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The AlamoThe-Alamo

  • Subject: U.S. History
  • |
  • Grade(s): 9-12
  • |
  • Duration: One class period

Lesson Plan Sections

Objectives


Students will understand the following:
1. People today still hold strong opinions about long-ago historical events.
2. Many issues surrounding the Battle of the Alamo are still being debated.

Materials


For this lesson, you will need:
Computer with Internet access

Procedures


1. This project is designed to help students recognize that even though the Battle of the Alamo took place in 1836 people today still think about and debate questions and issues surrounding the event. That is, for some people history lives. Students can review disparate opinions about the battle by contemporary commentators, evaluate the commentators' accuracy or reasoning, and summarize the latest thinking about Alamo issues. To begin with, direct students to Alamo de Parras: The Untold Story of the Alamo's Early History, which can be foundhere. Alamo de Parras is a member-supported compendium of Alamo and Texas revolutionary information and exchange on the Internet for use by school children, historians, and anyone interested in the Alamo. The staff of the ADP site includes leading historians, archaeologists, and educational consultants.
2. Once students have entered the site, direct them to click on War Room. There students will find an archive of Alamo questions that have been posted each month since 1997 and numerous responses to each question by ordinary people and by history buffs. Encourage students to select a few questions and read some of the comments posted in response to each. To give you an idea of the questions you and your students will find at the site, here is a random sample:
  • Should the fallen Mexican dead be memorialized?
  • Should Santa Anna have been tried and executed at San Jacinto?
  • Were Texan colonists justified in their grievances toward the Mexicans?
  • How good a cavalry officer was William B. Travis?
3. Urge students to discuss how they as open-minded readers should evaluate the posted responses to a given question at this site. Here are some questions you will probably want your students to raise:
  • Do any of the writers state their credentials?
  • Does the writer sound rational, or does he or she sound highly emotional? Do we tend to believe a writer who sounds rational, or do we have more faith in an emotional writer?
  • Does the writer seem to know what he or she is talking about? What makes you say so?
  • What information that you didn't know before does the writer provide?
  • How can you confirm whether the writer has the facts straight or not?
  • What have you noticed about the logic—or lack of logic—in the writer's argument?
4. Now that students have surveyed the War Room in a general way, ask each student to go back for a more thorough analysis. Each student should select one of the posted questions and read all the responses it attracted. Each student should then write a report that
  • summarizes the variety of opinions expressed in response to the question;
  • evaluates the validity of the different positions;
  • suggests what additional research the student will have to do, if any, to resolve the different opinions expressed; and
  • concludes by telling whether the student's own thinking has been affected by the posted responses—and how.
5. If a number of students have selected the same question to study in depth, have them share their reports with one another and challenge one another on their conclusions.
6. Ask students what this activity has taught them about the academic field known as history.

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Adaptations


Instead of asking students to select questions from the War Room archives, you yourself should do the selecting. Select one question and a number of the responses to it. Make sure that the answers take two or more positions. Reproduce the selected question and answers, and guide the class as a whole through your analysis of the material. Model for students what thoughts go through your mind as you look over responses from different contributors to the conversation. That is, demonstrate for students what it means to be an active, questioning reader. Then, to see if students have learned the skill you've just demonstrated, consider selecting a second question and a number of the answers it received for students to take turns analyzing aloud.

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Discussion Questions


1. During which war did the Battle of the Alamo occur? Who was fighting against whom?
2. What was the outcome of the battle?
3. When and why did men cry, "Remember the Alamo!"? What was the outcome of that battle?
4. Who was Sam Houston?
5. What kind of relationship exists between Texas and Mexico today?

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Evaluation


You can evaluate your students' written reports using the following three-point rubric:
  • Three points: report significantly addresses all four parts of the assignment (see Procedures); report is completely coherent and unified; report is error-free in grammar, usage, and mechanics
  • Two points: report fairly well addresses all four parts of the assignment; report is mostly coherent and unified; report has only a few errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics
  • One point: report does not address all four parts of the assignment; report lacks coherence and unity; report has many errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics
You can ask your students to contribute to the assessment rubric by having them determine the minimum number of sentences they should write for their summaries of the posted responses.

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Extensions


Travis's Appeal
Read students the following letter written by William Barret Travis on the second day of the siege of the Alamo.
Commandancy of the Alamo
Bexar, Feby 24th, 1836

 
To the People of Texas and All Americans in the World—
Fellow Citizens and Compatriots
 
I am besieged with a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna. I have sustained a continual Bombardment and cannonade for 24 hours and have not lost a man. The enemy has demanded surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison is to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken. I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, and our flag still waves proudly over the wall. I shall never surrender or retreat. Then, I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism, of everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid with all dispatch. The enemy is receiving reinforcements daily and will no doubt increase to three or four thousand in four or five days. If this call is neglected I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible and die like a soldier who never forgets what is due his honor and that of his country.
 
VICTORY OR DEATH
 
William Barret Travis
Lt. Col. Comd't

 
P.S. The Lord is on our side—when the enemy appeared in sight we had not three bushels of corn—We have since found in deserted houses 80 or 90 bushels & got into the walls 20 or 30 head of Beeves. Travis's son was six years old during the Battle of the Alamo. Ask students to discuss how Travis's son possibly reacted to this letter when he became old enough to understand what the battle was all about.

History Books versus the Movie
Encourage students to view the 1960 John Wayne film The Alamo, nominated for an Academy Award. Ask them to comment on how the movie reflects what they have learned about the Battle of the Alamo and how the movie departs from the historical record.

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Suggested Readings


Last Stand at the Alamo
by Alden R. Carter, Watts, 1990.
A re-telling of the traditional story of the Alamo.

Alamo: Battle of Honor and Freedom
by Linda R. Wade, Rourke, 1991.
A history of the Alamo and a tour of the fortress as it is today.

David Crockett: The Man Behind the Myth
by James Wakefield Burke, Eakin Press, 1984.
A biography of the wilderness scout, politician and hero of the Alamo.

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Links


The Alamo
Containing a nice chronology, a list of the defenders' names and a copy of Travis' letter, this site is useful as an overview of the events.

The Alamo: An Illustrated Chronology
The Daughters of the Republic of Texas have a wonderful chronology of the Alamo from the time it was built to the present. There is a wealth of information on the heroes of the Alamo, an interesting pictorial history of the Alamo and the fascinating story of the preservation of this historic site.

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Vocabulary


Click on any of the vocabulary words below to hear them pronounced and used in a sentence.

speaker    garrison
Definition: A group of soldiers based in a town and ready to defend it.
Context: The Mexican troops attacked the garrison that had sought shelter in the Alamo.

speaker    militia
Definition: A citizen army.
Context: Jim Bowie organized a local militia for which he served as captain.

speaker    mission
Definition: A ministry commisioned by a religion to spread its faith.
Context: The Alamo itself is not a fortress at all, but a sprawling 100-year-old Spanish mission.

speaker    palisade
Definition: A fence of sharpened sticks or stakes that forms a defensive barrier.
Context: The intruders scaled the rough wooden palisade like a ladder and poured into the plaza of the Alamo.

speaker    pyre
Definition: A pile of combustibles for burning a corpse(s).
Context: The remaining Alamo defenders were thrown on the funeral pyre.

speaker    republic
Definition: A constitutional form of government.
Context: A convention of fifty-nine delegates gathered to establish the independent Republic of Texas.

speaker    revolution
Definition: The overthrow of a government or a political system.
Context: In 1836, Texas was still a territory of Mexico, but the revolution had begun.

speaker    siege
Definition: A military blockade of a city or fortified place to force it to surrender.
Context: The thirteen day siege of the Alamo has begun.

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Standards


This lesson plan may be used to address the academic standards listed below. These standards are drawn from Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education: 2nd Edition and have been provided courtesy of theMid-continent Research for Education and Learningin Aurora, Colorado.
 
Grade level: 6-8
Subject area: United States History
Standard:
Understands the United States territorial expansion between 1801 and 1861, and how it affected relations with external powers and Native Americans.
Benchmarks:
Understands elements of the relationship between Texas and Mexico in the mid-19th century (e.g., American settlement in Mexico's Texas, the Texas Revolution, the American defeat at the Alamo).

Grade level: 9-12
Subject area: United States History
Standard:
Understands the United States territorial expansion between 1801 and 1861, and how it affected relations with external powers and Native Americans.
Benchmarks:
Understands Mexican and American perspectives of events leading to the Mexican-American War (e.g., the Alamo, the treatment of Mexicans and Cherokees loyal to the Texas Revolution in the Lone Star Republic prior to 1846).

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Credit


Francine Weinberg, writer of educational materials.

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