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EIU Teaching with Primary Sources

Classroom Activities - Middle School

Classroom Activities: 

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Advertising in America: A Look at Advertising During the Civil War

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Students will analyze advertisements from the pre-Civil War and Civil War era in order to determine the purpose and audience targeted.  Using prior knowledge of advertisements today, the students will compare and contrast the advertisements from 19th century to today. The students will apply their knowledge of the Civil War to determine the function of the advertisements. The final assignment will be the students presenting their own advertisement to the class as well as a final written extension on what they learned from the experience.

Comparing Author's Text of 19th Century Legislation and Rewriting

the Bill in their own Words.

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After a discussion on the legislative process for drafting and approving legislation, students will receive a copy of two bills focusing on education. The students will analyze the two bills, one from 1870 the other from 2011, guided by a Written Document form. From there, students will do a comparison of the language and style of the bill and provide a written analysis that compares and contrast the style of writing of the two authors. students will then be asked to incorporate key ideas from the two documents and rewrite the two bills in their own words.

Creating your own Concept of Setting: Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

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In this lesson, students develop a sense of place by creating their own visual setting for the time period of the novel, Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt. Students analyze photos of homesteads of the 1800s to help visualize the time period of the novel. This will help them identify with characters in the story and bring a greater understanding of the time period.

Marching Through War 

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Using sheet music, sound recordings, and the book Diary of a Drummer Boy, students will gain an understanding of the role musicians played during the Civil War Era. 

"Sleepy Hollow" Icabod Crane Comparing and Contrasting Different Mediums

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Students will read an adapted version of Washington Irving's Sleepy Hollow. Before the students read the story, they will analyze a  cartoon sketch of the character Ichabod Crane. Using an analysis tool, the students will analyze the sketch noting anything unique. The lesson will continue with discussion of the classroom, as well as a quick lesson on classrooms in the 18th century. By the end of the lesson, students will have a better understanding of how fiction isinfluenced by real events and people, as well as being able to compare similar content in different mediums.

Connecting the Dots: Understanding the Constellations 

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Students will be shown constellations and asked what they see. Next they will view pictures of the constellations from the 1800s. The students will also listen to a myth about the constellation. Finally they will create a constellation of their own.

Do You See What I See

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In this activity, students will closely examine war posters from the World War II era, make inferences about the colors used, layout and the different situations depicted therein; and offer informed speculations concerning each poster.

American Forces in Europe during World War I

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This activity involves students examining a historical map of American forces throughout World War I. They will use map skills to determine uses for the map and relate them to class discussions.

Exposing Benedict Arnold's Betrayal

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Students will look a personal letters written by Benedict Arnold, George Washington and others to come to their own conclusions as to why a person would betray his countrymen. They will study a brief biography of Benedict Arnold's life and also use a timeline of the Revolutionary War from the Library of Congress.

Ration Stamps of World War II

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Students read Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. While reading, the students have discussions about WWII and its effects on the home front. one of these discussions included rationing to support the war effort. This lesson will give students the background behind ration stamps and a firsthand experience in a simulation of rationing at school. 

Racial Segregation Storyboard Activity

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The Watson's go to Birmingham-1963, tells the story of a family traveling from Flint, MI to Birmingham, AL all by bus in the heat of the Civil Rights Movement. Students will make comparisons to the story and to real life images and create a storyboard using the Prints and Photographs from the Library of Congress. 

Prose and Heroes-Remembering our Soldiers

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Students will view and evaluate primary sources of poetry examples and correlate the relationship of the poet, events in history pertaining to war, and then write their own poems honoring our veterans in our community. 

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

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Students will use a photograph from the Library of Congress website to generate questions and observations about the picture. 

Hail to the Chief: Presidential Inaugurations Then and Now

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Students will use three primary sources from Lincoln's first inauguration to understand the impact Lincoln's election had on a nation on the brink of war. Students will analyze Lincoln's position on the state of the country, describe the inauguration from a photo and interpret a personal account from the day of the inauguration.

Segregation in Schools-Analyzing Social Progress with Pictures from LOC 

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Use primary source pictures to persuade. 

The Art of Understand an American Icon-Ben Franklin

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The British colonist were beginning to create an "American Identity". Our nation's character was shaped by colonial education, movements in science and reasoning, the publishing industry and ideas of self-government. Ben Franklin was a contemporary of the Age of Enlightenment. he influenced many American values we still cherish today such as being an entrepreneur, instilling hard work, being thrifty, having self-reliance, ensuring the right to free-expression and practicing philanthropy.

Narrative Writing: A Day in the Life

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This writing will be incorporated into the narrative writing unit. As the students look at the four primary source photos, they will choose one and write a narrative as though they were living during that time. It can be written in a variety of modes: diary, journal, letter, etc.

The Emancipation Proclamation: What Does it Mean?

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Students will use primary sources in the form of prints and documents to analyze and discuss the meaning of the Emancipation Proclamation. Through small group and class discussions, students interpret the meaning of the Emancipation Proclamation.

The Road to the Revolution: Rebellion in Boston

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The colonists of Boston were outraged by British troops being stationed in their city to enforce the taxes and acts imposed upon them by the British Parliament and King. As tensions flared between the towns people, British troops, and tax collections,  violence erupted and American colonists were pushed closer to revolution.

 "He's Home". Reading Strategy: Questioning

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To teach the reading strategy, Questioning, this lesson is based on 'Jobs for Veterans National Committee' Billboard dating back to the conclusion of the Vietnam War. Students will become more knowledgeable of Veterans and apply the Reading Strategy, Questioning.

Scientists of the 1920s

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To understand the opinions and views of scientists in the 1920s, students will investigate a scientist from that era and create a Power Point summarizing their findings.

Erosion and Prediction of a Photograph

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Students will view environmental photographs and be able to describe the erosion taking place and predict what will happen next.

Ellis Island: Learning about Process Stations by Analyzing Photographs

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Students will analyze primary source photographs from Ellis Island. Students will interpret different processing stations people went through during the immigration process to the United States and have a better understanding of the deportation process.

Learning about Child Labor in Coal mines through Photo Analysis

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Child labor became a big part of American culture due to the increase of numbers during the great migration. Students will analyze photographs and answer questions regarding child labor during the Progressive Era. The photos depict boys around the ages of nine to twelve working in the coal mines making less than a dollar per day.


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