Lesson 1: Eyewitness to History

Time required: 40 minutes

Materials: Research tools such as a computer or encyclopedia, Teen Life in 1914 Student Worksheet A

Getting Started:
1. Write the following statement on the board: Two students had a disagreement in the hallway. What happened?
2. Moderate a classroom discussion about how the principal might discover what actually happened. Define perspective (point of view) for students and ask what different points of view there might be regarding a public disagreement between two students (participants, teachers, friends of each participant, parents, etc.). Ask: Why is it interesting and useful to look at an event from different perspectives?
3. Tell students that wars have many different sides. In World War I, for example, a German soldier, a French nurse, and an American civilian all may have regarded the same event from a different point of view.
4. Explain that in the book and movie War Horse, the story is told through the eyes of a cavalry horse. Ask: Why might an animal’s perspective on war be unique?
5. Explain that historical fiction provides a unique window into the past. The setting and secondary characters may reflect real events and people, but the story and main characters are usually fictional. Historical fiction stories can be found in books, magazines, art, television, and movies. Ask: What are the benefits of this blend of fact and fiction? (Fictional characters within a historical setting can observe and comment on events from unique perspectives.)
6. Place students in pairs and ask them to choose a historical period or event from a work of historical fiction they are reading in class.
7. Instruct the partners to each choose a different perspective on the same event and write something, as if he or she were actually there. Students can write a poem, a journal entry, a newspaper editorial, or a letter.
8. Share the completed assignments as a class.

Classroom Extension:
Distribute a copy of Teen Life in 1914 Student Worksheet A to each student and discuss it as a class. Encourage students to complete the research assignment alone or in groups, then share and discuss the results.

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