How do I use GBTN in my classroom?

Information for teachers


Organization: Topics, Details, and Questions

GBTN is divided into twelve Topics accessible from the home page, each with several Details. Each Detail includes text, an infographic or illustration, thought provoking Question(s), and links to the source(s) of the information. The intent of the Question(s) is to help students connect to the battle “numbers” personally and in the context of their own experience. Most of these open-ended questions require further research using both GBTN’s recommended resources and other tools, such as web searches, library/media center materials or interviews in your local community. Some of the questions are ideal for open-ended discussions in small groups or a whole class. Learn more about the questions here. You may want to coordinate with your teacher-librarian to incorporate information literacy skills as you study Gettysburg by the Numbers.

Tricky topics: Teacher thoughts

With today’s news and concerns about violence, terrorism, and guns, talking about a battle can be tricky. GBTN is written by teachers sensitive to these issues. There may be some topics your less mature students do not handle well, even with the careful wording of our Thinking Teachers. You know your students best. If the Casualties and Clean up information (even though “sanitized”) is too graphic for some less mature students, allow them steer clear of it. The horse manure detail will probably trigger a bit of class disruption, even though it is true. After some of the grim facts of the battle, some giggles might be helpful.

Some general explanations (some students will ask!)

Color matters:  GBTN uses the conventional designations of blue = Union and gray = Confederate. You may need to point this out to students who may never have heard the Civil War discussed in terms of “blue and gray.” Have your students look for other graphical conveyors of information using color, icons, shape, symbols, etc. Your most visual students may catch things even you did not notice.

About the flags: There were not 50 states in 1863. Just prior to the Civil War years, the U.S. went from 33 to 34 states with the addition of Kansas. During the war years, the official U.S. flag went from 33 to 36 stars. You can read more about flags of the time here and here. At the time of the Battle of Gettysburg, many flags were still sewn by hand, and there were likely many variations present at the battle. GBTN uses the circular arrangement of stars because we know this design was popular during the time period, even with varying numbers of stars. If your students are interested in knowing more about the flags, this would be a perfect research project!

Teacher materials

The Big Picture Word document version for typed answers
The Big Picture printable version for hand-written answers
The Big Picture Resource match (Word doc that tells which resources provide the Big Picture answers. This is useful for weaker students who may not know where to look.)
The Big Picture Answer Key (Editable Word document. Note that some answers may vary!)
Editable Assignment sheet for extension projects
Editable Rubric for assessment of extension projects

Additional “vetted” resources from TeachersFirst

You may want to share these lists with students doing extended projects. These lists include resources for all grade levels. The resources listed on The Big Picture are an “Editors’ Choice” subset from these larger collections:

TeachersFirst’s resources tagged “Civil War”
TeachersFirst’s resources tagged “Gettysburg”
TeachersFirst’s resources tagged “Gettysburg Address”

Technical considerations:

GBTN requires nothing special and is tablet-friendly. Some of the suggested resources on the Big Picture may require Flash (does not work on iPads), but there are plenty of others that do not. GBTN itself does NOT require Flash. Smaller devices such as smart phones may have screen sizes too small to be able to view GBTN infographics easily. An app version of GBTN will be available soon.

Lessons and options

Here are just some of the possible lesson formats to use GBTN:

Big picture (Battle Basics) to By the Numbers details - 1-2 days Big Picture overview, 1-3+ days Delve into the Details

Click the Big Picture (large battle image) on the GBTN home page to enter The Big Picture. Spend one class day (and possibly some homework time) having students get the basics by completing the Big Picture handout, available as a Word document so student can type in their answers or as a pdf printable so they can hand write answers. Feel free to adapt the Word version to add questions as required by your curriculum. Students can start by clicking the Big Picture at Gettysburg by the Numbers (click on the large image) to find resources to answer the questions individually or in small groups. The only answer they may need to research at other sites is the one about distances. Try Google Maps. Here is The Big Picture Resource match that shows where to find the answers amid the Big Picture resource list. Here is The Big Picture Answer Key.

On subsequent class days (or for homework), have students explore Gettysburg by the Numbers topics and details. Depending on the number of days you have, you can assign student groups to each topic area and have partners or individuals research and respond to the questions included with each detail. Use the full question list to help you steer students to an area of personal interest and/or higher or lower level thinking questions to differentiate for individual students.

Adapt and use the Editable Assignment sheet and Editable Rubric to assess student work.

Sources and Numbers - 1-2 days Information literacy lessons followed by your choice of any GBTN lesson format from this list


Numbers First - 1-2 days exploring the numbers, 1-2 days ”backfilling” the BIG picture, 1 day wrap up

Spend the first two days with a quick tour followed by small group/partner exploration of the 12 Topics. Wrap up each class with sharing of the questions that students found intriguing and discussion of where they might go to find the answers.

Have students select a question they are interested in and answer it as a 2-3 day homework assignment.  If you think they can handle a full extension project, use the Editable Assignment sheet and Editable Rubric. Note: students who require a lot of guidance may have trouble completing this on their own, and parents will not be much help. Know you students and decide how much “discomfort” you want them to experience in order to learn! You might want to simply ask for a short paragraph response and grade this homework based on visible effort and inquiry rather than results.

Spend 1-2 days of class time having students complete the Big Picture individually or with partners. Word and pdf handouts available above.

Have a “Share the Numbers” day when students share what they learned in exploring questions, which details they found most compelling, and a whole class discussion of some of the heavier questions you believe would be meaningful to your students. Conclude with students writing a sentence or two about what really struck them about Gettysburg. Prompts could include: I never really thought about Gettysburg until I found out… or Gettysburg is more than just a boring battlefield to me now because…

“Flip” the Numbers - 1- 2 nights independent work on Big Picture; 2-4 days in-class exploration and collaboration on the Numbers

Assign the Big Picture as homework over two nights, allowing collaboration if you wish.

Allow students to explore GBTN for most of a class period, selecting a topic they wish to pursue in detail for homework and the next day. Each student or group creates a simple project or post to a class wiki/blog with their findings.

During the in-class project time, facilitate sharing among students to help find information and/or create projects using technology tools. Projects can be done individually or in groups of 2-3.

Limited Tech - 1 day “traditional” Big Picture; 1 day with the numbers; 1 day sharing. Ideal for classrooms with limited tech availability. This is also a good contingency plan if your Internet dies!

Half of the class uses books and print (on-tech) materials to complete Big Picture handouts while the other half explores GBTN topics and details in small groups (2-3 per computer). Reverse the next day.

Homework responding to a detail question of personal choice, either tech or non-tech.

Whole class sharing and discussion using GBTN on a projector or interactive whiteboard and a single computer.

Adding up GBTN together (interdisciplinary) - 1 day math class with the numbers, 1 day social studies class Big Picture; 2-3 classes (math AND SS) exploring GBTN topics and details, including connections to relevant math concepts.

In Math class, have students explore the Numbers in small groups, looking for as many math concepts as they can find and naming them. Students can list the concepts on paper or report them on a class wiki.

In Social Studies class, student groups complete the Big Picture. Have some groups start at the end and work backwards so every question is answered in the class. Students are responsible for completing all the information from classmates or for homework.

The next day(s) explore topics and details n both math and SS classes, selecting and answering questions that apply math concepts further. Students share chosen questions and responses (using appropriate math terms and explanations of their process) on math/SS wiki pages.

Personal Connections - The most independent option: 5 days exploration, Big Picture, and personal extension. Ideal for 1:1 programs and/or gifted/motivated students

Intro site and provide rubric for completely independent work. At the end of 5 days, all students must have completed Big Picture and ONE personal connection project based on a detail question.

Students work independently at school and at home. Students decide which work to complete first but are accountable for completing all by the deadline.

Teacher accepts alternative projects or extensions proposed by students.

All projects are shared digitally for others to comment, explore, and learn from each other.

One day Battle Blitz - Single block schedule GBTN “blitz” session

First portion of class: teams start work on the Big Picture—completing for homework

Second portion of class: teams explore a topic assigned to them, selecting and completing a simpler extension question from that topic and posting results on a class wiki.

On the bus to Gettysburg (for classes lucky enough to experience the real thing!) - 1-2 days pre-field trip prep; 1 day on the bus with wifi/tablets

If you have not already studied Gettysburg, spend 1-2 class periods (or homework) with students completing the Big Picture.

As you drive to Gettysburg, use the wifi available on many charter buses for students and their seatmates to find a favorite topic and detail to look for in Gettysburg and/or share with classmates as you tour the battlefield.

After the trip, have students share their findings and reactions to the actual battlefield on a class wiki as “Gettysburg Surprises.”