Investigating the Titanic Disaster and the Historical Commemoration
Compare/Contrast: Students view the one or more of movies made about the sinking of the Titanic – for example: Titanic, 1953 with Barbara Stanwyk, Robert Wagner, A Night to Remember, 1958 (no fictional subplots), James Cameron’s Titanic, 1997, or even The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964). Compare the stories with known facts. Discussions can include historical fiction, and how the facts figure into the story, how fictional elements contribute dramatic effect, and effectiveness of the story elements and construction. Students can also specifically study visual elements of storytelling such as lighting, camera angles, movement and composition to enhance visual literacy. You can generate inquiry through the use of the motion picture analysis tool from the Teachers’ Page.
Website Analysis: Students can use or develop a rubric or checklist to determine how legitimate and accurate Titanic-related websites are. As we approach the 100th anniversary, more “commemorative” sites are appearing. Have students consider newer sites as well as those which have been available for some time.
Memorials: Investigate the types of memorials – monuments, commemorative ceremonies or other items for the Titanic and compare/contrast to our memorials for other large scale tragedies or natural disasters. Study the purpose of such memorials, who initiated each, how the media played a role and if there were any controversies. Evaluate these similarities and differences and determine the elements of “national (or international) memory.” A possible reference is the lesson plan on natural disasters.
Character Analysis: Research one of the passengers or survivors of the Titanic to determine who really acted in a heroic manner at the time of the tragedy. First construct a rubric to define the term hero. Second, choose a person and research his or her life and what documents have reported about his or her actions during the tragedy. Third, apply the rubric to those actions, and write a defense of your opinion of whether the term hero applies.
Additional online ideas for Titanic activities (outside the Library of Congress website):
- Math activity plan
- Buoyancy experiment
- Science lesson
- Multiple elementary-level ideas
- Read the book Finding the Titanic by Robert Ballard and use lesson worksheets based on the Ballard book
- The Wreck of the Titanic, a poem by Horace Greeley available as an e-book.
- The Library of Congress references some background information about the Titanic on the Main Reading Room research page under Maritime History.