Sunday, April 11, 2010

It’s News! Assignments

This week’s news story on Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell reinstating Confederate History Month inspired a series of assignment ideas on incorporating news in our history classes. Confederate History Month and the manner that it was proposed by McDonnell would make a great debate/discussion question. Topics for this question might include:

1. Why do we designate months to remember categories of history and is this still necessary in today’s world?
2. What is the controversy around this history month and how should we remember this important war in our nation’s history?
3. What were the causes of the Civil War? Social, Economic, Political?
4. Why is the Civil War romanticized?
5. How are state’s rights important then and now?

A second assignment idea is to have students search for history in the news (any medium would be appropriate) and report to the class about the current news story they found. Additionally students should report how that news relates to history, did the news include all the important historical information, and whether the student’s knowledge of history effects how they understand and view the news report.

Finally, pick a couple of events in the period of study and have the students write newspaper articles as if they were reporting the event at the time it occurred. For example, a student might imagine they are reporting for the “Valley Virginian” on the Battle of the Monitor and Merrimac in Virginia waters. One resource you don’t want to miss on the Civil War, which includes primary source newspapers, is The Valley of the Shadow Project.

No matter which assignment you try, incorporating current news in our history courses can help students find the study of history relevant and interesting.

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