One of the challenges of teaching history is that certain topics and time periods are pushed to the end of the school year. One such time period occurs in curriculum which splits American history into two years (usually 7th and 9th grades). At the end of the first year, teachers have to scramble to cover the American Civil War, a time period that deserves quality instruction and resources. Today, we’ll share with you a few of those important online resources for teaching the American Civil War.
WebQuests: The following WebQuests are a great way to get students actively engaging the content with a twist on traditional research projects.
Civil War Museum – This webquest allows the students to research aspects revolving around the Civil War as well as how to effectively compile it into a museum structure.
The South will Rise Again – This WebQuest is a depiction of troop movements during the Battle of Gettysburg. Students are to recreate the Battle of Gettysburg and create alternative movements of the battalions to make the South win the war. Students must know who commanded what unit with how many soldiers they were in charge of. Students must take in to consideration the topigraphical and land formations in the battle grounds.
Letters from the Civil War – This WebQuest involves students taking roles as a Union or Confederate soldier during the Civil War. They are writing letters to each other telling about their wartime experiences.
A Nation Divided – It is the year 1861 and President Lincoln has assigned you a very important job. In hopes of showing future generations how life was different during the Civil War, he has asked that you document this tragic time in history. You will be asked to document the places and people you come into contact with by creating a scrapbook of your journey. It is your task to show how this great nation was once a divided nation. Now to begin your journey….
Timelines are great way to visualize the time and sequence of a particular event or era. Additionally, they can be used to describe a narrative or detail a process. However you use timelines, there are many resources out there to help you get the most out of this valuable visualization tool.
The most obvious way to use timelines is to utilize them in studying historical events. Sometimes the best way to understand and visualize the actual order of events and the time that takes place in between is to see it in a timeline. Luckily, there are innumerable examples of historical events captured on interactive timelines all over the internet:
Local histories can sometimes be the most interesting to our students. However, it is hard to place historical landmarks by just reading about them or learning about them from those who were there. Even images aren’t always enough.
WhatWasThere is a tool that pairs historical pictures and images with their locations on a Google map. It is even easy for one to upload photos for archival purposes. Scanning and archiving Grandma’s old photos can help tell a historical tale in a particular location.
The website says it best:
The WhatWasThere project was inspired by the realization that we could leverage technology and the connections it facilitates to provide a new human experience of time and space – a virtual time machine of sorts that allows users to navigate familiar streets as they appeared in the past.
The premise is simple: provide a platform where anyone can easily upload a photograph with two straightforward tags to provide context: Location and Year. If enough people upload enough photographs in enough places, together we will weave together a photographic history of the world (or at least any place covered by Google Maps). So wherever you are in the world, take a moment to upload a photograph and contribute to history!
With Presidents Day fast approaching, there are some great resources out there to get your week off to a great start!
What better resource for presidential information than the world’s largest library; the Library of Congress? A search can be performed for a particular topic/person or you can go to the presidency page. If you are looking for presidential papers, a large collection can also be found here. There is a portion devoted to the diaries of George Washington. These documents provide a more personal look at George Washington and his thoughts. There is even a section of Thomas Jefferson’s personal library that is housed in the Library of Congress.
For those George Washington buffs, there are several great resources for studying our first president. Take a tour of Mt. Vernon. The History Channel has plenty of videos and other information about the “father of our country.” Discover George Washington has an interactive timeline with lots of information and multimedia resources.
Abraham Lincoln, another very popular president, has just as many great online resources as Wasington. The History Channel covers “Honest Abe” as only the History Channel can. Abraham Lincoln’s Crossroads is an interactive site that explains the decisions that Lincoln was faced with in his presidency. Smithsonian’s new exhibit on Lincoln shows the many faces of the 16th president through a series of portraits.
Interactive sites for the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial also exist hereand there are many more presidential resources at TeachersFirst.com.
H/T to eMINTS Instructional Specialist Terri Brines for the many great resources!
A few years back, a male student asked me why we were celebrating Women’s History Month. I responded, “Because every other month is men’s history month.”
Before the boys in my classroom could celebrate too much, I had to explain my statement. I asked the class to flip through our American history text books. Aside from a few inserts here and there, the overwhelming majority of the people featured were white (mostly rich) men. This led me to make the connection to Black History Month which was very important to my students who were 90% African American. Black history was just as neglected or even trivialized as the history of women in our textbooks
Black History Month and other heritage months are not meant to hold certain minorities above other ethnic or gender groups. Heritage months are meant as a way to level the playing field and call attention to portions of our history which are typically ignored.
The goal is for these heritage months to become obsolete when we give proper coverage throughout the year. Sadly, this is currently not the case. Out history is still told through a limited perspective and subjects. Heritage months like Black History Month are necessary to combat this misrepresentation of our collective history.
A good website for Black History month is Scholastic. This site has information and resources for different grade levels. There are various interactive activities and suggestions for books. Some of the topics covered are African American inventors, musicians, authors, civil rights leaders, and the Underground Railroad.
Terri Brines is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.
Recently, there was an announcement that a publisher was editing Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn by replacing the word “nigger” with the less-offensive “slave” in order to make the book more accessible for students. This has been a hot-button topic for civil rights activists and First Amendment advocates, but those in education are also drawn in when considering the important place Huckleberry Finn holds in the American canon.
As the publishers suggest, the book could become more accessible as a historically charged word is stripped from the text in order to make it less offensive. Undoubtedly, there are teachers, administrators, parents, and entire school districts who don’t want the “n-word” or any other racial epithet in their schools no matter the context. This move by the publishers could allow schools to return Huckleberry Finn to their reading lists and curriculum.
On the other side, critics worry about the altering of history. Mark Twain wrote Huckleberry Finn in the common language of the time. It’s an authentic representation of a portion of our nation’s past. Changing the Twain’s written work erases that past, offensive or not. Plus, this is a slippery slope on which the publishers are walking. What could be changed next? Will publishers begin to take out content from books that are objectionable to some but deviate from the author’s intended purpose?
There are a lot of issues to consider with the Huckleberry Finn controversy. Where do you lie? Is it worth editing a classic piece of American literature for the purposes of accessibility? Are we erasing history in the name of political correctness?
What would Mark Twain think? Would he be happy that more students could read his work or would he be angered at the thought of someone editing his writing?
Are you more concerned that some students wouldn’t get a chance to read this great piece of fiction without the edited version? Or are you more worried of the effects of a revisionist history? Tell us where you stand on this issue.
Zac Early is an instructional specialist for the eMINTS National Center.
Looking for a lesson or activity exploring the different perspectives of the first Thanksgiving? Look no further than What Really Happened At Thanksgiving?for an investigation that will engage students and cause them to think critically.
There will be no need for turkeys made from the outlines of our hands or paper pilgrim hats. What Really Happened At Thanksgiving?is a great way to engage students in authentic learning around a holiday event based on historical events. From the Plimoth Plantation, this interactive website takes students through the process of investigating Thanksgiving as historians. Your historians will participate in activities that separate fact from myth, identify and analyze primary resources, make educational guesses using cultural clues, and consider multiple points of view.
Including in this interactive website is a teacher’s guide. The guide provides classroom activities that coincide with online activities. Also included are national social studies standards and other resources. Either use the site for a last minute fill in for those days leading up to Thanksgiving or plan out a more elaborate unit on Native Americans and European colonization of the Americas. This resource is really adaptive to your needs. The ideal grade levels for this resource are 3rd-5th.
Zac Early is an instructional specialist for the eMINTS National Center. He currently manages Networked Teaching & Learning while neglecting his own blogs, particularly Suppl_eMINTS.