Spanish-American War: 1 Day Lesson


In this lesson, you will use contrasting newspaper accounts of the explosion of the Maine to guide students in thinking about how an author’s word and information choices influence the message and tone of the text. Students will view a 3-minute movie to establish context, use a graphic organizer to compare the articles, and in writing, take a position about which account is most believable.

Learning Goal:

Students will learn that the way reporters employ language and evidence can result in vastly different accounts of the same event.


Plan of Instruction:

Step 1: 5 minutes: Warm up

Put the following headlines on the board:

  • Search for Missing Bride Continues
  • Cold Feet Suspected in Case of Missing Bride
  • Bride Missing! Recent Fight With Groom’s Family

Have each student respond in writing:

  • How do these headlines differ?
  • Consider the wording and how a reader might respond to each article.

Step 2: 8 minutes: Discussion

  • What does each headline imply?
  • If these were all articles, which would you have wanted to read first?
  • Which do you think would have been the most reliable story? Why?
  • Why might different newspapers choose to present the same event so differently?

Step 3: Transition

Today we are going to be comparing two newspaper accounts of an event that happened in 1898. First we will watch a short movie that introduces the event to you.

Step 4: 3-8 minutes: Show movie

Show Maine movie and discuss.

Step 5: 20 minutes: Read, analyze, discuss

Each student reads the Journal document and fills out the first three questions on the organizer.

Check-up – ask students to share answers in whole-class discussion. Ask students to quote from the article to support their answers. Students read Times document and fill in first three columns of organizer.

In pairs or small groups, students check their answers and then answer the fourth column question together.

Step 6: 10 minutes: Whole class discussion

  • Do you know what happened to the Maine?
  • What evidence do you have for your answer? Give an example where the reporter uses solid evidence to support a claim made in the article.
  • Do you think these articles would have been received differently by their readers in 1898? How so?
  • What effect might the Journal article have had on its readers?
  • What effect might the Times article have had on its readers?
  • How significant do you think the Maine explosion was to the American people at this time? Why?

Step 7: Assessment

Writing prompt: Which account is more believable? Why?

First section: Compare the evidence used by both papers to support their claims that the Maine was blown up by attack or by unknown causes. Which uses stronger evidence? Use at least three specific examples/phrases/words from the articles to support your position.

Second section: Does this difference in accounts matter? Why or why not?