As we continue preparations for the Richard Bartol, Jr. Conference for Educators this week, Teacher Ranger Rob Finkill continues a series for teachers who cannot attend the conference, but that focuses on the same types of primary source document comparisons that will be done by those attending the conference…this week’s post compares two accounts of the events at Little Round Top here at Gettysburg National Military Park.
Little Round Top here at Gettysburg is one of the most visited spots on the battlefield. Countless visitors have stood and gazed out in amazement at the picturesque scenery and maybe contemplated what occurred there July 2, 1863. The well known book “Killer Angels” by Michael Shaara and the subsequent movie “Gettysburg” have brought much attention to the actions of Joshua Chamberlain and his regiment at the end of the Union line on Little Round Top , the 20th Maine. Their struggle against Colonel William Oates and the 15th Alabama has been written about by men on both sides. The accounts given are excellent primary sources to compare, as they both describe the same event from 2 different points of view.
Our post today will provide some ideas for you in the classroom to incorporate accounts from both of these men and their soldiers in an attempt to analyze these primary source accounts to take a more in-depth look at the events on Little Round Top. These accounts would provide an excellent pre or post activity for those classes who participate in one of the Park’s free Battlefield Footsteps Program called “Determination”, which is a hike in the footsteps of the 15th Alabama regiment and the 20th Maine regiment, but if you can’t bring a class to the park, these resources will still help you put together a worthwhile and meaningful lesson.
Using these accounts is also an excellent way to incorporate primary sources in your classroom and make connections to objectives from the Common Core State Standards
Here are a few objectives would apply:
Grade 5: Analyze multiple accounts of the same event or topic, noting important similarities and difference in the point ofview they represent
Grades 6-8: Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources
Grades 11-12: Analyze in detail how a complex primary source is structured, including how key sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text contribute to the whole.
The Library of Congress has an excellent publication called “Teaching with Primary Sources”
Ideas for a lesson:
Before digging into the activities, it is a good time to discuss how sometimes people who experienced the same event may view that event differently , even though they experienced the same moment. You may want to “stage” a moment in class and then have students write down what they saw and see if there are any differences in student perceptions of what happened. Ask students for any examples that they might have and then discuss how major events in history are no different. If you are not in a Civil War Unit, be sure to set the context of the battle for your students – this short overview video is a good one to watch of the events of the Civil War leading to Gettysburg.
Here are a few ideas of how to start off your activity:
Background of Oates and Chamberlain
Maps of the area
Key vocabulary explanations
For a teacher reference or student extension activity, view the video of a Ranger tour of Little Round Top for an overview
- Watch portions of the movie of Gettysburg on the fighting at Little Round Top
(spoiler alert: it is from Chamberlain’s point of view)
You may also want to have your watch this again after having students read the primary source accounts
After introducing the lesson and the purpose, have your students read the accounts of the events at Little Round Top from the both the Northern side, Joshua Chamberlain, and the Southern side , William Oates.
Set your students up with some easy to use graphic organizers as they read over the accounts of both men. Below are several strategies to pick from to guide your students in analyzing these primary sources.
Two strategies to use use are:
APPARTS – have students determine author, place & time, prior knowledge they have, audience, reason, the main idea, and significance
SOAPS – students determine subject, occasion, audience, purpose, and speaker
Extension / Discussion Activities
After your students read the accounts and fill out Graphic Organizers- (this could be done in groups, pairs or alone ), pick from this list of activities to complete ….
1. Develop thesis or claim statements that students can support with evidence about
either side, then support their claims
2. Using a Venn Diagram , have students determine what is different and the same
about each account, discuss together why there may be differences of opinion in the accounts.
How could they find out the “truth”?
3. Stage a debate in class between Oates and Chamberlain in class. One side would be “Chamberlain” the other could be “Oates”
4. Have students pretend they were soldiers in one of the regiments, re write the accounts from a soldiers point of view.
Here are the accounts from Chamberlain and Oates
This video is good for students who may not be able to visit Gettysburg and want to see what the ground looks like today.
Comment here with more ideas or thoughts...