Teaching the U.S. – Dakota War of 1862

Guest blogger: Laura Pasiuk, Century Middle School, Lakeville


As I thought of what to write my blog post on I decided to write about how I teach the US Dakota War of 1862.   I just started teaching about it this week and I thought it would be helpful for my own personal reflection and perhaps give some ideas for other teachers to use.    To set the stage of the US Dakota war my teaching partner Christy and I used something called a History Mystery, we actually received this idea at the Northern Lights workshop that we attended in November at the MN History Center.   It was a great way for my students to analyze primary sources and set the stage for what they will be learning about when we study the war.

We spend 4 days reading the different sections of chapter 9 and taking Cornell Notes.   I like to cover each of the four main parts of the war: Setting the Stage, Government and Tensions, War, and Aftermath.   I also use some additional resources each day to enhance what we are learning.   For setting the stage I read pages 46-47, 76 and 211-212 from Little House on the Prairie to show what the white settlers view was of the Dakota.  For government and tensions I read the first chapter from Battle Cry I think it does a great job of reinforcing the Dakota’s frustrations.   For war we read as a class the Eggs Play, the kids think its fun and it gets them moving.   For aftermath I use the History Centers webpage about the war to review aftermath and today.

After we read we show the TPT documentary “A Terrible Massacre”, and I have questions that my students answer.   It’s free on MN Video Vault, which is nice.  This year we are also doing something new that we came up with.   We took events from the timeline of the US Dakota War that is on the History Center’s website.   We chose 16 events that we thought were the most important.   We separated the events and the dates and printed them on large sheets of paper, laminated them and put magnetic tape on them.   We are going to draw a timeline on our white board and give each of the 32 slips of paper to different students.   We are going to read through the script once and assist our students in putting the events and dates in the correct order.   Then after we do this once we are then going to give the class 5 minutes to get them in the correct order on their own.   If they can get it correct on their own then the whole class gets candy.

To wrap up the chapter we give our students a group test.   We allow them to use their notes and it’s a great way to teach them to work together and inspires good dissucction.   Logistically it also cuts down the number of tests that I have to grade down by a lot.   If I have extra time before the test I have my students create a powerful word quilt, see attached images from last year.






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