Magazine article Social Studies Review

Exploring Primary Sources: Civil War

Magazine article Social Studies Review

Exploring Primary Sources: Civil War

Article excerpt

Exploring Primary Sources: Civil War Kathleen Vest, M.A. E.D. Teacher Created Materials Inc. Westminster, Ca. 92683

First of twelve in the "Exploring Primary Sources" series, this set is dedicated with bringing an opportunity for students to "act and think as historians" by exploring photographs, reading letters and speeches, and using maps to dramatize battles during the Civil War Era. To help the educator towards this pursuit, the material in the text has been divided into the following sections:

* Introduction to Primary Sources

* Using Primary Sources

* Lesson Plans

* Activities

The introduction to primary sources at the beginning of the text is full of great ideas of how to introduce these resources to your classroom, giving introductory exercises, and helping a teacher to prepare students for dealing with them (taking into consideration motives and how to critically use these sources). In the following pages, the text breaks down specific strategies and questions to consider when dealing with documents, photographs, cartoons, maps, artifacts, sound recordings, and film recordings, as well as including fun exercises for enabling the students to practice these new strategies and skills. The rest of the text contains exercises, lesson plans (aligned with the standards of the National Council for the Social Studies), a Rubric for assessing documents, and other activities that specifically deal with the collection of materials in the set.

This boxed set comes with a text above, photographs, posters, a map, letters, and a CD-ROM. The photos are absolutely beautiful images on heavy stock photo paper. On the opposite side of the photos, there is a historical background for the image, a section containing questions and activities that are based on Bloom's Taxonomy, and two writing assignments (one fictional, and one non fictional).

The posters, map, and letters are provided in an "antiqued" look so that students can hold and feel them, and imagine they are true relics. Included are the following:

Reviews of Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin(1852), Abraham Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin election banner (1860), The Emancipation Proclamation (1862), Black Soldier Recruitment poster (1863), Gettysburg Address (1863), Letter from a Union soldier to his sister (1864), Chickamauga battlefield map (1864), and Parole of Lee and his officers (1865). Still the best feature, in my opinion, is the CD-ROM which has copies of all of the above images in a form that can be printed out and given to your students. Also, the CD-ROM contains many more images, sound files such as the Battle Hymn of the Republic, as well as all of the activities from the text, plus more, giving you a treasure trove of resources for teaching a unit of the Civil War.

In all, this set contains everything you need to provide your students with a more hands-on approach to the Civil War, taking advantage of the advent of photography and its first role in war, and connecting us all with the human side of the struggle.


The kit contains a number of excellent Civil War photographs that help personalize the study of the great conflict. Students are challenged to do work in several formats with each photo, including Analyzing history, historical writing, and history challenges.

In the General Robert E. Lee photograph seen at the right, students are asked to assume the role of a reporter for a Virginia newspaper. They are asked to write a short article about a pretend interview they had with Lee. …

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