Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Crafting Comparisons: A Creative Activity for Teaching the CIvil War

By Nina Kendall

As an extended activity the during the Civil War unit, I challenge students to write metaphors comparing some aspect of the Civil War to some facet of a football game.  This activity is simply called, “If the Civil War was a football game.” Students have the opportunity to view models comparisons and a list of broad topics that we study in this unit. It is their job to make evidence based comparison using accurate and colorful language.

I do this activity with students with students enrolled in regular US History class and in Advanced Placement United States History(APUSH). With students in the regular US History Class, I provide a sentence frame, a model sentence, a list of history terms to choose from, and a reference list of football terms as reference. For the APUSH students, I share a few examples and challenge them to make their metaphors. I let my APUSH students choose to work by themselves or in a group. The rule for the assignment is simply the groups must turn in at least 10 metaphors for every group member. Students also had choice about the aspects of the Civil War they choose to be the subject of their metaphors.

This activity is very engaging and a great opportunity for students to be creativity. Students examine the war from economic, political, and military perspectives as they strive to understand how different people and events played a role. Some of the greatest independent  thinking about the Civil War from students happens during this activity. Students frequently extend their inquiry to different perspectives as they craft their metaphors. Further as students are crafting their own comparisons and selecting evidence to support their comparisons it is a great way for me to evaluate their understanding of the  period and their growth in using historical evidence.

At the conclusion of this activity students share the part of their work they are most proud of with their peers. This is a great day in class. I establish some rules for sharing. Each topic can only be used once in the entire class.  We rotate after each comparison to another person or group. Students are invited to express their appreciation and approval for the work of others. Students  happily share their work. As time runs down, students compete with each other to be able to share another part of the work.

Metaphor Rubric
Focus on Metaphor
There is one clear, well-focused metaphor. Main idea stands out and is supported by detailed information.
The metaphor is clear but the supporting information is general.
The metaphor is somewhat clear but there is a need for more supporting information.
The metaphor is not clear. There is a seemingly random collection of information.
Support for Metaphor
Relevant, telling, quality details give the reader important information that goes beyond the obvious or predictable.
Supporting details and information are relevant.
Supporting details and information are relevant, but are not period specific,
Supporting details and information are typically unclear.
The project contains many creative details and/or descriptions that contribute to the reader's enjoyment. The author has really used imagination.
The project contains a few creative details and/or descriptions that contribute to the reader's enjoyment. The author has used imagination.
The project contains a few creative details and/or descriptions, but they distract from the story. The author has tried to use imagination.
There is little evidence of creativity in the project. The author does not seem to have used much imagination.

Rubric from Read Write Think

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