Thursday, July 30, 2009

2009 CWPT Teacher Institute: Fredericksburg, VA -Part 3

The final day of the institute started bright and early at 8 a.m. The first session on my schedule was "The Civil War and the Library of Congress: Best Practices for Searching the Library of Congress." This session was presented by Mr. David L. Manuell who was a long-time educator, but is now a Library of Congress Ambassador Fellow.

The main focus of Mr. Manuell's presentation was using the LOC's tool called TPS (Teaching with Primary Sources). He explained that the LOC's website is the most used educational sources for primary sources, but it is also one of the most difficult to navigate. First, he wanted to make sure that everyone knew what a primary source was. He explained that these are items that were witness to an event of the past that have not been filtered. He explained that most newspaper accounts are not considered primary sources, because they have often been rewritten or edited by the paper's editors. Primary sources are important because they they help students avoid the presentism trap, and they let students see the events first hand.

He suggested to avoid the first page of the LOC website other than to look for the "American Memory" link. This takes you to the good stuff. From the American Memory page you can look for the "Teachers" link and then "Primary Source Sets." There are a number of these primary sources sets on diverse topics in American history. He suggested that any number of subgroups in the American Memory section can be fruitful. For example, you might not think the "Advertising" section would have much to relate to the Civil War era, but it does contain some runaway slave ads and possibly army recruiting ads as well.

The final thing Mr. Manuell showed us was an 1850's children's book that he recently located. It is called the Truant Bunny. This moralistic tale told about a bunny that skipped school to do what he wanted to do and then wound up being hanged in the end. I guess the moral to the story is go to school. The illustrations were quite vivid. See if you can find it when you get a chance.

The second session was The Civil War and Fiction: Using Fictional Stories to Teach the Civil War," and was presented by Ms. Ranae Mathis, a California teacher of 24 years. Ms. Mathis' presentation was cross-curricular in that fiction (reading) was being incorporated to help teach history. This form of history is very popular with teachers because the interesting stories sometimes help keep students more engaged than traditional history texts. She used the novel Behind Rebel Lines: The Incredible Story of Emma Edmonds, Civil War Spy by Seymour Reit to show how historical novels can help increase student learning and interest. She shared a PowerPoint presentation that provided information on a number of female spys in the Civil War and then gave us several examples of the activities she uses, such as a vocabulary builder, a journal of the novel, and scrapbook of the novel.

She also shared a few other neat activities that uses with her students. One was to make a book out of paper grocery bags. The bags when stapled together make the pages that have pockets where inserts can be pulled out for further information on the topics that are on the pages. The other idea was to take a Pringles can and cut a vertical slit on it then have a scroll of paper taped to a paper towel tube inside the can that can be pulled out of the side of the can with historical information on it. She had one a student had completed about coopers. The can was decorated to look like a barrel, and inside, the paper had a description of the occupation and how barrels were made.

Due to my long drive back to Kentucky I had to cut the day's activities short. Unfortunately I missed the final session of the day, lunch, and Mr. Jack Davis' lunch talk. But, I must say that I had a wonderful weekend. I learned lots of new educational ideas that hopefully I can quickly incorporate, and I gained a significant amount of content knowledge as well. Hats off to the educational team at CWPT for putting on a first-rate event. I hope to go again next year.

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