High School Essays On The Civil War

The Gilder Lehrman Institute presents an annual essay contest for Gilder Lehrman Affiliate School students in grades 6–12. Students examine the nation’s most divisive conflict through letters, speeches, songs, photographs, newspapers, military orders, and other documents, conducting research in primary as well as secondary sources. 

Prizes

High School

  • First Place: $1,000 to the student and $500 to the school
  • Second Place: $750 to the student
  • Third Place: $500 to the student
  • Honorable Mention: $100 to seven honorable mention students
  • In addition, the student with the top entry from each school will receive a Gilder Lehrman publication to recognize their achievement. The school with the most entries and the school with the highest average judges’ score (minimum 10 entries) will each receive a special certificate and pack of materials.

Middle School

  • First Place: $300 to the student
  • Second Place: $200 to the student
  • Third Place: $100 to the student
  • In addition, the student with the top entry from each school will receive a Gilder Lehrman publication to recognize their achievement. The school with the most entries and the school with the highest average judges’ score (minimum 10 entries) will each receive a special certificate and pack of materials.

NEW Documentary Film Category

This year, students have the option of submitting a written essay or an entry in our new Documentary Film category. Top films will be well researched, well organized, and edited in a manner that is clear, articulate, and visually impactful. We strongly encourage collaboration between language arts and social studies departments to assist students with all aspects of the writing process, and between social studies and arts teachers to assist students with aspects of documentary film production and editing.

  • First Place: $1,000 and an archive of great Civil War documentaries to the student
  • Second Place: $750 to the student
  • Third Place: $500 to the student

Submission Requirements

The 2017–2018 Civil War Essay Contest is now closed. Winners will be announced in mid-March. Additional information, contest forms, a scoring rubric, and other important details on submissions can be found in the 2017–2018 Civil War Essay Contest information packet.

 

Civil War Research Paper

In this lesson students will learn how to write a proper research paper for the Civil War. The paper will follow a proper format about any  topic related to the American Civil War.

Step 1 – Decide on the length of the research paper -- the older the students, the longer the paper. However, short but well written research papers from high school students can be just as an important as a learning experience.

Format & Organization of Research Paper

Step 2 -- Share an example of a model research paper. The Write Source or Writer’s Inc. books by Great Source have example MLA and APA formatted research papers for students to view as well as the research process, which is explained in detail.

Step 3 -- Explain steps for completing a research paper: complete research, take notes on note cards or highlight, make an outline of paper, make a Works Cited or bibliography, write a draft, and then write a final draft.

Tip: For middle school students, note cards are difficult to organize and to write. Allow students to print off sources from the Internet and highlight important information. Make students turn in highlighted notes with rough draft of paper to check for plagiarism.

Choose Civil War Topic

Step 4 -- Students need to choose a theme or topic for their poems and short stories. They could can come up with ideas on their own or choose an idea from the following list:

  • Battles: Antietam, Gettysburg, Chancellorsville, Fredericksburg, The Wilderness, Richmond, Mechanicsburg, Murfreesboro, New Orleans, Vicksburg, Shiloh and Morgan's Raid
  • People: Grant, Lee, McClellan, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Sheridan, Sherman, Stonewall Jackson, Clara Barton, Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Henry Clay, Louisa May Alcott, John Brown
  • Other: The Calvary, The Emancipation Proclamation, Weapons, Battlefield Health Care, The Ironclads and Civil War Prison Camps
  • Pictured above: Mathew Brady, Historian With a Camera

Research and Organizing Notes

Step 5 -- Take students to the library or computer lab to complete research. A few great resources are Kennesaw State University's Civil War Links for Students and Education World's article. Of course, there are many more resources available online and in print.

Step 6 -- Students need to make note cards or highlight notes. Make sure that students are organized and put important bibliography information on cards. Assign a number of note cards that are due in conjunction with the length of the paper.

Tip: Students tend to write too much on one note card. Remind them that they need one idea per note card. And, they can and should paraphrase many of their note cards.

Step 7 --Direct students to write an outline. It is important that students include a thesis statement (one sentence that tells what the paper is about) in this outline. The outline length will depend on the length of the paper. This will help students to write an organized paper.

Works Cited Page & Write Draft

Step 8 -- Tell students to write a draft of the Works Cited page. The website Son of Citation Machine is a free online resource that is extremely helpful.

Step 9 -- Assign students to write a draft the paper. This can be typed or hand written. If students are required to include parenthetical notation, make sure this is included in the rough draft.

Step 10 -- Asses the students' research paper with a rubric. The criteria for the rubric could be the amount of information, organization, following format (MLA, APA or Chicago), and spelling and grammar.

Step 11 -- Type a final copy of paper following the proper format.

This is just the beginning of the Civil War Writing Activities Series. The writing lesson: research paper for the Civil War will make each student an expert on one small part of the war. Students can share what they learned in an informal speech or a formal one.

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