A Hands on Approach to Teaching Literature

Silgals BattleTrident Academy, a K-12 school in Mt. Pleasant for students with learning differences, offers students unique hands-on opportunities to become engaged in their lessons. Ninth graders in Ms. Silgals literature class just started a unit on The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, a historical novel that tells the story of the Battle of Gettysburg in the Civil War.

Being a literature class, they are reading the book – but, not in the traditional way. The students use Kindle e-readers, which are provided by the Trident Academy library. They then research each battle involved and recreate the battles using a large model of the Gettysburg battle site.

“With each unit, I bring the literature to life using a multisensory approach,” Silgals, a teacher and assistive technologist says. “By having the students recreate the scenes themselves, we’re going beyond just reading and watching a video. Plus, the Kindle offers students the ability to enlarge text, have text read aloud, and use the built-in dictionary as they come across unfamiliar words. With this approach, the students are more likely to comprehend and remember the literature.”

To prepare for reading the book, each student was assigned a specific battlefield at Gettysburg to research. After researching the battle field and discovering what each battle entailed, the student set up the field on the large Gettysburg battle site that sits in the center of the classroom. Each student told the story of that specific battle on the first day of engagements, July 2, 1863. While presenting to the class, each student had to defend how they had laid out the fields.

“It’s pretty cool, it’s exciting, I like it!” was the reply when Gregory Sullivan was asked about the project.

Kennedy McGinnis said, “It’s fun to learn about this historical site.”

Trident Academy has aligned its curriculum with the Common Core standards, and The Killer Angels is a national Common Core literature selection for ninth grade. Shaara was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1975 for this novel and Ken Burn later adapted the text for his PBS movie of the same name.

For more information, contact Mary Silgals at msilgals@tridentacademy.com or 843-884-7046.

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