order that I would teach the event.
There are also some great resources on the Library of Congress' website. They have made many resource digital so students can see item from this time and use them to teach about what happened and what life was like at the time.
Also, you can check out your states historical society's website many are also becoming more digital so more schools can use the resources. MN has a nice one.
LOC civil war page- http://www.loc.gov/topics/content.php?subcat=8
MNHS civil war- http://sites.mnhs.org/
My students create a magazine of the entire civil war using microsoft publisher- they have to span the war from either a confederate or union point of view. Their magazines must contain cover stories, advertisements, political cartoons, etc. It's great because they cover a lot of material and do a lot of research, but get to do more independent thinking.
After my students have a basic understanding of the Civil War, I assign a project that they seem to enjoy. Each student picks a person, battle, or event from the civil war out of a hat (or basket). The students then have to research that topic and write a 3 - 5 paragraph essay. Then all of the students (from both 5th grade) classes come together to present their topic. We (the teachers) make a time line on the wall in the hall. We have each student fill out an index card with the date of their battle or event. Those note cards go on the time line. We then post all of their essay on the wall around the time line. This is the project that they complete outside of class. I have the assignment typed out. If you want a copy of the assignment or more information I am happy to provide it.
In class, as the students are working on their project outside of class, I put the students in groups and conduct a debate. I usually have 2 debates because of the number of students I have. The students have to look at both sides of the argument in order to be prepared for the debate. I think this helps them to have a better understanding of the Civil War as a whole. My topic this year is: The Confederate states had the right to secede from the Union. My students are currently working on both of these projects and are having a good time.
At ARTSEDGE, there's a Civil War theme page where you can find lessons and multimedia regarding the Civil War. The content pertains to the significance of letter writing during the war, how music was used during the war, what Abraham Lincoln's connection was to music, and other arts-based connections.
EDSITEment has two features for the 150th anniversary
The American Civil War
Literature of the Civil War
We also have online state encyclopedia page with links to the Civil War articles