Into the Curriculum
School Library Monthly/Volume XXIX, Number 1/September-October 2012
Social Studies: Understanding the Civil War: Using Fiction, Fact, and Image
by Jeanine Akers and Lain Whitaker
Jeanine Akers is assistant director of libraries at St. Mary’s Episcopal School in Memphis, TN. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lain Whitaker is the 8th grade American history teacher at St. Mary’s Episcopal School in Memphis, TN. Email: email@example.com
Students will examine and make claims about the beliefs and attitudes of average Americans at the eve of the Civil War, using quotes from the novel Bull Run. An exhibit of their final products will illustrate the misconceptions about and effects of the Civil War at its start in 1861. Students will understand and practice citing sources in MLA format.
Information Literacy/Inquiry Objectives:
Linking to AASL's Standards for the 21st-Century Learner:
- Use strategies to draw conclusions from information and apply knowledge to curricular areas, real-world situations, and further investigations (2.1.3).
- Use the writing process, media and visual literacy, and technology skills to create products that express new understandings (2.1.6).
- Respect the copyright/intellectual property rights of creators and producers (1.3.1).
Curriculum (subject area) Objectives:
Common Core Grades 6-12 Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, & Technical Subjects
- Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources. (RH.6-8.1)
- Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions. (RH.6-8.2)
- Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts. (RH.6-8.7)
Grade Level: 8
Appleby, Joyce, Alan Brinkley, and James M. McPherson. The American Journey. Glencoe-McGraw-Hill, 2003. (Or other standard American history text)
Fleischman, Paul. Bull Run. Harper Collins, 1995.
Image Web Sites
The Civil War: A Film by Ken Burns. http://www.pbs.org/civilwar/cwimages/
History.com Civil War: Battles of Bull Run. http://www.history.com/topics/battle-of-first-bull-run/photos#civil-war-battles-of-bull-run
Faces of the Civil War. http://www.history.com/topics/battle-of-first-bull-run/photos#faces-of-civil-war
American Memory: Selected Civil War Photographs. http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/cwphtml/cwphome.html
America’s First Look into the Camera: Daguerreotype Portraits and Views, 1839-1864. http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/daghtml/daghome.html
Wordle. http://www.wordle.net/ (Create word clouds)
Screencast prerecorded instructions: http://www.screencast-o-matic.com/
The classroom teacher presents the background history of the events that led to the outbreak of Civil War in 1861 and leads a class discussion of the book, including providing comprehension questions to direct readers’ attention to the assumptions and attitudes that an array of Americans had at war's eve.
The school librarian teaches strategies for finding appropriate and relevant historical images. The librarian emphasizes the importance of respecting intellectual property and leads students through the process of citing sources.
The classroom teacher and librarian collaboratively help students discover how quotes can best be used as evidence, how to incorporate images into documents and wrap text, and how to create word clouds using Wordle.
Procedures for Completion:
To set the stage, the teacher guides students through a lengthy study of the 1850s and an examination of the respective advantages and disadvantages of the North and the South in 1861. Students are then ready to examine the beliefs and attitudes of the average American at the eve of the Civil War. Paul Fleishman’s novel Bull Run provides an excellent window on the period by telling the factual story of the start of the Civil War and its first major battle through the eyes and monologues of sixteen fictional characters representing several states and ethnic groups. Written on a 5th grade reading level, the brief book is easy for most middle school students to read in two or three nights.
Before the reading begins, the teacher assigns each student one of the book’s characters to follow. The project revolves around completing three tasks for each student:
- Evaluate your character’s attitude and personality before the battle.
- How does the battle change your character?
- What truths can readers learn about the Civil War from this novel? (Verify facts in the text book.)
The answers to each of these questions should be a single, well-written paragraph. For each of the first two questions, student must provide quotes from the novel to support the conclusions they draw about their character. For the third question, students must find and discuss at least one fact in the novel that can be verified in their textbooks.
Students should make correct in-text citations for the quotations used in the first two paragraphs and the facts cited from both novel and textbook in the third paragraph.
Both teacher and librarian lead a conversation on the importance of using quotes as evidence for ideas, emphasizing that quoting allows them to prove that they are summarizing ideas honestly and adding credibility to what they are saying.
The librarian reviews the reasons for citing sources and teaches the standard format for incorporating and citing sources in MLA style. The librarian leads the students through the process of creating a works cited page for the project (we use NoodleTools) and citing Bull Run and the textbook.
After the writing and citations are complete, students move on to the visual aspect of the assignment. First, each student must find, and incorporate into the final project, a picture to represent the character assigned in the novel. The librarian provides links to several websites and online archives for locating images from the Civil War and asks students to think about factual and personal attributes of the character they have been studying. The librarian models the best search strategies (keyword searching and browsing) for locating images of people that are appropriate visual representations of their character and ensures that students are able to save images to the their computer.
The teacher demonstrates how to place an image into a Word or other document and how to change the layout of the text so that it wraps around the image. Since many of the students will be completing this portion of the assignment for homework, the teacher created a screencast for the students (http://www.screencast-o-matic.com/watch/cXnOD5INu).
The librarian discusses the rules for citing images in MLA style and assists students in adding a citation for their chosen image to their works cited.
The final step is for the student to create a word cloud for the assigned character. Directions for using the Wordle site can be explained in class or through the use of another screencast (http://www.screencast-o-matic.com/watch/c6XIbn6AQ). Word clouds must include the name Bull Run, the character's name, three adjectives to describe the character, the place the character came from, and one truth the character learns from the battle in a short phrase. Students are free to include other words or phrases. They should choose an old fashioned or traditional font and appropriate colors for the time period.
The teacher creates an exhibit of the students' Bull Run projects. The classroom teacher and librarian evaluate students on the quality of their paragraphs, the accuracy of their citations, the appropriateness of their choice of images, and the meaning and messages conveyed in their word clouds.
The Bull Run Project gives students a more sophisticated appreciation of history and the writing process. They understand there were heroes and villains, geniuses and fools, and simply lots of fallible human beings involved in the events that sometimes appear to be dry facts in the textbooks. Moreover, students learn how to use quotes and facts to support the conclusions they draw from their reading and why it is important to provide documentation for those quotes and facts.
The final student exhibit could be used in two ways: 1) Students who have read the book and done the project may be asked to evaluate and provide feedback on the writing, images, and word clouds that best capture the nature of the character described in the assignment, or 2) Students in other grades could be asked to observe and read selections in the exhibit and draw conclusions about the nature of the outbreak of Civil War.