Thursday, May 2, 2013

Civil War

Happy May! I cannot believe that school is winding down. Someone will have to grab me a box of tissues if I keep thinking about it. Since state testing is over for the year (wahoo!), we're able to go back to having fun in the classroom again. On Monday, we kicked off our Civil War unit. Instead of using our social studies time for this unit, I'm using my Communication Arts block because we're tying in so many reading strategies and skills.  I decided early on that I wanted my students to participate in the Civil War simulation by Scholastic. Side bar: it's currently $5.00 as an e-book!!! 

Have you done a simulation before? This will be my first attempt, but I'm really excited to get the students talking and writing about Civil War experiences. Before diving into the simulation, I wanted my kids to have a little background on what caused the war, important people, and common vocabulary. 

To begin, I divided my classroom into the North and the South. The simulation has students assume a roll of a Union or Confederate solider - I decided to tie in a little geography as well. 

I assigned each table a region of the United States. I know what you're thinking! Yes, we used a modern map to assemble our regions. Considering many states nowadays were not states in the 1860's, this led to a great conversation! 

As a small group, students had to cut out the states in their region and assemble them like a puzzle. I put three regions on the northern side and two on the south. I needed the Union to have more students, so the west was flexible. :)

Region... Assemble!
After small groups assembled their region, I laminated and hung them above their tables. If you've been a follower of my blog, you know about my pods. You can read about those here.  In short, I like to name my pods, or groups, terms that I want the students to remember for-ev-er. 

Now, we have 5 regions of the United States hanging in our classroom and we made a HUGE red, white, and blue paper chain that cuts the classroom right down the middle. The picture below was taken during M.A.P. testing and prior to the regions hanging. Trust me, the classroom is a more cheerful place now. 

Pre-Regions Hanging - During MAP testing, yuck!
Whew! Are you still with me? 

The paper chain thoroughly intrigued my students and they were DYING to know if they were in the North or South. I was mean and made them wait through Spring Break before I told them. 

This week, we have been A Classroom Divided Against Itself. Well, for an hour and half every day then things go back to normal. :) Our week, prior to the simulation, has consisted of these activities:
  • Jigsaw of important and influential people from the Civil War: Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant, Frederick Douglas, etc. 
  • Video of the causes of the Civil War, afterwards we completed an Cause & Effect diagram
  • Mapping out the union and confederate states on a map
I've also read aloud a few picture books about the Civil War. I LOVE reading aloud to my students and now I feel like we have the time available. Some of the titles we've read and plan to read are:

On Monday, we are going to put together our Civil War journals for the simulation. Look for an update next week complete with fun pictures and feedback from my students. 

What have you done in your classroom to study the Civil War? Do share! 


  1. I LOVE Pink and Say. I actually read it to my class today, as part of our book bracket competition. (We are still MAP testing, and the book bracket has been a way to relax our warn out brains.) I don't know about you, but I can barely make it to the end of the book with out getting a little choked up!


  2. Wow! Lots of great stuff in your post. :). So happy I stumbled onto your blog. I'm Brandee, your newest follower.
    Brandee @ Creating Lifelong Learners

  3. Activities like yours are EXACTLY the reason I want to work with upper elementary students. So much learning and so much fun. Also Pink & Say is one of my favorite books ever and I still remember crying when my teacher read the story to my class.

    You asked me some questions on my blog and I've noticed people don't get always get notified when you reply back on the blog... so, I'll answer them here if you don't mind.

    1. I will not be returning to Alaska this year. I made the decision to move back to my home state Indiana due to my younger sister having her first baby, a long term boyfriend, and just being ready to have a semi-normal life.
    2. I got the job almost immediately after I interviewed with the district at a job fair before I graduated college. There's a post answering that question in greater detail here
    3. How's it going being a new teacher as well?? How many years have you been teaching??

    Miss Wilson

    1. Hi Miss Wilson!
      I'm sure that being away from your family has been tough - I'm within a close range with mine, it's really nice. I feel very fortunate!

      I've been teaching for three years! I can't believe that next year will be four! Hopefully, things start to move a little smoother. I'm sure I'll say that same thing each and every day! :)

      I'm very excited to be bloggy friends now!

  4. I found your blog because I just found out I'm jumping from 2nd grade to 5th! Crazy! But I am really excited about it :) My latest post is about my move, so if you get a chance and don't mind, would you please share some tips?? I would love to know where to being!

  5. Loved reading about your simulation experiment. I would like to try it. Also, am reading the Newberry book Lincoln, a Photobiography, to my 5-6 graders and they love it. They also love the pictures.

  6. I do a simulation every year and I love it! I divide my class too, and assign someone on each side to be Gen. Grant and Gen. Lee. They are in charge of their side, and we do a roll call every morning where I play the bugle sounds, and each side gets points for certain things- work turned in, behavior, attendance, etc. We learn how to march and we have marshmallow battles to learn about the outcomes of different battles! It is super fun and the kids love it. I love the idea of the regions- that would be a great addition!


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