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Saturday, August 12, 2006

Civil War Refresher

Before my 10-year old daughter heads back to school next month we wanted to cover a few topics to refresh her memory and get her thinking. One of those topics was the Civil War and so I wanted to briefly discuss what we did since it worked very well and so that others could perhaps take advantage of what we learned.

Our goal was to set her in mind the timeline of the war and the major events and so over the course of five 75 (or so) minute sessions we were able to do just that. Each session covered one year (1861-1865) and the time was split into two parts. First, we worked for roughly 30 minutes on a timeline. Using a roll of cheap paper we marked out a timeline roughly three feet in length and divided it into five years. For those first 30 minutes we would highlight four or five of the most important events of the year and let her draw pictures to represent them. For example, for March of 1862 she drew a small picture of the battle of the CSA's Virginia and USA's Monitor. For each battle discussed she drew an appropriate icon representing a Union or Confederate victory. Then we would discuss how the war had gone up to that point for both sides by way of review.

For the second half of the lesson we used Ken Burn's Civil War documentary (which you can get from the library) and selected specific scenes that highlighted those events we had placed on the timeline. This did two things: first, it cemented the concepts by using an alternate form of presentation and second, it helped it come alive through the pictures and sounds. Now there were several time during each lesson where I had to stop the DVD and explain something but the nice thing is that the scenes in the documentary are short enough to keep a 10 year old's attention. Our 7-year old however, when she noticed we were loading up the documentary would exclaim in disgust, "awwh, not the war again!"

At the end of five nights the war was over as we ended with Lincoln's assassination. I've always been interested in the Civil War and it helped to relate my experiences visiting various battlefields such as Shiloh, Fredricksburg, and Gettysburg which helped it come alive for my daughter as well. Since it worked so well we're considering using the technique for other material as well.


Peder said...

Sounds like a very good approach.

Anonymous said...


I am with the 7 year old on this one I'm afraid!!