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Once the unit is under way, students will use their expanding knowledge to create a newspaper describing battles and other events from the period. This activity will introduce a study of news writing and how it differs from other genres. It also ties in nicely with class study of Civil War battles and leaders. Other possible topics for inclusion are medical concerns and advancements, as well as excerpts from famous speeches. Students will be researching these and other topics for various activities; a little teamwork and planning will allow students to pull their information into a cohesive project that shows their understanding of the whole picture of the Civil War. The first step to creating a newspaper is to discuss the style and format of news writing. Begin by bringing newspapers for the class to read for several days. The teacher can point out an article or two of interest for the class to read together, then let students choose articles they find interesting. A class discussion of the articles should include how they are different from the other types of texts they usually read. Students should realize (or be led to realize) that newspaper writing is different because it’s strictly factual, the articles are comparatively short, and it’s informative rather than entertaining. During this news writing lesson, students should be taught the five questions every article should answer: who? what? When? Where? and how?
Working in pairs, students will then research different newspapers and articles from the Civil War era.
These sites also include actual letters and diaries written during the Civil War, because this will help students get a feel for what was happening both on the battlefields and on the home front. Students will then decide which topic they wish to write about for their newspaper. The paper should include descriptions of at least three battles, three articles of “local interest,” news from around the world, and (optional) and editorial page. Students may also choose to write and illustrate a cartoon page (to appeal to the artistic/visual learners). Since there is a war going on, it is perfectly acceptable for students to assume that a small local paper would only be printed weekly. This would allow for several events to be covered in one newspaper, even though they did not actually happen in the same day or even the same week.
Students will write drafts of their articles and edit their own work before submitting it to the “editor.” This can either be a panel of students or combination of students and the teacher, depending on the size and editing skills of the class. Once all the revisions have been made, students will type their articles and put the newspaper together using desktop publishing. (For lower-tech classrooms, the old-fashioned cut-and-paste method will work just as effectively). For added effect, students may choose to illustrate some of the articles with original artwork (e.g., drawings of famous leaders, battle scenes, etc.).
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Students will create a Civil War-era newspaper telling about events on the battlefield and other events of the time.