Civil War Activities - SAF-14

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Civil War Activities

The Civil War

       Civil War Time Line - Students develop time lines of various events that took place during the Civil War.

       Civil War Photos Tell a Story - Students select a photograph from the Civil War era and write a story that tells about it.

Deciphering Morse Code - Students write and decode messages using Morse code, as Civil War soldiers might have done.

Civil War Slang - Students explore some of the words and phrases used during the Civil War-- and their meanings.

 (click on an activity for a decription of that activty)

  Civil War Time Line

Subject: Social Sciences, Ed. & Technology
Grades:6-8, 9-12

Brief Description
Students use suggested online or library sources to create time lines of various events that took place during the Civil War.
Students sequence events in chronological order. Students demonstrate research skills using the Internet and library sources.
Civil War, Abraham Lincoln, time line, Confederate, Union, battles, slavery, slave
Materials Needed
computers with Internet access or student-researched library materials about the Civil War, teacher-made work sheet or paper, pens or pencils, PowerPoint program (optional)
Lesson Plan
Divide the class into small groups. Have students create time lines about aspects of the Civil War using student-researched library sources or these suggested sites.
·  The History Place Presents a Nation Divided: The U.S. Civil War 1861-1865
·  Time Line of the Civil War, 1861
·  The American Civil War Homepage
·  CWSAC Battle Summaries
·  This Week in the Civil War
Variation: If you have access to PowerPoint, have students create their time lines as PowerPoint presentations.
Have students present their completed time lines to the class.

Lesson Plan Source:
Education World

  Civil War Photos Tell a Story

Subjects: Social Sciences, Arts & Humanities
Grades: 3-5, 6-8, 9-12

Brief Description
Students select a photograph from the Civil War era and write a story that tells about the photograph.
Students think critically about the composition of a photograph taken by Matthew Brady, the famous Civil War photographer. They use a graphic organizer to analyze the photo and create a news story based on their observations.
Civil War, photograph, newspaper, critical thinking, observation
Materials Needed
Computers with Internet access, outline and work sheet materials included at The Matthew Brady Bunch
Lesson Plan
This lesson, available online from the Library of Congress at The Matthew Brady Bunch Web site, explores the life and work of Matthew Brady and his crew of photographers. Together, they captured more than 1,000 images of the Civil War. Students select a photo from the collection and use the graphic organizer work sheet that accompanies this lesson to make objective and subjective observations about the photo. (If the entire class does not have Internet access, the teacher might print out a variety of photos before the lesson and allow students to select one to write about.) They combine their observations with their knowledge of the Civil War and other deductions they can make about the photo to create a news story based on the photograph. The lesson includes tips for writing a good news story.
Assessment is included with the lesson.

Lesson Plan Source: Library of Congress
Submitted By: Adapted from an idea from
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Company (1995), National Standards

Deciphering Morse Code

Subjects: Arts & Humanities, Science
Grade: 3-5, 6-8, 9-12

Brief Description
Students write and decode messages using Morse code, as Civil War soldiers might have done.
Students use a guide to translate written messages into Morse code and to translate coded messages into written form.
Morse code, Civil War, telegraph, message, electricity, communication
Materials Needed
the Morse Code Alphabet online or printed, paper, pens or pencils
Lesson Plan
First, explain to students that the telegraph was an invention that enabled news about the Civil War to travel faster than at any other time in prior history. A telegrapher tapped out messages in Morse code, and others on the receiving end of the messages could translate the coded dots (short electrical impulses) and dashes (long electrical impulses) into letters and words. Invite students to work in pairs to create messages in Morse code. Then the students can exchange messages and solve them. (Decide ahead of time on a maximum letter count for each message; that count will depend on the grade you teach.)
As a fun addition to this lesson, you might introduce students to one of the Morse code translators that are available on the Web. Students can input a message and click a button to translate that message into code, or students can input the code and have the message translated into words with translators such as this Morse Code Translator.
Create a bulletin board. In one column, offer ten handwritten messages. In the other column, write the same messages in Morse code. Challenge students (working on their own, in pairs, or in small groups) to connect a piece of yarn attached to each handwritten message in the first column to the matching code in the second column.

Lesson Plan Source:
Education World

Civil War Slang

   Subjects: Arts & Humanities, Social Sciences, Ed. & Technology
   Grades: 6-8, 9-12

   Brief Description
   Students explore some of the words and phrases used during the Civil War and their meanings.
   Students identify words and their meanings, compare and contrast historical contexts and changes in word meanings,
   demonstrate research skills using the Internet, work together in cooperative groups.
   Civil War, slang, definition, word, phrase, vocabulary
   Materials Needed
   Computers with Internet access (or printouts of the material from the Web sites referenced below), paper, pens or
   Lesson Plan
   Begin by posing the following to students: "Imagine that you are sent back in time to the Civil War. You meet a
   soldier after a battle and ask him about the war. Do you think you would have any trouble understanding his
   answer? Do you think people of that period used all the same words and phrases we do today? Let's find out."
   ·  Divide the class into small groups to study the following online sources. (If Internet access is not available for
      each group, make printouts of the lists from these sources and distribute to the groups.)
       --- Soldier Talk & Civil War Slang
       --- Gettysburg: The Soldiers' Battle -- Civil War Vocabulary
       --- Civil War Slang
   ·  Assign each group a specific number of words (10 to 15) to look up.
   ·  Have students group the words according to ones that are or are not still in use today; or words that have the
       same or different meanings today.
   ·  Compile the lists in folders and place them in a classroom learning center or library.
   Extension Activity: You might have students work on their own or in their groups to use some of the new
    vocabulary to write a brief conversation that might have taken place on or near the Civil War battlefield.
   Evaluate students on their ability to write sentences or short paragraphs using words from the Civil War
   slang and vocabulary lists.
Lesson Plan Source: Education World

Date Last Modified: 3/14/2020
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