Planning a Civil War Unit can be a daunting task. Often , the Civil War Unit comes in the spring time when there are many other things going on at school, In Pennsylvania, we have state tests which take up several weeks, field trips, special events, field days just to name a few. Or, as some teachers from Philadelphia, PA expressed to me recently, they are required to cover from the “Land Bridge” to the 20th Century in one school year. So what do you focus on as a teacher with limited amount of time?
Narrow it down
In my 8th grade Civil War unit , my 2 colleagues and I have tried to narrow our focus of our unit on the Civil War. Faced with the time challenges we all face as teachers, along with the varying ability levels within our students we have developed a “Bull’s Eye” to focus our lessons.
The Goals of the Bull’s Eye
- 1. create enduring themes that students will be able to connect to;
- 2. ensure that all students are taught the same information;
- 3. provide guidelines for teachers to prepare assessments based on student ability.
Click here to download a copy of our Civil War Bullseye
Civil War Unit Themes
The enduring themes we selected were
1. There are many reasons why people choose to fight wars.
2. War is difficult for everyone.
3. Decisions have both intended and unintended consequences.
4. The cost of war is measured in more than dollars and cents.
These are themes that, we hope, most students can relate to and allow them to see connections between our lessons in class and real life situations.
The items on the inner ring of the Bull’s Eye will be something that all students would be accountable to demonstrate knowledge of on assessments.
The items on the outer area of the ring will only be studied if time allows and are also the basis for extension for students in the classroom who have demonstrated mastery of the content in the inner circles.
Why a Gettysburg focus?
If you notice, our Bull’s Eye has several details related to the battle of Gettysburg. We choose to do that due to the fact that our classes take a field trip to Gettysburg during the unit. The battle of Gettysburg becomes a strong topic to relate to our themes.
Included on this blog is our lesson related to Daniel Sickles and his choices at the battle of Gettysburg.
When creating your Bull’s Eye, start with some enduring themes that all students can relate to. As you expand out in your Bull’s Eye, the things closer to the center are what all students should be held accountable for on assessments. As was said before, in a middle school classroom like mine, with varying levels of ability, I would not assess some students on elements in the outer rings. You may not cover everything in the outer rings of the Bull’s Eye, but it will give you a focus for extension activities and lesson plans.
Comment here with ideas and other uses for the Bull’s Eye format for your Civil War Unit and other units as well.