Monday, August 29, 2011

Where did that Healthy Eating Post Go? ...AKA Getting Organized for Better Teaching

Eating disorders and body image issues can be life changing for students during the adolescent years. They are, at the very least, a distraction from learning and can escalate quickly into a major problem for your students. Seeing these types of issues in the school setting, has reminded me how important it is to include life skills in my teaching. We are in the business of teaching our students how to be healthy and successful as much as we are in the business of teaching them the specifics of our particular subject areas. 

As I was reading Joann’s overview of eating disorders and body image, I thought about some previous posts we have written about nutrition and exercise.  These columns are very relevant to teachers trying to tackle issues of self-esteem, body image, and healthy living in the classroom.  If you are looking to encourage healthy eating, try implementing some ideas and resources from our previous posts, You Are What You Eat and Battle of the Bulge.  Good health habits are not formed through healthy eating alone, and with current budget cuts teachers can’t always rely on a P.E. program to encourage exercise. Get Out and Run! and Brain Gym present physical education ideas that are easy for classroom teachers to implement during regular classroom time. 

As I was searching our blog site to find these entries, I realized how hard it can be to find specific things online, even when I know exactly what I am looking for.  Ideas I come across online every day can get lost in the shuffle if I don’t have an easy way to bookmark them to find them later.  How often have you read a great idea in a blog or website that you decide revisit later, when you “have time?”  The real problem is remembering what you wanted to come back to read and where you found it. (Finding the time is hard, too, but I haven’t come across any solutions for that one!)  I am constantly reading blogs from my Google reading list, Facebook posts, and Twitter updates from fellow educators.  I can “Like” them, retweet them, and join in discussions about the ideas, but that doesn’t help me easily organize the ideas so I can find them again when I am ready to use them. 

It’s nice for teachers to be able to organize findings to use later, and we can pass on this very valuable skill to students for their own research and organization. 
There are quite a few methods to keep track of notes and webpages you don’t want to forget.  You can bookmark sites on your computer or use one of many online bookmarking tools.  I haven’t worked with too many of these tools, and I would like to know if there are certain ones any of you suggest and have used successfully.

A friend of mine who is an avid technology user and kindergarten teacher suggested one method for organizing my online findings. (Thanks Mr. K!) I have been really happy with it, since I can access my saved pages on different devices like my phone or iPad.  It’s been keeping me more organized, and hopefully it will help you stay a little more organized this year, too. 

This blog post, A Web-to-Evernote Workflow that Works Everywhere, explains the process well.  Basically, I signed up for two different accounts: Instapaper and Evernote.  I dragged a “Read Later” button onto my computer’s toolbar from Instapaper’s site, and I click it anytime I come across a page I want to read later.  When I find some extra time to look at my archived pages, I click a button in Instapaper to send the ones I like over to Evernote, where I can organize them however I like.  I installed Evernote on my Android phone and my iPad, so I can access my notes and saved pages from anywhere.  I can also access them on the web by signing into my account from any computer.  Cool, huh?

I hope the resources and suggestions Joann and I present each week are immediately useful.  If not, click “Read Later” and save these ideas and resources for later!

~Peggy's Corner - 8/26/2011~

The Body Shop

A new book aimed at six-to-twelve year olds will hit the shelves in October, and it’s already generating a lot of comment in the press and from nutritionists. The book is entitled Maggie Goes on a Diet, and it tells the story of an overweight and insecure girl who diets and exercises her way to becoming a soccer star. While the author is careful to note that Maggie becomes “normal-sized” rather than paper-thin, the book has been roundly criticized by mental health and eating disorder experts for the message it sends. The author, no doubt, means well; with over half of all American adults either obese or overweight, the health problems associated with being overweight have skyrocketed over the past few decades. The target audience of Maggie Goes on a Diet, however, is worrisome. Educating children about good nutrition and the importance of exercise to keep their bodies healthy is one thing, but to stress dieting and exercise as a weight-loss method to gain acceptance and to become a “star” is quite another.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has announced that eating disorders in children have shown a rapid increase in recent years. It’s not difficult to figure out why – kids are bombarded daily with images of sleekly muscled men and ultra-willowy women who slink around selling products. Most of the celebrities that female students currently admire lament their clothing sizes, which usually top out at either 0 or 00. This culture of extreme thinness is indeed an illness, and eating disorders are considered the most prevalent form of mental illness in the world. The British supermodel Kate Moss, a perennial tabloid darling for her chain-smoking and drug use, has said that she keeps her famous figure waif-like by limiting what she eats. She came under fire last year for declaring that “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” – a sentiment that promptly appeared as a slogan on best-selling tee shirts aimed at pre- and adolescent girls. While the tee shirts were eventually banned in the UK, their success points to a very troubling question: What kind of parent would buy their young girls such a shirt, and why is it so vital to them that their daughters conform to an unrealistic super-thin “ideal”?

Studies have estimated that 8 million Americans suffer from eating disorders, including 1 million males. Schools have recognized that many eating disorders start in intermediate and middle school, and have responded with wellness classes and programs that emphasize proper nutrition and exercise to maintain a healthy body. Physical education classes, too, have been instrumental in educating students to the dangers of eating disorders such as bulimia, anorexia, and binge eating, and districts nationwide have been offering healthier lunch options for students. While proper nutrition and exercise information is most often discussed in science, health, and PE classes, discussion on the role of media, society, and peer pressure in relation to body image can be integrated into classes in different subject areas. My picks this week focus on educating students on developing a healthy body image, and Peggy will discuss ways to use these resources and others in the classroom. Throughout the week, we’ll also be featuring several new lessons, tip sheets, and resources on this important topic each day throughout the week on our Facebook and Twitter pages, so be sure to take a look. It’s information that could have a very big impact on a student’s life.

Healthy Body Image: Teaching Kids to Eat and Love Their Bodies Too!
Subjects: English Language Arts, Health, Social studies
Grade: 4-6
A comprehensive resource manual and lesson guide with scripted-lessons and activities for grades four, five, or six. The guide teaches kids to focus on a healthy lifestyle and preventing disordered eating. This guide was written by Kathy Kater of, which promotes healthy body image attitudes for students and adults.

Gender Stereotypes and Body Image
Subjects: Writing, Health, Social studies
Grade: 6-7
The goal of this lesson is to make students aware of the dangers of gender stereotyping and the media's role in perpetuating gender stereotypes. This lesson was prepared by
Media Awareness Network, a Canadian non-profit organization that offers a wealth of digital and media literacy resources.

Eating Disorder Facts & Myths Lesson Plan
Subjects: Health, Social studies
Grade: 9-12
Students will learn basic information about eating disorders including anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Students will learn facts about these disorders and be able to identify common myths associated with the disorders. Students will learn about and discuss the media's influence on adolescent society in the areas of body image and eating disorders. Students will develop leadership skills by having the opportunity to promote awareness in their school community. This lesson was produced by Bright Hub, which provides K-12 educational resources and information for schools.

~Joann's Picks - 8/26/2011~

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Social Networking for Good

First of all, I’d like to say that I love Facebook.  I move around a lot, and it has been a great way to keep up with all of my friends and family who live far away.  For many people, sites like Facebook and Twitter are simply places to network socially.  They provide a simple way to share with the world the answer to “What’s on your mind?”.  There are plenty of ways we can change how we use social media for more than simply finding out what your friends are doing.  In the past few years, educators have begun to embrace the collaborative value of these social networking sites with resource sharing, groups, and weekly Twitter “chats” (like #edchat) for all different educational topics.  Instead of using these sites purely for fun and entertainment, teachers are including some very valuable professional development time while they network.  Using social media in the classroom can introduce the importance of this type of collaboration and sharing to students.

Twitter and Facebook are just 2 examples of the social media tools available to teachers (depending on the privacy settings on your school network).  Many teachers use blogging, class wikis, and video conferencing tools like Skype for collaboration.  Some other sites suggested by educators in a recent #edchat conversation are Thinkquest, Ning, and edmodo.  This list could go on and on, but instead of listing specific tools to use, I want to discuss the benefits of using social media at school in the first place.  Please continue the conversation on our Facebook and Twitter pages to share suggestions and ideas.

One Kaiser study found that most school-age children spend more than 6 hours a day interacting with electronic media.  Much of this time is spent passively consuming, not creating content.  A goal for including social media in the classroom is to improve this time already spent in a digital environment.  Instead of simply taking in information and viewpoints, we want to teach students to analyze what they see and contribute to the conversation by creating well-crafted responses of their own.  Understanding this goal might alleviate some parent and teacher’s valid concerns about using social media in the school setting.

In 21st century education, students shouldn’t be learning about the world, they should be learning as they interact with the world.  The Internet and social media tools have given students unprecedented access to the thoughts and ideas of people across the globe.  Memorizing and repeating facts will no longer be the hallmark of a successful learner.  Digesting these facts and synthesizing them with other knowledge to create something new is the ultimate goal.  Every student should have easy access to the facts, and 21st century teachers will guide their students to filter and analyze these facts so and contribute to the world by sharing new knowledge they have created.  What will this look like in the classroom?  It can be a real-life project where your students collaborate with students from around the planet to solve a problem.  This is an excellent example of authentic learning.

Social media can allow our students to reach out to other learners in new and exciting ways.  Instead of reading about Africa in a textbook, writing a report, and possibly presenting the information to the class, your students have a chance to do something bigger.  Maybe you can help them actually communicate with a student in Africa through Skype, Facebook, or Twitter.  Instead of a report, they could create a video about the country to post to YouTube, reaching a much wider audience than a classroom presentation.  They could even create a wiki to collaborate and share ideas with kids in Africa, a kind of 21st century pen pal program!  There are many other web 2.0 tools that good ways for students to share information.  Check out our  previous posts for some examples.

Service learning is an important aspect of education.  Students need to understand that they are capable of changing their communities and the world.  In my days as a student, service learning included projects like volunteering at a local nursing home, collecting food for the food bank, or being involved in a community clean-up event.  While these types of service projects are still a vital part of education and an important part of being a contributing member of society, students can build on this type of service and use social media to make their voices heard. From kindergarten on, students can create multimedia projects to educate others and make a difference in the world around them.

This is just an overview of the topic, and I am really excited to write more posts with examples of how social media can benefit our students and our communities.  I hope that more of us can take the time and energy to include a component of social media in our classrooms.  If you have ideas, questions, or examples of social media in education, please don’t hesitate to post them on our Gateway Facebook and Twitter pages.  We love to hear what you want us to write about!

~Peggy's Corner - 8/18/2011~

The Social Network

I have a love/hate relationship with social media. It can be a great way to keep current with certain events and individuals, but it can also become yet another demand on one’s time. There has been a flurry of news articles lately on how many social media users feel obligated to stay online; indeed, many feel compelled to constantly tweet or update their Facebook statuses, even while on vacation or during the night. Adolescents and teens are the heaviest users of social media – a 2009 Pew report found that 73% of kids aged 12-17 used social media regularly. It’s no wonder, then, that some teachers have decided to shake up traditional lesson plans a bit by incorporating social media in their classrooms.

Many parents, educators, and administrators have reservations about using social media in school. In many schools, access to sites like Facebook, Skype, and YouTube are blocked. Granting students access to social media sites in the classroom may seem like playing with fire – we all know how good intentions can be easily abused by some kids, which can quickly sour the experience for everyone. In granting classroom access to social media sites, students need to clearly understand the class rules surrounding its use in class, and the ramifications if the privilege is abused. Monitoring by the teacher, especially in the beginning of such activities, is likely necessary. But the use of social media in lessons can be an effective way for students to collaborate, quickly share information, prompt discussions, create content, and lend insights into class work that might not otherwise occur.

The use of social media can level the playing field for many students. Students who are shy and reluctant to speak in class are often more likely to participate in discussions and offer critiques online. When used creatively, it can be a powerful learning tool for many classrooms. Foreign language students, for example, can use tools such as Skype to connect with native speakers and practice their conversational skills and proper pronunciation. Teachers of ELL students can use the Add Video feature on Facebook to record words or phrases that his/her students mispronounced during that day’s class. In addition to using Twitter and Facebook to communicate with parents, some enterprising teachers also use such social media to recap lessons for their students – a technique that appears to be very successful with younger students in particular.  One teacher had his students tweet chapter summaries of Gary Paulsen’s novel Hatchet -- an effective exercise in concise writing and summarization in 140 characters or less.

The inclusion of social media in the classroom can be a vastly rewarding experience, but it’s clearly not suited to every teacher. Nor should it be. Everyone has their own pedagogical strengths and weaknesses, and the academic world will hardly come to a standstill if you decide that social media isn’t appropriate for you and your classes. In the right hands, however, social media can be an engaging, inspirational, and motivating tool for students. This week I’ve featured three resources that all make use of social media in creative ways. Please be sure to also check Peggy’s companion column, which features many more ideas on how to incorporate social media into the curriculum. As always, we’ll be featuring several new lessons and resources on this topic each day throughout the week on our Facebook and Twitter pages, so be sure to take a look.

SKYPE PALS Project Share NC
Grade: 4-12
This lesson uses Skype and digital storytelling technology to communicate and exchange cultural and language information with students in another country. While this lesson was written for students in North Carolina, it can easily be adapted to students in other regions. This lesson is a product of Digital Wish, a non-profit organization whose mission is to modernize K-12 classrooms and prepare students for tomorrow's workforce. Teachers create wish lists of technology products for their classroom, and donors then connect with their favorite schools and grant classroom wishes through online cash or product donations.

Less is More: Using Social Media to Inspire Concise Writing
Subjects: English, Technology
Grade: 6-12
How can online media like Twitter posts, Facebook status updates and text messages be harnessed to inspire and guide concise writing? In this lesson, students read, respond to and write brief fiction and nonfiction stories, and reflect on the benefits and drawbacks of “writing short.” This lesson was produced by The New York Times Learning Network, which offers free lesson plans and other educational materials. Also offered at the site are videos, podcasts, photographs and graphics, daily interactive news quizzes, and other resources for use in the classroom or for homeschoolers. Lessons are aligned to national content standards.

Social Media: An Introduction
Subjects: English, Sociology
Grade: 8-12
In this lesson, students discuss various social media sites, and their potential impact on future job searches and employment. The lesson includes topics such as students’ digital reputations, online privacy, and the importance of using social media privacy controls. This lesson was published on Scribd, a social publishing site where people can share original writings and documents.

~Joann's Picks - 8/18/2011~


In the past couple of weeks, the word “hero” has been a huge part of the news media as 30 American soldiers were tragically killed in a recent Chinook crash in Afghanistan. The crash caused the highest number of American casualties in one day since the beginning of the conflict. As the names of the fallen were being released, friends and family remembered the soldiers as heroes. One 10-year-old boy posted a picture of his dad, a pilot of the downed helicopter, on CNN’s iReport and described him as a hero. This touching personal account of loss touched many people and caused an outpouring of comments on the site.

After reading Joann’s post on heroic journeys, I realized that these soldiers are truly heroes in every sense of the word. They embarked on the archetypal heroic journey, as described by Joseph Campbell. They left their normal lives to go and complete challenging tasks in an unfamiliar world. These 30 heroes were unable to finish the journey and return home to their normal lives, a loss that is mourned throughout the country. Heroism is not a new concept, and it is not limited to wartime. With the focus on heroism in the news right now, teachers can use these current events as in introduction to studying the plight of heroes in current and classic literature.

Whether your students find heroes in soldiers, sports icons, fictional film or literary characters, or even family members or friends, their relationship with these personal heroes can help them understand how a hero’s character is built. Stories of heroes and the classic heroic journey transcend cultural lines, and can be found in literature throughout the ages. There are some great resources available on The Gateway to 21st Century Skills to help your students integrate their study of heroes into many different subject areas. The resources use all different types of media to bring heroism alive for your students.

If current events won’t hook your students into the study of heroes, the heroism in some of their favorite movies might. The Star Wars movies are good examples of a hero’s journey, and many of your students have probably seen the films.  This lesson from the PBS American Masters uses Star Wars to explore the characteristics of a hero and study the concepts of good versus evil.  I like how this resource includes a project and allows students to be creative through artwork.

I also liked one high school unit from Read, Write, Think because the complete unit that explores many different aspects of a hero’s character and suggests some good websites to enhance students’ investigations.  The unit titled “Heroes are Made of This: Studying the Characters of Heroes” uses individual and group activities to appeal to different types of learners. You can use the entire unit or pick and choose from the activities to meet your needs.  One useful supplemental website they suggested is called My Hero Project.  This is a place where students can discover modern day heroism as people creatively present their heroes to the world using the Internet.

Joann has selected some other very valuable resources that will be posted daily on our Facebook and Twitter pages.  Please watch for these posts so you can find resources that will help you include the study of the hero’s journey into your classroom. 

~Peggy's Corner - 8/12/2011

Holding Out for a Hero

The past six months has seen a renaissance of superheroes, particularly in feature films such as The Green Lantern, Captain America, and Thor.  The final installment of the Harry Potter movies, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, however, does not feature a superhero, but instead a hero in the classic sense – one who completes his quest and hence concludes his archetypal heroic journey. In completing his quest, Harry joins the pantheon of archetypal heroes such as Gilgamesh, Odysseus, Huckleberry Finn, Luke Skywalker, and many others.

Archetypes are recurring types of characters, events, or symbols found in stories, artwork, religions, and mythologies throughout the world’s cultures. They’ve been present in folklore and stories for thousands of years, and have garnered attention largely due to the work of psychiatrist Carl Jung and professor Joseph Campbell. In his seminal books The Hero With a Thousand Faces and The Power of Myth, Campbell compared myths from around the world and highlighted many common themes among them. He was particularly interested in heroes, and the archetypal heroic journey portrayed in world literature, art, and religion. Campbell found that many myths and stories present heroes’ journeys in similar stages. The hero begins in the everyday world and receives a “call to adventure” that enables him (or her) to leave his familiar life (“crossing the threshold”) and enter an unfamiliar world where he must engage in a series of tasks or tests. Sometimes the hero must face these trials alone, and sometimes he receives assistance from companions or other loyal helpers. The tasks ultimately conclude in a final battle, after which (if successful) the hero again crosses the threshold to re-enter ordinary life. In all, Campbell identified 17 distinct stages of the archetypal hero’s journey, which he dubbed the “monomyth.”  

The study of archetypes and the heroic journey is a fascinating addition to the classroom, as it pulls elements from art, literature, religion, world cultures, and mythology. Younger students can be introduced to common archetypes through fairy tales, such as the wise old woman or man characters, the “trickster” (usually a fox), the child(ren), and the villain. Young students don’t have to be told about archetypes per se, but may be encouraged to think about the types of characters and situations that frequently occur in fairy tales and other stories. Older students are able to delve much more deeply into the texts, relating them to similar journeys in other texts as well as in films. The Star Wars films are famously based on Campbell’s monomyth, and many other films such as The Lion King, The Matrix, The Lord of the Rings, Avatar and others also feature the heroic journey. Higher level students can also examine how archetypes and the hero’s archetypal journey can be viewed as man’s search for self-knowledge.

This week’s picks feature three resources from the Gateway’s collection on the archetypal hero and the heroic journey for a range of ages. We’ll also feature many more lesson plans, activities, and information throughout the week on our Facebook and Twitter pages, so please be sure to check those pages for lots of good classroom ideas and materials.

Identifying Supporting Evidence from a Text - What is a Hero?
Subjects: Language Arts
Grade: 1-4
Students watch a 3-minute video about Ping, a young hero who proves himself worthy to be the emperor of China. Students identify what makes Ping's behavior special using evidence from the story. This lesson is designed for grades 1-4. It includes video and support materials. This resource was produced by PBS LearningMedia, an online site offering educational materials and public media content for PreK-16 teachers.

A Story of Epic Proportions: What Makes a Poem an Epic?
Grade: 6-8
Students learn about the epic poem form and to its roots in oral tradition. They study the epic hero cycle and will learn how to recognize this pattern of events and elements in both ancient and modern texts, including Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter. This lesson is a product of EDSITEment, an educational outreach program of the National Endowment for the Humanities. EDSITEment offers lesson plans and activities for social studies, literature and language arts, foreign languages, art, culture, and history classrooms.

I Need a Hero
Grade: 9-12 Gifted
The heroic archetype features prominently in literary analysis at the high school level. A clear understanding of, and the ability to manipulate and apply, this idea is critical to any approach to world literature for the high school student. This series of lessons was designed to fulfill the needs of gifted children for extension beyond the standard curriculum with the greatest ease of use for the educator. The lessons may be given to the students for individual self-guided work, or they may be taught in a classroom or homeschool setting. This lesson was produced by Mensa for Kids, part of the Mensa Education and Research Foundation. The Foundation is committed to the pursuit of excellence in the areas of intelligence, and focuses on scholarship, education, and awards.

~Joann's Picks - 8/12/2011~

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Civil War Connections

We study history to learn from other people’s mistakes and successes. More importantly than learning the facts about particular historical events, we want students to form connections with the history they are studying so they can apply the lessons to their own lives. In order to do this, we can help students compare and contrast historical characters and events to current events and people. The featured resources on The Gateway to 21st Century Skills this week employ creative techniques for the study of the American Civil War. Using these resources with some of the following ideas will help you frame the war in a contemporary way and connect the learning to things currently affecting students’ lives.

To help your students put the Civil War into perspective, it might be helpful to compare the statistics with events that have happened during your students’ lives. Without this type of comparison, the numbers and facts can seem very abstract and it can be hard for students to identify with the war. It’s hard to believe that 7,000 men died in the first twenty minutes of one battle in the war. Is there anything in our more recent history that we can use to help us wrap our mind around that number? To put it into a more current perspective, nearly 3,000 people died in the attacks on September 11, 2001. The devastation of that loss in our nation is still fresh in students’ minds, and it illustrates the impact that the loss of over twice that many people would have on a small but growing nation. By the end, the total deaths during the civil war reduced the American population by 2%. Based on today’s national population of over 300 million people, a civil war today with the same percentage of fatalities would claim 6 million lives. Wow. This number is astronomical compared to the thousands of Americans killed in action in current conflicts.

Comparing statistics with current numbers can help students get a big-picture idea of how the civil war compares to current conflicts. Creating a personal connection to the events can come about when students get to know the characters involved. One fun way to do this is to have your students create a fake Facebook profile detailing the person’s life. Free Technology for Teachers, a blog I read regularly, explains three different ways to do this. Students can present their Facebook pages to the class, and they can be creative with the status updates and information they use to present their character. You can also let your students choose other ways to present information about historical events and characters. Some ideas to suggest to your students are a mock job interview or news interview, a political speech, or writing and illustrating a historical fiction story about the event.

As students begin to know and understand more about the people involved in the Civil War, they might be able to gain some empathy toward them. Today we see how tragic it is when our service members are injured and killed in conflict. This tragedy was magnified in earlier wars where the death toll was magnitudes greater. An empathy for the people and a connection to their plight will help students learn from the mistakes and successes of major historical events like the American Civil War.

~Peggy's Corner - August 4, 2011~

A House Divided

The American Civil War remains one of the saddest chapters in U.S. history. It lasted for four years, divided a nation and some families, and forever shaped the American psyche. For many people, it was a war of horrible necessity – a last resort when political and cultural ideologies clashed, and all hopes for a peaceful resolution faded. While the vast majority of battles were fought in southern and mid-Atlantic states, it was also a war that saw conflicts around the country in places like Vermont, New Mexico, and Florida. Virtually no family in the nation was left unscathed, as sons, fathers, husbands, and neighbors either enlisted or were drafted to fight their countrymen. The death toll from the war was immense, and it remains the deadliest war in U.S. history. Over 620,000 soldiers were killed in the war (about 2% of the total U.S. population at that time), as were countless civilians. At the Battle of Cold Harbor in Virginia, for example, 7,000 men alone died within the first 20 minutes of battle.

The American Civil War meant different things to different people. The moral and ethical questions regarding slavery was obviously a hotly-contested issue in both political and civilian circles, and certainly played a vital role in the war. While classrooms tend to focus on the desire to end slavery as the primary cause of the American Civil War, historians draw a much more complex picture, and cite numerous reasons for the conflict. Economics played a role, as the American South remained agrarian and the North became increasingly industrialized, factors which inflamed already divisive cultural tensions. Many southern states viewed the “Northern Aggression” as a quest to undermine a deeply-entrenched way of life and tradition, and an attempt to wrest economic control from profitable plantations. Northerners in turn felt strongly that the economic benefits of a free labor market would best suit the nation. Others felt that the federal government had overstepped its bounds, and that states should be allowed to exercise greater rights for their constituents. Opponents to this view countered that the federal government needed greater control in order to move the country as a whole forward in the world economy and set a standard for human dignity and justice. Still others fought to preserve a nation and reclaim states that had seceded, in the hopes that the country could mend itself and become a world leader.

Teaching about the Civil War has benefits that extend beyond U.S. history classes. It was the first truly “modern” war, where both sides relied on mass-produced weapons, hot-air balloons for surveillance, submarines, railroads, and other technologies. A great deal of literature, poetry, music, and poignant letters came out of the war, as well as new therapies and treatments in medicine. Examination of the economics of war, battle strategies, and the fundamental quest for human dignity and civil rights are all rich topics for students to explore. This week I’ve highlighted three resources on the American Civil War from the Gateway’s collection, and will feature many more lesson plans, activities, and information throughout the week on our Facebook and Twitter pages. Please be sure to check those pages and let us know what you think.

Map the Civil War Lesson Plan

Subjects: U.S. History, Math, Geography

Grade: 4-7

Mapmakers were very important to Civil War generals. The generals used maps to figure out how to move their armies from one place to another, and how to trap the enemy forces against rivers or high bluffs. If the maps were wrong, the army could be late getting to a battle…or worse. In this activity, students will be mapmakers. Their job is to survey the land for their general so they can pick sheltered places for their army to camp and open areas where they can march and fight. This activity was created by The Civil War Trust, which is America's largest non-profit organization devoted to the preservation of endangered Civil War battlefields. The Trust also promotes educational programs and heritage tourism initiatives to inform the public of the war's history and the fundamental conflicts that sparked it.

The Battle of Honey Springs: The Civil War Comes to Indian Territory

Subjects: U.S. History
Grade: 5-12

Learn how the Civil War created fierce conflicts among American Indian nations who had been moved across the Mississippi River. This lesson could be used in teaching units on the Civil War, particularly the war in the West, on Native American history, or on cultural diversity. This lesson was produced by the National Park Service (NPS), a division of the U.S. Department of the Interior. The NPS oversees America’s national parks, as well as provides educational resources on American history and places to the public.

On the Eve of War: North vs. South

Subjects: Economics, U.S. History

Grade: 9-12

This lesson will examine the economic, military, and diplomatic strengths and weaknesses of the North and South on the eve of the Civil War. In making these comparisons students will use maps and read original documents to decide which side, if any, had an overall advantage at the start of the war. This lesson is a product of EDSITEment, an educational outreach program of the National Endowment for the Humanities. EDSITEment offers lesson plans and activities for social studies, literature and language arts, foreign languages, art, culture, and history classrooms.

~Joann's Picks - August 4, 2011~