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A Lesson Writing a Short Story on a Civil War Theme

written by: Kellie Hayden • edited by: Wendy Finn • updated: 1/17/2012

The focus of this lesson is writing a short story that has historical relevance to the American Civil War. It can be an integrated lesson for the social studies and language arts teachers or a stand-alone writing lesson.

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    The Civil War short story lesson will teach students to read model stories about the war between states. Then, students will write their own historical fiction pieces.

    Goal: Students will write a short story that focuses on the war theme, idea or setting.

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    Step 1

    Share short stories that you have collected about the war with students. There are many interesting diaries that could be read as well.

    A few great online resource is as follows: The Lost Diaries of the American Civil War website. The website includes songs, poems, etc. Of course, there are many more resources available online and in print. There are other suggestions in the resource section of this lesson.

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    Step 2

    Students need to choose a theme or topic for their poems and short stories. They could can come up with ideas on their own or choose an idea from the following list:

    • Battle theme: Antietam, Gettysburg, Chancellorsville, Fredericksburg, The Wilderness, Richmond, Mechanicsburg, Murfreesboro, New Orleans, Vicksburg, Shiloh and Morgan's Raid
    • Relationship between a soldier and his girl back home
    • Theme of conflict between North and South
    • Soldiers and his family
    • A family from the South who has lost crops and animals to the soldiers
    • A famous person from the war

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    Step 3 -- Brainstorm Ideas

    The short story should focus on one or two main characters. Students can look at diaries to get ideas to write their stories. After students have an idea, they need to know the basic plot of the beginning, middle and end before they start writing. Many students cannot end their pieces and ramble on for pages to a weak ending. If students know their ending before they begin, the story will truly be stronger.

    Write a Civil War Short Story Write a draft: Tell students to follow their initial brainstorming ideas; however, changes can be made to the plot. Make sure that students include dialog (a conversation between characters in quotes.) If students are not familiar with using dialog, teach them that each time a different character speaks there needs to be a new paragraph. Also, the dialog should not be "stiff", and it should reflect the character's personality.

    Write a final copy: Student should write a final copy in pen or type it.

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    Assess the Writing

    Asses the students' work with a rubric. The criteria for the rubric could be historical relevance, use of dialog, use of characters, and spelling and grammar.

    The Civil War short story lesson is just the beginning of the Writing Activities Series. The short stories should be shared with the class and become part of a multi-genre writing project.

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    Civil War Historical Fiction,

    Lost Diaries,

    Multigenre Project,

    Using Rubrics,

    Women in the War,

    Photo credit:

    Kellie Hayden