Using the Web Site |
The Film | Film Index | Wayback
Lesson 1 | Lesson 2 | Lesson 3
In this section you'll find lessons which use the special features of the
America 1900 Web site.
The following lessons were created to use both the themes and topics of the
film and the unique features of the America 1900 Web site, including the
America 1900 Family Tree Builder software, the People and Events
Searchable Database, the entries from the Enhanced Transcript, the
detailed Timeline, Interviews with historians, and the exciting new
magazine for young people, Wayback - US History for Kids.
Lesson 1 | Lesson 2 | Lesson 3
Using the Enhanced Transcript and People and Events Database
Both the Enhanced Transcript and People and Events Database sections of the Web site contain a
wealth of information about people, places, and events of the era. Ask students
to choose one or more of these entries to research further. In addition to this and
other Web sites, students should also use the library for their research.
- Have students create an oral or written report on their subject. Students
may also wish to present their information in the form of a collage, diorama,
poster, or skit.
- Have students locate a speech delivered by Carrie Chapman Catt, William
Jennings Bryan, W.E.B. Du Bois, Theodore Roosevelt, or other influential
people, and present it to the class.
- Older students may enjoy reading a novel set in this time period such as
Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow (ask your school or public librarian to
recommend other titles, or consult references such as Recreating the Past: A
Guide to America and World Historical Fiction for Children and Young Adults
by Lynda G. Adamson, Greenwood Press, 1996). You may want to ask students to
contribute their own historical fiction in the form of a short story or
- Was the Spanish-American War really the "splendid little war" that John
Hay declared it was? Have students research the causes and effects of the war
and its outcome. You may want students to do a role play or debate to present
different perspectives on the war.
- The young adult novel Dragonwings by Laurence Yep is the story
about a Chinese immigrant father and son in San Francisco around the turn of
the century. Have students read the book and then research what life was like
for Chinese immigrants during that time. Ask them to report on how the book
uses historical context to tell its story.
- Two novels about the Jewish experience during the era are The Night
Journey by Kathryn Lesky, about a family's escape from Russia and the pogroms of 1900, and
Goodbye to the Trees by Vicki Shiefman, the story of a young Russian
immigrant's new life in America. After reading one or both of these novels,
have students write a journal entry or letter as one of the characters in
- Have students learn or perform a song from the era, such as the ragtime
of Scott Joplin. Students can locate sheet music or borrow recordings
from the public library.
- Have students find a book or Web site of photographs by Jacob Riis
and discuss them in class. How did his brand of photojournalism change society?
Ask them to offer their own reactions to the photographs.
- After they have read Kids and Work: Lewis Hine and the Crusade against Child
Labor by Russell Freedman, ask students to bring in newspaper and magazine
articles about the issue of child labor today. Discuss the topic in class. How
have conditions changes or stayed the same since 1900? Students may want to
write letters to the editor or local political leaders expressing their
- Have a team of students imagine they are on the planning board for a
World Exposition of 2000, similar to the Paris Exposition of 1900. What
exhibits would they have? Where would it be held? What message would you want
to convey? How might these messages be different from those of 1900?
- Have students compare the crusade of Carrie Nation to other
efforts in the twentieth century to affect alcohol consumption, such as
Prohibition and M.A.D.D.
- Have students research the life and writings of John Muir. You may
want to contact the Sierra Club as a class for information about the
organization he founded. Have students choose an environmental issue they care
about. Working in teams, have students develop a campaign to support their
- Have students choose one or more poems by Paul Laurence Dunbar, or
Jose Marti's (poet from Cuba) book Versos sencillos/Simple Verses and
write an interpretation or appreciation of his work.
- Have students research George White's career and re-create his
speech to Congress when he retired.
- In 1900 George Eastman Kodak introduced the Brownie camera. Have students
choose a technological innovation and trace its history and impact. They may
wish to use reference books such as How Things Work by David McCauley or
The Visual Dictionary of Everyday Things.
- Ask students to trace the history of the N.A.A.C.P. from its earliest
inception as the Niagara Movement and report on its impact today.
- When he addressed the delegates to the Pan-African Congress in 1900,
W.E.B. Du Bois warned that the "problem of the twentieth century is the
problem of the color line." Do students agree or disagree? Do they feel that
his statement is relevant today? Ask students to write a persuasive essay
explaining their viewpoints.
- As a class, read excerpts from Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by
Dee Brown and explore the significance of the Wounded Knee massacre in American
history. Why and how were the Plains Indians and their way of life nearly
destroyed by 1900?
- Have students research the 1900 Platt Amendment, which gave the US the
right to intervene in Cuba (among other provisions). Ask students to debate the
passage of this amendment from U.S. and Cuban points of view.
- Have students research the life of Queen Liliuokalani of Hawaii. How did
the annexation of Hawaii in 1900 affect the lives of people living there?
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Using the America 1900 Family Tree Builder
The America 1900 Family Tree Builder software will help students find
out about what life was like in a particular region, worldwide, at the turn of
the century. Have students first research and record their family tree for two
or three generations.
Be aware that researching family history may be a difficult topic for some
students or families. You may prefer to have students work in teams or groups
and choose one family ancestor from the group, or have student groups create a
fictional ancestor to research.
- Once students have entered in their data (month, region), have them take notes
on the way people lived as well as the issues and problems they were concerned
about. Then have students choose one or more of the following activities:
- After hearing from students on the variety of people and places they have
researched, create a compare-and-contrast chart in class outlining the ways in
which life across different regions or even countries were similar or different
in 1900. After reviewing the results, add a column to note how life has or
hasn't changed nearly one hundred years later.
- If students are able to, have them relate an anecdote or other family
story in the form of a diary or journal entry as if the ancestor were writing
- Have student pairs create a correspondence between two ancestors from
different regions. Have students ask questions of one another's ancestors about
their work, families, traditions, and dreams of the future.
- Have students create two Time Capsule lists. One list will represent the
contents they imagine an ancestor might have left them. The other will label
the contents of a Time Capsule they would like to leave for their descendants
100 years hence.
- Have students re-create a meeting between an ancestor and a famous person
of the turn of the century. What might they have discussed?
- Using the America 1900 Family Tree Builder software and the
Timeline, choose a topic or issue that was important to your community
or region. Have students imagine a town meeting about that topic and perform a
brief skit about it. They may enlist the help of classmates to perform various
- Assemble a team of students to create a mock newspaper or column that
might have been published in that time and place. For a newspaper project, have
students write a variety of items, including news articles, editorials,
advertisements, headlines, advice column, and reviews.
- Invite family members or other guest speakers to class to talk about what
they know or remember about life in those times. Encourage speakers to bring in
letters, clothing, or other artifacts from the era. Have students prepare
questions for the speakers.
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Using the Interviews
The Reference section of this site features interviews with historians. You can listen to some of the interviews in real audio.
After browsing the section, have students select one or more of the following
- Read to some of the interviews. Working in teams, have students select
a particular area of interest for their team (for example, cars, music,
politics, natural disasters, etc.). Ask students to find someone in the
community who remembers the era (or recalls family stories about the era) to
interview. Prepare questions about the selected topic or event and then have
students conduct the interview. If possible, audiotape the responses and share
the tapes with your classmates.
- Have students select a topic, person, issue, or event of the year 1900.
By using the resources on the Web site as well as the local library, they will
become the class "historian" about this person, place, or thing. Once
everyone's research is completed, assign partner pairs and have students
interview one another to find out about the topic. Audiotape the interviews and
present an "Ask the Historian" day for the whole class.
- Read sections of Joseph Bruchac's Lasting Echoes: An Oral History of
the Native American People. Have small groups of students each choose a
different Native American tribe to research. What was life like for the tribe
before 1900? How did it change around the turn of the century? Where is the
tribe today? Have each group report their findings back in class. Discuss the
similarities and differences among these tribes, then and now.
- "Ellis Island Interviews In Their Own Words" by Peter Morton Coan is just
one of many accounts by immigrants of their arrival in America. After reading
selections of these accounts, ask students to interview family or community
members who can share their stories (or family stories) of coming to America
around the turn of the century. Publish a class book of these interviews. You
may want to accompany the interviews with photographs or invite some of the
interviewees to speak to the class.