Teacher's Guide

Exploring Points of View

Stanislava Kraskovskaya
(citizen, Caucasus)

"In my century, we've had electricity, trains, cars, right up to astronauts. This is all my century. It's been fascinating! I am very pleased with my century."
photographic portrait of Stanislava Kraskovskaya

Stanislava, from Vladikavkaz in the Caucasus Mountains of Russia, is just one of many people whose personal stories will transport your students to pivotal moments in twentieth-century history. These stories will engage their interest and deepen their understanding of different cultures and historical figures, events, and trends.

The following questions and activities will help students examine People's Century as a documentary series and as a historical document, as well as understand the values, viewpoints, and historical context presented in the series and in the Web site. It will also help them look critically at historical and other documents. You can use these questions as you analyze specific programs and as you look at the series as a whole.

Before Watching
1. Define the terms primary source and secondary source and create a list of examples. How is a primary source different from a secondary source? What are the advantages and disadvantages of primary and secondary sources for historians? For students?

2. Define the term bias. Is bias inevitable? What factors create biased information? What questions or processes could be used to evaluate information for bias? Explore the differences between a documentary, docudrama, and historical fiction. What role might bias play in the creation of these genres?

3. As students watch a People's Century program or program segment, have them evaluate it as a historical document, considering the following questions: What information is given about specific events or trends? What information isn't included? Whose perspectives are presented or not presented?

After Watching
1. How is learning history from a video different from learning it from a book? How do the elements of each source influence what or how much you learn? Is one source more accurate or believable? Explain.

2. Have students write down the following list of video production elements: music, visual images, speakers, sequence of information. Then play a People's Century program segment and tell students to note how one technique contributes to the overall effect. Play it a second time and have students close their eyes. Play it a third time without sound. What information does each element provide? How does each element influence emotional responses? How does the combination of elements create the overall effect? Discuss in class or have students record and share their observations.

3. How do the programs present or not present different perspectives? Is it necessary to have a diverse group when presenting historical information? Why or why not? What criteria do you think were used to choose the speakers? What factors might have made it difficult to find a diverse group? How might those obstacles be overcome?

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