TEL Lesson Plan
Keystone of the Southern Arch: The Civil War in Tennessee Online Exhibit

Grade Level: 8
Subject: Social Studies/United States History
Time Frame: 2 weeks


Students will enhance their understanding of the Civil War in Tennessee history by designing and creating an online exhibit. For this activity students will brainstorm ideas, locate and choose appropriate images, write summaries of important people, events, places, etc., and edit classmates' work.

Databases/Other Resources

General Reference Center Gold, General OneFile, Student Edition-K12, Tennessee Virtual Archive, TN History for Kids, Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, Tennessee Civil War Sourcebook


Students will be introduced to the project with a review of "A House Divided: America in the Age of Lincoln." Students will then use what they have learned about the Civil War to design an exhibit focusing on the Civil War in Tennessee. They will decide the specific focus of the exhibit as well as the individual components.


Steps for Teacher

Introduce the Project:

Review the Digital History exhibit "A House Divided: America in the Age of Lincoln" and be sure students consider the following:

Brainstorm Topics for a Tennessee Civil War Exhibit

Have the students create a list of potential topics for a Tennessee Civil War online exhibit.  Have students individually or in small groups list at least 20 topics.  They should be prepared to defend why their chosen topics are significant.  Students can brainstorm this list from prior knowledge and their textbooks.  Additionally students can skim and scan outside resources, including chapters 10 and 11 of TN History for Kids ( which discuss "the coming war" and "slaughter and chaos" in Tennessee.  Additionally they may use The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture by browsing the Civil War category
(, the Tennessee Civil War Sourcebook (, The Tennessee Virtual Archive ( and the National Parks Service's "Civil War Sites in Tennessee" (

Create a Master List of Potential Topics and Categorize 

Guide the students through the process of making a master list of all potential topics from their individual/small group brainstorming.  Next, have students place the topics into categories. This could be done in lists or concept maps
(  Be sure students understand that since the categories are still flexible at this point, a topic might fit into multiple categories.  From the categorized lists, have students determine what categories they would most like to feature and determine an overall focus for their exhibit. Next have the students choose which topics must be included in an exhibit with this focus.  

Assign Roles

All students will have writing and peer-editing responsibilities for this project.  You can differentiate the level of difficulty for students by topic and role.  

Writer and Editor:  Students will be assigned one topic and will create an informative entry that describes the topic and explains its importance. They will be required to find an image that illustrates their topic and write an appropriate caption for the topic.  They must cite their sources, including giving credit for their images.  They will edit the work of two other students from the same category.  

Category Editor:  This student is required to read and edit each of the entries in a specific category.  The student will write an introduction to the category preparing readers for what they will learn about in the section of the online exhibit.  The student will find an image that is representative of the category as a whole.  

Exhibit Editor:  This student (or students) is responsible for reading all of the entries and writing an overall introduction to the exhibit.  This student will ensure that all of the entries relate to the main focus of the exhibit.  She will choose an image or images for the homepage of the exhibit.  This student can also be responsible for assisting other students in their research by suggesting sources and helping any student who might be struggling.  This student will have final say on the title of the exhibit, but should make this decision with classmate input.  

All students will peer edit the Category Editor's introduction and the Exhibit Editor's introduction.

Collaborate with a Librarian for Student Research

Work with your school librarian to guide students the process of research, locating images and using them ethically, and citing sources.

Lead Peer Editing Workshops

Prepare students for peer editing.  You may want to show them the Peer Edit with Perfection! tutorial.  Students should be required to answer to answer the following in their peer edits.

Students will need to be reminded that they are doing more than editing for grammar and mechanics.  They should focus specifically on the following areas when peer editing.

Digitize the Exhibit

Work with the librarian and/or technology coordinator at your school to guide the students through the process of putting their exhibit online.  This could be done in a variety of ways, though the Web Poster Wizard from 4Teachers is recommended (  

Give the Students an Authentic Audience for their Work

Make the website available to other students, teachers, administrators, and parents.  Ask for feedback.  

Assess the Process and Product


Steps for Librarian

Collaborate to Introduce the Concept of the Digital Exhibit

Assist the classroom teacher in leading the discussion about "A House Divided:  America in the Age of Lincoln." Help guide students into understanding the organization and focus of the exhibit.  

Prepare Students for Brainstorming Activity

Create a website listing relevant sites and briefly introduce students to each:  

Collaborate to Guide Students through the Process of Focusing and Categorizing

As the teacher creates a master list, help the students see connections, think of categories and potential foci for the exhibit.  Be sure to remind students of the need to keep the focus manageable and the categories relevant.  

Prepare Students to Research their Topics

Show students how to locate information on their individual topics.  Review the websites from the brainstorming section and introduce them to relevant databases.  They will need to understand basic database vocabulary including the difference between a subject search and a keyword search; types of sources including books, periodicals, magazines, and academic journals, book reviews;  and the difference between citations, abstracts and full text. 

Discuss note taking methods with students to be sure they will be able to cite all of their information sources.  

Database Sample Searches
General Reference Center Gold
  • civil war AND tennessee
  • Earl Van Dorn
General OneFile
  • tennessee and rivers and civil war
  • Nathan Bedford Forrest
Student Edition K12
  • shiloh national military park (as subject)
  • shiloh national military park (as keyowrd)

Help Students Locate Copyright Friendly Images

Discuss ethical use of images in web based projects with students.  Help them to locate images that they may reproduce on their website and discuss proper attribution.  

Assist Exhibit Editor 

This student may feel confused about the role until other students' writing is complete, but s/he will need to be prepared to read about all of the topics being written about.  This student should read basic information about Tennessee's role in the Civil War and may need guidance to stay focused. 

Collaborate with Teacher and/or Technology Coordinator to Digitize the Project

Streamline the online aspects of the project.  Create the site template and show students how to upload information and images.  

Review Citation Style 

Assist students in citing all sources used.  

Assess the Process and Product

Assess the use of sources, synthesis, and ethical use of information and images.  


Steps for Student

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

Related Activities

Content Standards

Social Studies--Grade 8


Content Standard: 5.0


History involves people, events, and issues. Students will evaluate evidence to develop comparative and casual analyses, and to interpret primary sources. They will construct sound historical arguments and perspectives on which informed decisions in contemporary life can be based.

Learning Expectations/Grade Level Expectations

Content Standard: 5.0

Learning Expectations:


5.20 Identify Tennessee's role within the Civil War.


Performance Indicators State

Content Standard: 5.0

Performance Indicators:


8.5.tpi.6. give examples of Tennessee's political, social, economic, and geographic role in the divisions of the United States.

8.5.tpi.7. diagram causes and consequences of major American conflicts such as the Revolutionary War and Civil War.


Teacher assessment:  Web Project Rubric (

Librarian assessment:  Assess the use of sources, synthesis, and ethical use of information and images.  

ISTE Computer Literacy and Usage Standards

3. Research and Information Fluency
Students apply digital tools to gather, evaluate, and use information. Students:

a. plan strategies to guide inquiry.
b. locate, organize, analyze, evaluate, synthesize, and ethically use information from a variety of sources andmedia.
c. evaluate and select information sources and digital tools based on the appropriateness to specific tasks.
d. process data and report results.

AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner

1. Inquire, think critically, and gain knowledge.

2. Draw conclusions, make informed decisions, apply knowledge to new situations, and create new knowledge.

3. Share knowledge and participateethically andproductively asmembers of ourdemocratic society.