--------------------------------One of the important lessons in history is to use a good imagination. One must imagine things from the written word, even though others have created movies as their vision of historical persons and events, and one can view those, too. Even with the visual, we still must use our own creative minds to try to see the past for ourselves.
Areas explored when considering this concept are many, but include the social mores of the times, the transportation and communication available, the consideration of those who are poor, rites of passage (birth, adulthood, marriage, death) and so on. During one of the past presidential election years (like this one) my class studied the presidents. I wanted to integrate some creative writing into this unit of study, so shared passages of poetry from Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters, to give students some examples of how to show important parts of a life in a poetic epitaph. During their study, each was expected to read a biography of some past president, do further research from the questions that arose during that reading, and craft a poem after the Masters examples. We then created artistic tombstones on which were written their poems. I wish I had samples to show you because we all enjoyed the good exercise in synthesizing information into the essence of what the students thought as memorable in each chosen president's life.
Here is the opening of the Spoon River epitaphs, based on the inhabitants of a small town, early in the 20th century. The second is about the doctor. They are serious poems, and tell both positive and negative ideas of the lives that the writer created. Students were asked to use these models and include the facts as they saw them.