Hands-on Activities on Napoleon

Portrait of Napoleon.
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High school educational activities on Napoleon Bonaparte should focus on Napoleon's influence and leadership during the French Revolution. Students can complete classroom assignments to further their understanding of the social, political and economic times in which Napoleon lived. Conduct a mock trial, organize a Napoleon-era newspaper, draw wartime posters and create resumes for Napoleon. Provide academic materials and art supplies to help students complete their assignments.

1 Mock Trial

Host a mock trial with your class, suggests Patrick Cronin, high school history teacher in Oakton, Virginia, on his website CroninsClass.com. The charge against Napoleon might be his abuse of power or crimes against humanity. Students can determine whether Napoleon was a patriotic leader or a power-hungry dictator. Assign roles to your class, such as prosecuting attorneys, defense attorneys, jury members, military experts and key witnesses -- aristocrats, family members and soldiers in Napoleon's army. As the teacher, you might play the role of judge or Napoleon, or assign students to those positions. Ask attorneys to formulate and present their statements to the jury and advise key witnesses to research their roles, so they respond appropriately to interrogation. Have jury members work together to come up with a guilty or not guilty sentence for Napoleon.

2 Napoleon-Era Newspaper

Create a Napoleon-era newspaper, suggests author and social studies teacher at the Village Community School in New York, Joan Brodsky Schur. Divide your class into groups of five or six students each and assign responsibilities, such as copy editing, writing, designing layouts, organizing pictures and creating headlines. Provide newspaper-creation software or templates for your class to use. Give your class ideas for the content of the newspaper, such as Napoleon's rise to power or how the Napoleonic era changed Europe, recommends Schur. Students might also include editorials and a section on famous artists or writers in their newspaper.

3 Wartime Posters

Make individual wartime posters that either advertise and solicit young soldiers to join Napoleon's army or encourage French patrons to stay out of the war. Students can choose the angle they want to take. Instruct students to include statistical information about the French Revolution and use photographs or drawings of Napoleon on their posters. Allow students to use the Internet and the school library to research facts about Napoleon and his wars. Display the finished posters around the room for classmates and visitors to see.

4 Napoleon Resumés

Write individual resumés for Napoleon, stressing his education, previous work experience and admirable character traits. Allow students to use online resources to research Napoleon's historical timeline and his successes. Because resumés stress the positive, remind students that Napoleon also had shortcomings, but they shouldn't include them on his resumé. This hands-on activity serves a two-fold purpose -- it offers a deeper understanding of Napoleon's victories and conquests and allows high school students to practice writing resumés.

As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.