Posts Tagged ‘lessons’


As the summer season comes to a close here at Gettysburg National Military Park, Teacher Ranger Rob Finkill finishes our series on primary sources used at the Bartol Conference with a post about a primary source that many students can relate to as it is written about a civilian teenager’s experience in July , 1863…

On my last day of the summer season in 2013, my final program was scheduled to be one called “Care of the Wounded”, a program that focuses on the medical aspects of the battle and the war in general. I had been hoping to end my summer out on a  battlefield program or in the National Cemetery where I could stand with visitors and amaze them with stories of courage and sacrifice and ride off into the sunset to start the school year – not give a program in a tent that is sometimes more technical than dramatic.  I thought about asking to switch, but didn’t. Boy was I glad I didn’t switch. To make a long story short, I focused my program on the fact that many in the medical corps were fighting “the system” at times and “that’s the way we have always done it”  as they tried to bring change. As I was walking back inside at end of my program, a visitor stopped me and told me how much she  could relate to that story. She worked in the medical insurance field and her job was to promote new views on medical care  – encouraging healthy lifestyles to promote better health and cut doctor visits and she was getting a lot of push back from people who told her that’s not the way it’s been done. “I can’t wait to get back to my team and share this story. These stories are so empowering to me!” , she said. As I walked away with a smile  – and alright I’ll admit it a little choked up –  feeling great that this program I was ready to bail on had a powerful impact on at least one visitor. You don’t always get that as a teacher and  I thought of that moment often as the school year began and felt empowered myself.


making connections


We never know when stories or content we use as teachers will connect with our students. Rangers,  like teachers, work for that moment like I had when a student (visitor) makes a personal connection and they get it!  I have written about this before  in other posts, sometimes it can be a challenge. How do you get all students to take away a personal connection from the Civil War? Sometimes depending on our students ages, they don’t see the connection to their lives. They may feel the Civil War involved adults and  how do kids relate to many of the “adult” aspects of the war?


A story from Gettysburg could be a great way to relate the events and experiences of battle to children and maybe make a connection to their own experiences. Kids are drawn to stories of kids their own age and many who were children living in Gettysburg during the battle in 1863 wrote about what it was like.

What a Girl Saw at Gettysburg

Tillie Pierce

Matilda  Jane Pierce – also known as Tillie, was born in 1848 to one of the wealthier families in Gettysburg. She experiences the battle in all its aspects. Her and her family members end up taking care of wounded soldiers and seeing what war really meant. In 1885, Tillie wrote a book about her experiences during that battle called At Gettysburg, or What a Girl Heard and Saw of the Battle. The book is an excellent primary source. Click on the link to read it for free on Google Books.

Here is a Tillie Pierce account in a summarized document format , with key elements of her experience for classroom use.

Many primary sources are challenging for students to work with, but this one is written using language that students will be able to connect with and , hopefully, put themselves in the shoes of this young woman as she faces what happens when the war comes to her town.


Double Entry Journal

Have students focus on 3 different types of connections they could make with the text:

  • Text to Self – connection to something the student is familiar with
  • Text to Text  – connection to something else the student has read
  • Text and the World  – connection to something else going on in the world

While reading the text, ask students to fill in a Double Entry Journal. An activity adaptable to all abilities and each type of connection , divide a sheet of paper in half, the column on the left is for content that sticks out to the student , and then the right hand column is for their connection. This makes a great reading strategy for students to make that personal connection.

The web site ReadWriteThink.org provides this question as an extension activity to a Double Entry Journal and you can easily adapt to using Tillie’s story…

Choose one connection and explain specifically how it helped you better understand what you were reading


The story left to us by Tillie Pierce might be one  that helps a student make a personal learning connection who may not otherwise be interested in the Civil War or the Battle of Gettysburg. Use it and see what happens!!


              Google Book copy for free of Tillie’s Book

               In document format  – summarized by key moments –

               great for classroom use

             by Tanya Anderson

             A description of Tillie’s story with added details and visuals

            The author’s web site also provides information on several other families

            impacted by the battle.

            Resources for making connections and using a Double Entry Journal

            An 18 year old boy’s account to being Gettysburg in 1863 – summarized

            for key moments


Comment here with ideas or share your own story of a student making a connection…

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Resources for teaching the Civil War and specifically the battle of Gettysburg are found in an abundance, but which ones are right for your Civil War classroom? Are you looking to “flip “ your classroom or to use something as part of a presentation? Maybe a pre Gettysburg visit activity? Maybe something for students to use during research?

Here are a few tips on resources to use and a few that have been used in Teacher Ranger Rob Finkill’s classroom

Flipping the Classroom?

Many teachers are flipping their class with the help of technology. Students may watch a short teacher created video or listen to a podcast outside of class to obtain basic notes and information, then in class higher level activities are done.

Some of flipped classroom teachers chose to use a video camera and a white board to make videos of their lectures, others use screen casting apps such as :


Show Me

Explain Everything


These videos are made on a tablet / iPad, but then can be posted online and links to videos emailed


Flipped Gettysburg Resources

Planning a field trip or series of lessons on the Battle of Gettysburg?

Click on the link below for a short  video on events of the Civil War leading to Gettysburg that could be watched by students on their own or as a large group.

Events Leading to Gettysburg Video Link

If you are coming to Gettysburg and visiting the Visitor Center and Museum, the link below will take you to a video for students to help them understand what to expect when they come to the museum and will help them complete activities in the Best Field Trip Ever! pdf planning kit 

Video for Students visiting the Gettysburg Museum Link

If you are planning a presentation on the battle of Gettysburg, a great resource for enhanced presentations is Prezi.

Prezi can be described as Power Point , but with movement and more features to be visually pleasing.

Overview of the Battle of Gettysburg Prezi

This Prezi gives you the presenter a series of pictures and images to help you as you give  a brief overview of the battle. Not a lot of text, but plenty of images and movement to help enhance a talk on the battle.

Gettysburg by the Numbers

excellent site from teachersfirst.com with incredible visuals to explore the battle of Gettysburg from multiple angles and perspectives!


Nearpod is an interactive presentation tool. Students and Teachers can complete activities as a live lesson together or it can be set to be a student paced activity. Once you as a teacher make an account, you can view student results in real time or after the fact. Espeicllay check out the “field trip” feature which allows teachers to allow students to have 360 degree views of famous places, including some Civil War sites/

Here is an example I created using parts of the free Civil War Trust curriculum on the Emancipation Proclamation. Type in the code TNCAL to go through the lesson. Nearpods can be embedded like below, shared via a web link , view on the Nearpod app or through Google classroom.

Emancipation Proclamation Near pod


Edpuzzle allows the teacher to take a You Tube or other video and add questions and activities for students to do while viewing. Create “classes” that students can join, then teachers can view the results.

Here is an example

National Archives DocsTeach

 DocsTeach is the app for learning with documents from the National Archives. Students can enter a classroom code to access and complete activities assigned to them, or choose from a selection of learning activities based on historical eras.


DocsTeach is the app for learning with documents, from the U.S. National Archives. Students can enter a classroom code to access and complete activities assigned to them, or choose from a selection of learning activities by historical era. There are several excellent activities using documents related to the Civil War Era.

Online Quiz games for practice

There are several on line quiz games on line now that work with both IOS devices and laptops:


Kahoot is one of the most popular web based quizzing platforms. Teachers can create their own quizzes from scratch or use quizzes shared by other teachers from around the globe. Students play using their own device to answer and view the questions on a large screen in the teacher’s classroom. Kahoot is constantly updating their features to make this an amazing resource.


Another popular student quizzing activity that is web based. Games can be played in the classroom  – no large screen needed – or students can play outside of class as many times as they wish to study or prepare for class activities. As a teacher, you can view results and download scores as well. Again, this platform is always evolving and updating to meet teachers’ needs.

There are many other emerging platforms and most sync with Google and classroom management systems like  Edmodo or Canvas.

Civil War in Four

If you are looking for some brief videos on different topics about the Civil War, the Civil War Trust has recently started to post videos under the heading of Civil War in Four. These are four minute videos detailing different aspects of the war with commentary from Civil War experts. Great for use as a whole class, research or as flipping the classroom resources.

Click here for the Civil War in Four main page

Resource links for more web based and apps for the flipped classroom

Best Apps and Web sites for the Flipped Classroom from Common Sense Education

Comment here with your own ideas or other resources!

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