Getting students up and out of their desks is a great way to increase engagement. If anything else, setting up learning stations for your students to rotate through will create a sense of genuine curiosity. Most students will be naturally intrigued and interested in learning because the lesson delivery is new and different. Utilizing a station activity works extremely well for introducing or reviewing the major battles of the Civil War.
Before starting the lesson, I like to go over the learning goals and expectations for the activity. First, I introduce and explain the data collection page. At each battle station, students are required to record the location, leaders, and victors. Collecting information at each station will keep students focused, on track, and ready to learn. It also provides students with an excellent introduction or review of the decisive Civil War battles.
At this point, students are ready to rotate through the battle stations. I like to focus on eight different battles/events: Battle of Fort Sumter, Battle of Bull Run, Battle of Shiloh, Battle of Antietam, Battle of Gettysburg, Siege of Vicksburg, Sherman’s March to the Sea, and the Confederate surrender at Appomattox Court House. Each station includes an authentic picture and informational text corresponding to that specific battle. Students are placed in mixed ability groups and told where to begin their rotations. In order to keep students focused and on-task for the duration of each rotation, I like to use a timer. I set the timer at four minutes to begin with, and adjust the time up or down as needed.
In order for students to be successful, the information included at each station is concise. Remember, the purpose of the lesson is to introduce or review the decisive Civil War battles. Pairing down the text and including a picture makes it easier for students to digest the material and record the necessary information on their data collection page. I don’t want students to become overwhelmed. Analyzing the Civil War battles in this way gives students an opportunity to step back and see the bigger picture. Ideally, students will build a strong foundation from which to work as we continue our Civil War unit.
After the rotations are complete, it’s time for the extension activity. I have students use their data collection page to write an informational paragraph about one of the Civil War battles. Each paragraph should include the battle/event name, location, leaders from each side, and victor. The paragraph assignment is a great way to end the lesson. It gives students a chance to review a major battle, and provides a concrete conclusion to the activity.