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The Civil War by Ken Burns

Social Studies 

WSU10

Full Member
I'm a 5th grade teacher currently planning my next social studies unit about the Civil War. I have a couple ideas of things to do to teach the kids about the war. However, I would like to incorporate this video series somehow into my unit.

Does anyone have any suggestions? I looked online for stuff, but only found something on PBS for 7-12. I am planning on printing off the lessons to see if there is anything I could possibly use in my class.

Also, if you have any ideas how to go about teaching this area, that would be great. If you know of any worksheets or anything that would be great to use, please let me know. Thanks!
 
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usechalk

Senior Member
I would highly recommned the series. It is very long, but superbly done. You will probably want to fast forward to simply skip over the more grisly photos. The Civil War is tough to study, because it is so sobering. Perhaps you could focus on ideas. Of course this could get muddy with racism. I do not mean to gloss over this, but at that age it may be difficult to talk about certain things. Maybe stick to battles and timelines. Good luck with this unit.
 

Pemberton

Junior Member
America: The History of Us

That is a great 7-8 episodes-3 DVD collection that was supposed to be provided for free to all public schools. It has a great part about the lead up to the war, the war, and the reconstruction period.

It was on TV last spring.

I highly recommend it. Look it up online if you want to see more about the episodes. The kids have been loving it and asking to watch it daily. I try to show the parts that go with my 4th grade curriculum as we learn them.
 

WSU10

Full Member
I own the series, and have watched it many times over. I would to see what people have used in their rooms that got the point across. I may watch it to see about the lead up to the war. That might be a good idea for next week to start the unit off. Then follow it up with a debate or something. The Civil War is by far one of my favorite historical events and one that I enjoy reading and learning about. Hopefully I can find a way to use the series.
 

Firebelly

Senior Member
We just started our study

I love studying the Civil War. There's always something new to learn. I have my students write four reports: Abraham Lincoln, a specific person, a specific battle or term, and a copy of the Gettysburg Address. We watch videos such as you have mentioned and I lecture while they practice taking notes. Along the way they make maps, a time line, and a poem. At the end, they make a book of their work and we put on a Wax Museum where everyone dresses as the person they reported on. Then we stop periodically and recite the Gettysburg Address.

A read aloud I HIGHLY recommend is The Bravest Girl in Sharpsburg by Kathleen Ernst. My fifth graders were hooked right away. The author grew up in Maryland and has done extensive research on the events and people who lived in Sharpsburg at the time. Kathleen Ernst has written others as well that I recently purchased: Retreat from Gettysburg, The Night Riders of Harpers Ferry, Ghosts of Vicksburg, and Hearts of Stone. She does a particularly excellent job of presenting opposing views in sympathetic ways. Never before did I consider so fully what the war meant to civilians.
 
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Linda/OH

Senior Member
Ken Burns series

I had used parts of the Civil War series when I student taught 5th many years ago and found it a powerful hook for engaging students interests . As others have said just pick and choose snippets to show and then follow up with lots of discussion and follow up activities.
It is such an important part of our history and Ken Burns is the master documentatrian to show us!
 

WSU10

Full Member
I'm finding some discussion questions to use, and I'll likely make some sort of worksheet thing so I can hold students accountable for watching. Maybe the following day I can hold some sort of discussion about the war. Anyone have suggestions for holding a discussion after viewing the first episode or most of of the first episode.

Also, has anyone done anything related to inventions during the Civil War? I just though of some ideas that could be cool for students to look up.

Keep the ideas coming, they are great and very helpful for planning this unit.

Anyone hands on/active activities that you've done either as a starting activity or something?
 

kellinpink

Junior Member
Love Ken Burns

I LOVE the Ken Burns documentary. I have used it with my fifth graders as well. You will have to preview and pre-select snippets to show in class. My class could handle the gruesome photos, but there is quite a bit of cursing in it. War is so often referred to as H-E-double hockey sticks, etc... Just be careful and chose wisely!
 

Linda/OH

Senior Member
data retrieval chart

My students kept track of information and vocabulary on a chart that compared the north & south. I believe it had spaces for things like : nicknames, important leaders, uniforms, places, states, battles, etc.

Depending on your standards and what students need to know, a chart could be created. They complete the info as they learn it.
 

jjshort2

New Member
Hands on History

There is a series of books called Hands On History. There is one on the American Revolution, one on Westward Expansion/Pioneers, one on Immigration, and one on the Civil War. The author is Michael Gravois, and I got them through Scholastic. These are teacher resource books FILLED with ideas that are very engaging for students. All the templates are included, along with suggestions for picture books etc. I highly recommend these books! My students are always excited to do the projects, and I find that they remember the information better when they are engaged. I am using the Civil War book right now, and my students are doing a great job on a project called The Road to the Civil War.
 

WSU10

Full Member
Wrote a letter to parents, had it approved by my principal, and passed it out to the kids. I told them that some of the material would be censored because it was to graphic, but that they would still be seeing the aftermath of war with bodies on the ground and such. I went over some quick facts about the Civil War and how big of a war it was. The kids seemed interested that it would be actual pictures and not re-enactors through the whole movie. I'm excited to see how the unit goes now.
 

cassie99

Senior Member
Just my two cents about "The Story of Us" as previously recommended. This is an excellent series and I was sent a free DVD set for educators last summer. I was really excited about watching them with my 5th graders. I would be really cautious about the violence, though. Much of the segment on the Civil War discusses the guns, bullets, death and gore that was what the war was about, but not appropriate in such detail to 5th graders.
 
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