Actually I designed and put together
a book called Art and the Blues. It is an arts-based
unit that begins from Reconstruction and works its way
to the present day creating art based on the era. The
blues developed as an art form around the same time
as the Civil War, so the unit links art to what the
students are learning in social studies.
One lesson talks about political art. I have the students
read the Jim Crow laws and create protest posters. We
also were in the midst of creating an anti-hate quilt
(quilts are popular in African American folk art-- many
slaves sewed for their mistresses and had swatches of
fabric scraps to use for creating folk art) when September
11th came and suddenly the quilt seemed more relevant
than ever. We donated the quilt to the International
House of Blues in Cambridge. A culmination of my year
with 8th grade is taking the entire year to the House
of Blues for a look at the folk art there as well as
a live blues performance.
National Board Certified Art Teacher
John F. Kennedy School
We use "The Civil War" laser disk set in
class. Another teacher and I wrote a second by second
database for the disks. The students can type in a
query and it searches the database. Matches to the
query appear on the screen and the students can click
on the match they want to see. If the proper disk
is in the player, it will play the segment, if not
the player will eject the disk and the computer will
prompt for the correct disk. This becomes an independent
workstation. As teachers we can choose specific segments
to show in class.
Wydown Middle School
Yes, I have used "The Civil War" series
several times in our English (American Lit) and American
History classes; we usually show video both hours
to speed the process. We begin by letting the history
teacher background the Civil War---and I try to reach
the abolitionist writers in American Lit (with luck,
Walt Whitman) before we start video viewing. We show
film for 40 minutes, stop, write in daily journals
in response to what we viewed, heard and learned--whether
it be the bloodletting of a Gettysburg, the irony
of Shiloh, the terrible victory or defeat of Vicksburg
and so forth.
The history teacher has used the Q&A material
PBS has provided for each segment. I focus on the
letter writing, diaries, and commentary of not-so-ordinary
folk who commented throughout. The success or failure
of the project usually hangs on the extent to which
the history teacher preps classes--they sometimes
have trouble with North/South generals, strategies,
etc. I have posted maps, too, and bought a copy of
the companion volume for our little school library.
Mary B. Schwindt, English instructor
Pawnee Heights High School
I teach US history to fifth graders at Middle Years
Alternative for the Humanities. I found the scenes
telling the story of the prelude to the Civil War
very useful and also, the scenes depicting the Battle
of Gettysburg and the Gettysburg Address. Many of
my students notice the connection between the famous
photos and paintings in their history books and their
use in the documentary.
I am a homeschool mom and used Ken Burns’s "The
Civil War" for American History this past year.
Although my son, who just completed 9th grade, has
been very interested in 20th century history since
he was seven, he never had an interest in this era--until
after seeing the Burns film.
We watched the film over several weeks. He also referenced
a map book of Civil War battles, read several fictional
accounts, watched several movies and read chapters
from an American History textbook. The Burns film
caught his attention and made him develop an interest
to know more. He just ordered a set of books on the
I don’t have any real new methods, but thought
you might want to know that homeschoolers can use
this film as a major source.
Nancy A. Bekofske
For the past two years I have assigned the viewing of
"The Universe of Battle:1863" Episode Five
of Ken Burns’s "The Civil War" film
series, with the reading of the novel The Killer
Angels by Michael Shaara. This is the centerpiece
of a unit called A House Divided: Slavery and the
Objective: Students will read a variety of literary
pieces to recognize distinctive and shared characteristics
of cultures and to connect literature to historical
contexts, current events, and their own experiences.
1. Read "Coming of Age in Mississippi" by
Anne Moody (civil disobedience to combat enslavement).
2. Read excerpt from Narrative of the Life of Frederick
Douglass by Frederick Douglass (horrors of slavery).
3. Compare/contrast the subject, purpose, tone, and
style of the two pieces, showing the irony involved
in the 100-year separation between the two pieces.
4. Read "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge"
by Ambrose Bierce (divided loyalties of North and South).
5. Read "The Gettysburg Address" (aftermath
of turning point battle of Civil War).
6. Read The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara.
Log passages that provide sensory details of the heat,
hunger, tiredness; subjective feelings/values of the
fighting men, and key facts of the battle.
7. View the correlating parts of "The Universe
of Battle: 1863" as days of the battle are completed.
Compare/contrast the emphasis on sensory details, subjective
feelings, and facts with those in the novel.
8. Read the memories of a teenage girl Tillie Pierce
about the Civil War. Compare/contrast the point of view
with that of The Killer Angels.
Creekview High School
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