It is possible to trace events in history through government records, newspapers, legal documents, etc. However, to understand the effects of historical events on the lives of the people who lived them, we often resort to letters and journals or diaries. While the ability to read and write was not as universal in the past as it is today, journals and diaries still provided a voice for people caught up in the avalanche of history. These handouts are designed to explore the role of diaries and journals in retrieving and recording our past.
For a cooperative learning experience and inclusion in an interdisciplinary unit (LA/Social Studies), you may want to pair this unit with Westward Expansion Research It Map It Draw it - A Cooperative Learning Unit by CK Teaching Aides.
Journals and Diaries - Information Sheet
The information sheet is a two page handout defining the role of journals and diaries in recording the history of Westward Expansion. It provides examples, both historical and contemporary, which highlight the importance of detail. A completed note card illustrates the use of detail in an entry from the Journals of Lewis and Clark. A blank note card is also available to encourage the careful reading and recording of detail from a contemporary entry. (You may want to refer to the bibliography at the end of the unit for useful websites containing other examples of historical journals.)
This section gives students experience in writing their own contemporary journal entries. It contains instruction and a list of suggested topics but the teacher is free to add to the list or create an alternate one. Blank note cards are included to encourage students to make detailed notes before writing their entries. A completed note card and entry also illustrates the assignment.
Westward Expansion - Journals
The handouts in this section represent the Westward Expansion period of American history. We present five pictures to represent this period. The instructions ask students to study the pictures and record the details they see on the blank note cards provided. They may want to add information they have uncovered while studying the period in Social Studies. Number of pictures or entries assigned is left to the teacher.