3 class periods of 90 minutes each
Students use a multimedia project, The Valley of the Shadow: Two American Communities in the Civil War, which has been cited by the National Endowment for the Humanities as an example of the 'best of the humanities on the Web,' to create a presentation about the significance of the Gettysburg Address. Students work on expert teams to explore the interactive history materials. By allowing students to explore raw materials of the past, students learn how to engage actively in the construction and interpretation of American history.
Newspaper Expert Team:
Search suggestion: Use the keyword 'Gettysburg' and select 'all' for the dates.
Letters Expert Team:
Search suggestion: Use the keyword 'Gettysburg' and select the dates '1861-1865.'
Photograph Expert Team:
Use the Civil War Images database search engine to locate images from the Battle of Gettysburg: https://www.archives.gov/research/military/civil-war/photos
Battlefield Map Expert Team:
Note: These movies average 7 MB. Download time can be significant. If you click the links below the VRML file it will begin to download.
Imagine that you are a journalist who was sent to cover both the Battle of Gettysburg and the Commemoration of the Gettysburg Battlefield. Write a front-page story that describes the commemoration and the events that led up to it. Writing an editorial is an alternative, as long as facts are presented.
Too often, teachers require students to memorize the Gettysburg Address without having a clear understanding of the historical significance of Lincoln's famous speech. This activity has been used with high school students to actively engage them as historians. As students reconstruct this era of history, they improve not only their essential research and critical thinking skills, but also immerse themselves in the lives of individuals who lived the Gettysburg experience.
We have found that students begin to go far beyond the memorization of the Gettysburg Address and begin to ask probing questions of the members of the different expert teams to help them create a clear picture of this time in history. The research skills that they learn in this lesson stay with them as they study other historical eras and seek out primary sources such as government documents, photographs, and letters to reconstruct history-making it come alive!
Teachers and students together can develop a rubric to assess the newspaper article activity. The rubric can reflect not only the writing style and content, but also the research methods used to gather the information.
The Utah Education Network received permission from ISTE (The International Society for Technology in Education) to share this lesson.
Written by: Cheryl Mason, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia