Another edition of useful information from our Teacher-Ranger, Rob Finkill . . . this time about Video Resources for your classroom. (The only one he forgot was our DVD with lesson plan CD called “Big Deal at Gettysburg: The Value of Historical Places” — a product that brings social studies, language arts AND citizenship lessons to life. To purchase a copy, contact the Museum Bookstore at Gettysburg National Military Park.)
Making history come alive…that’s a very important, and sometimes difficult task to accomplish for our students. Certain events in history like battles, demonstrations, and elections can be very dramatic and engaging. Other events may not be as engaging, but still have significance for sure. As a history teacher, I am challenged every day to engage my students in meaningful learning. Videos, in particular Civil War videos, are one way to do that.
Times they are a changin’ . . .
It’s my observation that students today respond to watching videos differently then in years past. Many students spend hours watching You Tube videos that are short in terms of time. Students comment on videos, share them, and even make them. That is certainly not an earth shattering fact to most people, but does that fact transfer to a different use of videos in the classroom? I think it can. Recently, a student of mine told me that when I showed a video that lasted the whole class period it “just slowed things down”. With that in mind, and due to resources I have available at my school district and on-line, I have taken to showing shorter clips of videos that focus solely on my main topic for that lesson. I build in time for students to discuss what they have seen with each other – whether through guiding questions I create – or through live chats using the devices available in my classroom.
Civil War Video Resources
There are two web resources that I have access to in my district. If you don’t have them they are worth looking into. One is called Safari Montage. Safari Montage is a vast library of full length videos and even period news reels. Each video is broken down into short segments and organized. Various teacher resources are available for each video and content can even be uploaded. For example, the entire Ken Burn’s Civil War series is there. I could never show the entire series in class, but I can use clips from it.
Another resource is Discovery Education’s site United Streaming. Very similar to Safari Montage, but with access to the Discovery Channel video collection and more. Thousands of clips on the Civil War can be found there and on any number of topics.
Free Civil War Video Sites
A free site that has many short videos on all topics of the Civil War is the History Channel’s site for videos. Searching for Civil War videos on the site will lead you to many videos and also some interactive sites that are free and very informational.
For younger students Brainpop.com has a site set up with Civil War videos and information for younger students. To view some of the videos there you will need a subscription.
You Tube, of course, has many shorter clips for you to search. Just a word of warning: be sure to preview the whole video before showing it to your class. You Tube videos are not always what they first appear to be (yes I was Rick Rolled once while showing a clip during class). Google video can also be used to search for clips and full length videos without all of the non-educational videos that You Tube offers. For example, I found most of the Ken Burn’s Civil War on the site for free.
If you want to show a You Tube clip without the comments and related videos on the screen, use a filter like View Pure to get rid of the clutter and ads.
Several of our National Parks have video on their web sites as well. Many are student created. Students near Harper’s Ferry,WV created a whole series of “vodcasts” on the events surrounding John Brown’s attack there in 1859 and the Civil War which are posted on the Harper’s Ferry Park website .
Civil War Trust – Civil War in 4 video series
The Civil War Trust has many resources for educators and students. Their video series entitled “Civil War in 4” provides 4 minute videos on many Civil War Topics. These are good for lessons and research for students.
Here at the park, much work has been done in the past several years to record and broadcast ranger and living history groups presentations on all topics related to the Civil War and Gettysburg. Not only are there videos of ranger presentations during the summer , but also from the winter lecture series. Topics aren’t limited to Gettysburg specific ones either – Civil War medicine, music and general soldier life are just a few of the topics. Several living history demonstrations of infantry and artillery are posted on the Gettysburg NPS Facebook and Periscope pages. Many other National Parks are doing similar things so even if you can’t visit a park, there are still resources available.
Full Length Videos and Movies
If you have time to show an entire movie , there a few that may be worthy of showing. The two that I favor are Gettysburg and Glory.
Gettysburg is very long and much of the dialogue may be over the head of younger students, but the scenes of battle give a good representation of the fighting in the Civil War Era. Along with the battle scenes, there are several others which give a quick representation of why the North is fighting (Chamberlain’s speech to the men from Maine who want to leave the army) and why soldiers in the Confederate armies were fighting (when Chamberlain’s brother talks to some Rebel prisoners).
Glory is thought of by many as one of the best movies depicting life during the Civil War. It is, however, rated R. There is violence and offensive language in it. There is a school edited version that I ordered a few years ago from a catalog. That version seems to be hard to find, even online. Use the edited version, or be sure to get proper permission to show the video in class.
Finally, the History Channel has a series of hour-long videos entitled “Civil War Combat”. This video series focuses on smaller parts of significant battles (the Wheatfield at Gettysburg or the Hornet’s Nest at Shiloh). These are live action videos that tell the stories of individuals involved in the fighting. These videos provide excellent narration combined with the soldiers’ own words to tell the story of some of the most intense fighting of the war.
Many clips from these movies and videos can be found on You Tube.
Whatever you choose to use in your classroom, be sure to give students the ability to discuss, ask questions, and summarize what they have learned to keep making those personal connections! If you have other sources you use, comment here and share them!