The Titanic: Shifting Responses to Its Sinking
In 1912, popular media headlined the sinking of the world’s largest luxury passenger ocean liner while on its maiden voyage. Newspapers captivated the world’s attention with stories from survivors and about victims who did not survive. Students will examine responses to the disaster and evaluate bias and different ways information is presented, and then apply what they learn to interpreting a political cartoon about the sinking of the Titanic.
Students will be able to:
examine a set of primary sources and grapple with incongruities of information and bias;
construct an account of events based on multiple sources; and
Interpret a political cartoon about the event in light of what they've learned.
Briefly survey students to assess their background or prior knowledge of the Titanic; invite students to brainstorm what they know about the Titanic either from modern media or historical knowledge. Have them also identify where they learned each piece of information.
Review the concept of primary sources as necessary. Primary sources are the raw materials of history — original documents and objects which were created at the time under study. They are different from secondary sources, accounts or interpretations of events created by someone without firsthand experience.
Tell students that analyzing primary sources and comparing the information found in multiple sources is one way to construct knowledge about historical events. Tell them that the class will work together to analyze one primary source, and then students will become investigators of the event through the use of additional historical materials.
Display or distribute The Great Titanic Disaster and ask students to consider what can be learned from this photograph about the sinking of the Titanic. Model how to record ideas on the Primary Source Analysis Tool. Before beginning the activity, select questions from the teacher's guide to Analyzing Primary Sources focus and prompt analysis and discussion. Students will use this same process independently in groups as they continue to learn about the Titanic.
Activity Two (one class period)
Divide class into groups of 3– 4 students each for this activity. Tell students that they will study and analyze newspaper accounts from the days and weeks after the sinking of the Titanic to re-construct an account of the historical event.
Distribute copies of New-York tribune. April 16, 1912 and the Primary Source Analysis Tool. Direct the teams to examine and study the newspaper, discuss it, and record their thinking on the Primary Source Analysis Tool. Before beginning the activity, select questions from the teacher's guide Analyzing Primary Sources to focus and prompt analysis and discussion. Be prepared to focus student attention on the intended audience for the newspaper, who created the newspaper, and possible biases reflected in the article.
Working as a group or individually, students should write a summary of the sinking of the Titanic. (They will revisit the summary in the next activity.)
Activity Three (one class period)
Review student summaries from the previous activity as necessary.
Distribute copies of one or more additional newspaper accounts and additional Primary Source Analysis Tools to each group. Direct the teams to carefully examine the new information, discuss it, and record their thinking on the Primary Source Analysis Tool. Before beginning the activity, select questions from the teacher's guide Analyzing Primary Sources to focus and prompt analysis and discussion. Be prepared to focus student attention on the intended audience for the newspaper, who created the newspaper, and possible biases reflected in the article. How does the new information compare to the information in the newspaper analyzed in the previous activity?
Working as a group or individually, students should revise the summary of the sinking of the Titanic, editing or adding information from the additional analysis.
Students should work in pairs or small groups to analyze the cartoon. Ideally, the students will have studied newspaper accounts with differing perspectives on who was responsible for the sinking of the Titanic.
Working individually or in pairs, students should respond to the cartoon, either agreeing or disagreeing with the point the cartoonist makes, based on their understanding of events from studying and analyzing the newspapers. Responses can be written or can take the form of a debate or other product.
Completed primary source analysis tools;
Teacher observation of student participation both as an individual and as a member of a group;