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The Library of Congress > Teachers > Classroom Materials > Collection Connections >  The Last Days of a President

[Detail] President McKinley and escort going to the Capitol.

Expository Writing

The collection lends itself to a wide range of expository writing activities. Because the films are silent, students can assume the role of TV news anchor, and research, write and narrate a report to accompany footage on President William McKinley's second inauguration, his speech at the Exposition, or his assassination and funeral. The news report can include interviews with government officials, eyewitnesses to the event, and other people "on the scene," as well as commentary. Students can also assume the role of newspaper journalist and use other resources to research and write an obituary for President McKinley, a profile of the assassin Leon Czolgosz, or an editorial on the trial and execution of Czolgosz for publication in their newspaper.

Creative Writing

After viewing footage of the Pan-American Exposition, students can record their impressions of the 1901 world's fair as journal entries or as postcards to friends and family back home. Students might use the Exposition as a unique setting for a short story, a scene in a play, or an advertising or political campaign.

Oral Presentations

Students can work in teams to prepare oral presentations relating to one of the dramatic events documented in this film. Students might select formats such as a White House press conference, TV or radio talk show, debate or town forum, news special, or film documentary. After each team selects a topic and format, members can research and write a script, then select film footage and other graphics to illustrate it. Provide time for teams to either perform or record their presentations.

Literature Connections

Students can enhance their understanding of American culture in the 1890s by reading popular novels of the era. Two of the best know fiction writers were Henry James and Edith Wharton, who portrayed upper class society, its established social positions, and emerging tensions between "old" and "new" moneyed families. In his short stories, William Sydney Porter, better known as O. Henry, painted realistic portraits of both urban and rural life. With another turn of the century approaching, students might find Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward 2000-1887 particularly timely.