Monday, December 1, 2014

On to the Civil War...

It has been a busy couple of weeks at my house, and I have gotten behind where I wanted to be by Thanksgiving. To me, Thanksgiving has always meant time for the Civil War. (In the classroom, not at the family Thanksgiving table, thankfully.) So, I am going to wrap up the Antebellum period with this post by offering a random assortment of lesson ideas from my "archives," (a.k.a. the boxes of manilla file folders that I keep tripping on in my office).

I am not going to do any posts on the Civil War itself. There are so many fantastic resources on the internet that can do far above my poor power to add or detract (brownie points if you get the reference. Check out Ken Burns's efforts to get Americans to learn the Gettysburg Address. And check out this fun youtube video that has famous people reciting it.) For a great place to start, check out Kevin M. Levin's Civil War blog I mentioned in an earlier post. In particular, see this post where he lists his nominations for the top 10 Civil War blogs. And see the end of this post for a few thoughts on the Emancipation Proclamation.

For the Politics of Slavery: 

Here is a useful activity to do in groups to review all the confusing ways to handle the Congressional slavery problem. Students have to categorize different ideas, people, terms and places as to how they relate to the politics of deciding the slavery question in the years leading up to the Civil War. This one came from deep in my files--surely handed down to me from past teachers.

This can be a confusing period for students. I once had a from a student which made realize some students weren't fully understanding the politics behind the slavery question. I don't remember the exact question, but it made it clear that not everyone was understanding (1) why the numbers of slave and free states had to be even in the first place. If you lived on your plantation full of slaves in Louisiana, and you weren't planning on moving, why would you care whether or not the new territory gained from Mexico was slave or not? and (2) So if the number of free and slave states were even, why would there still be an issue for Southerners? The chart below answers what can be an essential question for a lesson on the Compromise of 1850:
Why was it such a big deal to Southerners about whether or not there would be slavery in the new territories in the Mexican War?
I might, though, phrase it this way (see below), as an interesting point of discussion to begin a lesson. Have students think about it before showing them the "answer" in the chart below.

Why would an Alabama slaveowner care about whether or not there would be slavery in New Mexico?

The chart below shows clearly that that, over time, the South was losing national political power in the House, even if it was to keep power in the Senate.

For Teaching about the Overland Trail:

Here is another example of using a primary source in class which will look familiar to those of you who attended my session at the ICSS Conference in October. This one is about the experiences of the Overland Trail, specifically from the viewpoint of women who made the journey.
This link is for the one that has directions for students and possible "answers" for teachers.
Here is the link for just the document. I believe I got most of the excerpts from Lillian Schlissel's book, Women's Diaries of the Westward Journey. You can find other excerpts here. I also may have used John Mack Faragher's, Women and Men on the Overland Trail.

This will address Common Core Standards 1, below, but also possibly 2 and 6 (use this link.)

Teaching about Dred Scott:

Another one I used at the ICSS conference in October. Here is the document I use for teaching the Dred Scott decision  It has key excerpts from the decision, along with questions that help students work through the argument, making it easier for them to understand. A good in-class activity that, at the conference, I used to demonstrate using Common Core standards 5 and 8, shown below.

And lastly, if you have already gotten to the Civil War and looking for a way to teach the emancipation, check out this version of the Emancipation Proclamation that I adapted from an old handout I have. Some teachers, understandably, are hesitant to go over the document itself with students (especially middle schoolers) because it is written in such "legalese." But I think it is (ironically, perhaps) easier for students to understand what the Emancipation Proclamation did and did not do if they actually read it. Or, even better, if you read it aloud to them. This is one of those times when it is probably better for you to read it rather than have them read it themselves or have a student read it. Hearing it read aloud as they follow along really helps it make sense. And the questions I have included to break up the text helps them figure out what the Proclamation did and why Lincoln relied on his power as Commander in Chief and used such legal language. They key point for students to understand is that the Emancipation Proclamation is a POLITICAL TOOL.

I usually precede the Emancipation Proclamation document with a look at Horace Greeley's letter to Lincoln and Lincoln's response. I would summarize the Greeley letter, but have students look carefully at Lincoln's response. It is a very succinct and clear statement of his view on what power he has regarding slavery and the purpose of the war. And it sets up perfectly what he is about to explain in his preliminary proclamation issued just one month later.

Next post will move on to Reconstruction...Hope you all had a good Thanksgiving and remembered to tell your students that it was Lincoln who set the future date for our Thanksgiving holiday!

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