The Civil War was a time of upheaval for the United States. From 1860 through 1865 different facets of the war affected everyone, and soldiers on both sides dealt with hunger and had little means to care for themselves. Families lost loved ones, and many died in a fight for their beliefs. Students in elementary grades are typically too immature to fully understand these sad events, so have them complete lessons that help them have a little fun as they learn to help them remember this important time in our history.
Whip Up Some Hard Tack
Most Civil War soldiers had very few provisions and survived on a bread called hard tack. Make hard tack with your class using this simple recipe. Divide the class into four groups and have each group mix 2 cups of flour, ¾ cup of water and a teaspoon of salt in a large bowl. Have the students press the dough onto a cookie sheet until it is ½-inch thick. Cut it into squares so that each child can have a piece. Poke 16 holes in each square using a fork. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes, then turn the dough over and bake another 30 minutes. Let it cool before serving to the children.
Listen to Music
Show students that war was more than death and fighting. The soldiers on both sides had songs that helped to lift their spirits and give them strength. To emulate this practice, divide the class into two groups. Give each group a copy of "The Star Spangled Banner" for a Union song and "Dixie" as a Confederate song. Let the groups compare lyrics and make a list for each song of the emotions that the songs portray and themes they have in common. Have each group present their findings and note if they see similarities between the two groups.
Make a Timeline
Divide the class into six groups. Give each group a year, from 1860 to 1865, to report on events that occurred in the Civil War. Allow them access to the library and to websites that are are designed for use by children to learn about the Civil War. After their research, have each group a large piece of paper to write a timeline of important battles and events; connect each group's timeline together to hang in the hall or along the board to present the chain of events for the Civil War.
Write a Diary
Create a class diary by having each student write one page of a diary. Write names such as "Union child," "Confederate child," "Union soldier" and "Confederate soldier" on pieces of paper for each child to choose. Write one name per piece of paper. The children then draw out of a hat which diary entry they will write. Have each child write a diary entry -- length of the diary entry is determined by grade level -- and bind them all together into a Civil War diary for the class to read.
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