Letters from the Frontier: Reading and Writing Primary Documents
Objectives: Students will be able to:
Skills Addressed: Linguistic, Logical, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal.
Interdisciplinary Connections: History/Social Studies, English/Language Arts, Psychology.
Length: Two to three fifty-minute class periods.
Materials: Internet access.
Products: News article based on the events surrounding George Catlin's life; chart explaining how diction and syntax convey ideas and emotions; group log of letters between family members regarding Catlin's choices and their consequences and responses to concurrent national events.
Content Introduction: George Catlin made extensive observations on the various native peoples that he encountered on his travels west. He recorded his experiences in letters and notes. These documents provide us with critical information on the culture and daily lives of many Native American tribes in the nineteenth century. By examining Catlin's letters, students will gain a greater understanding of the tribes he encountered, the land they lived on, and who Catlin was as a person.
Part I is designed to introduce students to the concepts of diction and syntax and the power inherent in them. Students will also be exposed to the observations made by Catlin on his many travels west. By examining Catlin's choice and arrangement of words in his letters, students will gain a closer understanding of his ideas concerning American Indians, U.S. policy, and his own hopes and fears concerning his travels and the people he encountered.
Part II focuses on the value of role-playing in historical studies as a way to make history come alive. Students will have the opportunity to write their own letters and apply what they have learned to their own lives.