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Accelerating Student Learning and Motivation in Your U.S. History Classroom

Film Video Resources

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Historical Stories and Unit Hooks
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1.  Glory – excellent film detailing the African-American role in the Civil War.  I like using the title of the film as a theme.  Who achieves glory in the film?  In which ways do they do this?

 

Starring:  Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, Matthew Broderick (1989)


Online Lesson:  NARA:  Teaching With Documents Lesson Plan:
The Fight for Equal Rights: Black Soldiers in the Civil War”

http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/blacks-civil-war/

 

The Origins of the 54th Massachusetts and Glory Video Questions:  I use these questions as a method of assessment when using the film in my classroom.

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2.  Tucker:  The Man and His Dream – details the building of the Tucker automobile in the late 1940s and the roadblocks faced by Preston Tucker in realizing his dream.  I use this film to show how Social Darwinism was used by the great industrialists in a negative way.

 

Starring:  Jeff Bridges, Martin Landau (1988)

 

Online Site:  “Tucker Automobile Pages:  Keeping the Legend Online”.  Contains history, images, and other information that is helpful when students ask for more information after watching the film.

http://www.tuckerclub.org/

 

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3.  Fat Man and Little Boy – Details the process the government, military and scientists went through to develop the atomic bomb in the early 1940s.  I use the 2nd half of this film (once the scientists get to Los Alamos).  This film deals with the scientific background of the a-bomb, as well as the moral dilemmas felt by the scientists once its use became a reality.

 

Starring:  Paul Newman, John Cusack, Laura Dern (1989)

 

Online Lesson Plan: University of Richmond.

“The Decision to Drop the Bomb” (Webquest)

http://oncampus.richmond.edu/academics/education/projects/webquests/wwii/

 

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3.  Guilty By Suspicion – Details how post-WWII America quickly turned into a witch hunt for communists.  While this is a fictitious account of the Hollywood communist witch hunts, it is based on history.  I do not use the whole film – rather I use a scene near the start which shows the pressure put on individuals to “name names”.  I show the final court scene which shows the main character standing up to the inquiry and refusing to name any names.

 

Starring:  Robert DeNiro, George Wendt, Chris Cooper

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4.  Platoon – Since this film is rated R, I send home permission slips.  I feel strongly that students see this film which shows the difficulties faced by soldiers in Vietnam.  Everything from booby-traps to fragging (to deliberately injure or kill one's military leader), to the justifications for the war are covered.  I show the 2nd half of the film (I start where the platoon finds their first tunnel complex).

 

Starring:  Charlie Sheen, Willem Dafoe, Tom Berenger, Forrest Whittaker, Johnny Depp

 

Online Lesson:  Go to the webpage listed below, have students read 1 of the 4 personal accounts of the war, and using the jigsaw method, have them share their reading with the rest of the class.

PBS, Battlefield Vietnam.  http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/amex/vietnam/reflect/index.html

 

Platoon Video Questions:  I use these questions as a method of assessment when I show the film in class.

 

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5.  Matewan
This film highlights the coal mine strike in Matewan, West Virginia in 1920.  This is an excellent film to highlight the difficulties workers faced in unionizing - the government, the company, and themselves.  YouTube has an excellent clip from the film that highlights how infighting hurt unionizing efforts.