Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Bring the Titanic Into Your History Class!

100 years later and the world is still fascinated by this haunting tragedy. How it could happen, who was responsible for it, why did so many die, etc. are only some of the recurring questions that continue to haunt us today. National Geographic, Science Channel, History Channel, etc. pursue new insights into answering such questions on a regular basis and always attract sizable audiences without fail.

If you are covering the Titanic in class (or planning to do so), why not take a look at these sites? Obviously your English only students will benefit from them, but your ELL will most definitely need them if s/he is to be able to take in the full extent of the disaster. Remember for her/him, it is not just the academic academic that will be unfamiliar, but also the historical time period.

TITANIC -- you will find many activities on this site to assist students in studying the event. My favorite is a timeline where events are out of order and students must re-order them. ELLs working in small teams (either with 1 partner or in a group of 4) would find this activity quite accessible since photos accompany the sentences. Within such a small group, the ELL would be able to interact with fellow group members who would provide support to the ELL in navigating the language. This setting would build listening and speaking skills for the ELL since the ELL would be working within a low anxiety environment. Further, the academic language would grow since the ELL would have multiple opportunities to seek and receive clarification on unfamiliar content vocabulary.

The following 3 sites all offer film footage on the ship. The first two are actual video news clips of the Titanic that are 100 years old. The last one is current and goes over in detail how it came to its untimely end.


What kind of assignments did I give my students as final projects? They had their choice from the following activities.

1. Reconstructing the ship so it would stay afloat and write a composition to explain their changes.
2. Draw a picture of yourself in a life boat. Describe in detail what you see as the disaster unfurls
3. You are a passenger in steerage looking out at lifeboats knowing you won't be in one. Explain what you are feeling as you know you are doomed.
4. You are one of many judges who must decide who should be held responsible for this disaster. Make a case that will assign guilt to someone (your choice based on the people associated with White Star Line).

All projects are done with groups and every member of the group will be held accountable for fulfilling her/his part. Rubrics will be used and those rubrics will be a combination of what both teacher and students identify as important to grade.


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