Cuban Defenders or Eager Imperialists?: Causes of the Spanish-American War

Target Student Group: 11th Grade United States History

Lesson Context: This activity would serve as part of an introduction into a unit entitled “The Emergence of Modern America,” which I would begin by discussing the United States’ transition into an imperial power after the Spanish-American War.

Lesson Delivery in a Virtual Classroom: After providing a brief overview about Spain’s involvement in the Americas, US public opinion about Cuba, and the political situation of the US government at the time, I would give this activity to students to complete during asynchronous class time. The expectation is that they use their knowledge gained during our synchronous class period to further explore all the possible reasons for US involvement in the Spanish-American War.

How Google Forms will be used to achieve this goal: The Google Form allows the students to have the necessary background information on the same screen during asynchronous learning, which is beneficial because the student would not have the teacher for this information during asynchronous time. The format of Google Forms also easily allows for a direct comparison to be made between the two documents, and it give the teacher immediate feedback on the student’s progress due to the questions.

Direct Link to Google Form

Images of the ANZAC Legend


The Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) was the regiment of soldiers sent by their countries to serve the British Empire during WWI. They fought most notably in the Battle of Gallipoli, where they faced crushing defeat by Ottoman forces in 1916. Although the ANZACs were defeated in this battle, the memory of those who lost their lives in the war is remembered each year on ANZAC day. Pride and honor of the ANZACS has formed a significant part of Australia’s national identity

Image 1: Caption Writer

Australian troops resting in the Egyptian desert WWI Source

Caption Writer Icebreaker: Does this photo have a caption? If so, how successful is it in providing context to the photo? Then, create your own caption for this photo.

Context: Many ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) soldiers travelled through Egypt during WWI, especially on their way to Gallipoli.

Expected Student Response: The caption of this image reads “Troops resting in the desert.” This caption seems a bit vague. It helps me to understand that these are soldiers (supported by the many guns in the photo), but it does not give much context as to who these men are and why they in front of the Egyptian Pyramids. I would recaption this photo “ANZAC troops rest near Egyptian Pyramids during WWI.”

Image 2: Anomalies

WW1 postcard showing a kangaroo mascot with Australian soldiers in Egypt. Source

Anomalies Icebreaker: Analyze this image. What surprises you about it? What seems out of place?

Context: The ANZAC forces brought a young kangaroo with them from Australia as a mascot. This was primarily to lift spirits and remind the soldiers of their home. This photo depicts the mascot with the soldiers while they travelled through Egypt.

Expected Student Response: Is that a kangaroo? With the Egyptian pyramids in the background?? This seems like an anomaly because kangaroos are only native to Australia. Also, the people in the photo are carrying arms and dressed in soldiers’ uniforms, yet they are stopping to play with the kangaroo. It is very interesting that a small animal like this would be on its way to a warzone!

Image 3: Missing Pieces

“A Siege Battery in action, firing a Howitzer – WW1.” Source

Missing Pieces Icebreaker: Analyze this image. What seems to be missing from this siege photo? How do the missing pieces affect how we understand the context of this image?

Context: This photo is a print from a WWI ANZAC book dated 1917.

Expected student response: This photo shows several ANZAC soldiers preparing to fire a Howitzer. It takes at least 7 men, and several others are watching vigilantly. What is not pictured in this photo is who/what they are firing at. We cannot see their enemy forces, which would provide context to the photo. The setting of the image also seems unclear, as there are no clear indicators of the terrain besides the large trees overhead. Also not pictured is the aftermath of the blast. I do not think these things were left out intentionally. The soldiers are focused on their high-stress task and probably did not have time to consider what was left out of the photo.

Whose Side Are They On?: Images of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939)

Comprehending the meaning of historical photographs can be a difficult task, especially from periods of war where photos are often chaotic and disheveled. But within each photo, there are context clues that give insight into the true meaning of the image. The Spanish Civil War serves as a key example of a war with a murky historical record, but imagery and symbolism from both the Republican and the Nationalist side allows us to get a better picture of the identities of the people in these photographs.

Image 1: Oil painting of General Francisco Franco (circa 1936-1939)


Question: What does this symbol mean?

Depicted on Franco’s shirt pocket is a yoke with five arrows, the symbol of Falagism, which was a conservative fascist ideology promoted by the Nationalists during the war. This clearly indicates Franco’s political alignment, ideology, and the side of the war he promotes.

Question: What is the significance of his hat?

Franco is also wearing a Carlist red beret, which also became part of the uniform for Nationalist soldiers. As their leader, Franco is exemplifying the clothing this soldiers wore throughout the war.

Image 2: Republican Soldiers Resting in France (1939)

Rustende republikeinse soldaten in Frankrijk Source

Question: Who are these men? What do they stand for?

These soldiers are all holding up their fists to indicate the Communist salute. Communists were one of the biggest groups in support of the Spanish Republic. In addition, the lack of a common uniform– such as Franco’s Nationalist uniform– further indicates that these are : Republican soldiers.

Image 3: Comparing Republican and Nationalist flags

Flags of the Second Spanish Republic (1931-1936) Source and Dictatorial Spain (1939-1975) Source

Question: What does each flag symbolize?

On the left is the flag of the Second Spanish Republic, which was replaced after the Spanish Civil War by the flag of Franco’s dictatorship, pictured on the right. These two flags were used simultaneously during the war to differentiate between sides. Spotting these flags (or variations of them) in photographs can be useful for providing context of the identity, ideology, location, and time of people or items pictured.

Flip Distance Learning: Rethinking Direct Instruction

As both a college student during this COVID-19 pandemic and a soon-to-be student teacher, I have seen both sides of online instruction. While we are incredibly lucky to have technology as a means to keep us safe and connected while the coronavirus continues to run rampant throughout our country, online learning also presents an entirely new set of complex challenges that have forcibly shifted the paradigm of commonly accepted teaching practices. While the world is in such an unstable state, how can we as teachers create a safe space for our students to both learn and find comfort? How can we ease their anxiety if we are holding them to out-dated teaching methods that are incompatible with the mental process of learning online? The answer lies with completely rethinking the aims of instruction and focusing on interpersonal discussion rather than prefabricated lectures and readings.

Teaching and learning from home is an entirely different atmosphere, and it should be treated as such. With the somewhat forced utilization of technology during the COVID-19 pandemic also comes instructional opportunities to include a wide variety of multimedia tools to engage all types of learners. From online scavenger hunts and interactive texts to gamified learning and virtual reality, one might begin to wonder if the traditional classroom lecture is even relevant in an online classroom. While presenting information in a straightforward lecture still has its merits as a simple and direct means of instruction, synchronous lectures do not easily fit within an online format.  Students simply cannot sit and listen to a synchronous lecture online in the same way they did in classrooms. Distractions are higher and attention spans are shorter, making sitting at a screen for hours at a time unproductive and unhealthy for students. Additionally, synchronous lectures are often easily disrupted by technology errors and mishaps, which can be discouraging and counterproductive. As I have so often experienced in my online classes, so much time is wasted trying to make direct, teacher-based instruction work that we often cannot get through all the material. Rather than forcing this traditional technique into a new format, class procedures should take on a more “flipped” approach.

A flipped classroom approach means that the learning happens outside of class meetings, and the live interaction between the teachers and students is dedicated to clarifying questions or putting learned material to practice. Videos, readings, demonstrations, or visuals should be given to students before class to engage with at their own pace. This lets students initially learn on their own, while synchronous class meetings keep students accountable and allow them to interact with their peers. So rather than lecturing for an hour on Zoom, a teacher might create a pre-recorded video for the students to watch at their own leisure or assign some other task that teaches the material directly to the students. Creating asynchronous instructional assignments alleviates the issues of online learning in several ways. First, students will not burn out as quickly. Because they can complete these tasks at their own pace, they are free to pause and stretch and take some time away from the screen before returning to their work. In turn, this will alleviate stress and encourage authentic learning. Additionally, flipped classroom practices give students a sense of agency over their own learning, which is especially important in a time where one might feel that they have no control over anything. Similarly, in the event of technology errors, students have more time to communicate with the teacher and arrange for extended time to fix their technology rather than stressing about dropping out of a Zoom lecture.

In addition to the practical elements of implementing a flipped classroom approach online, students can also benefit socio-emotionally from dedicated class time for engagement with their peers. In an in-person setting, a student may walk in, sit down next to their friend, and talk and laugh with them before class starts. Throughout the class, they may work together, share their thoughts, and help each other learn. Not only does this help each student academically, but the feeling of solidarity is extremely important to motivate students in school and help their social skills develop properly. However, because peer interaction does not naturally occur in an online setting, social activities must be made an intentional priority during synchronous classes. In a flipped classroom, synchronous class sessions become more discussion-based rather than lecture-oriented. Having already been exposed to the material, students would have the opportunity to focus on engaging with their peers and helping each other understand the material. This creates a similar relationship between students and allows them to engage with each other rather than silently staring at their screens.

Therefore, in the age of online teaching, we must shift from what is comfortable for us as teachers to methods that benefit the learning and well-being of our students. A flipped classroom approach is just one way to prioritize student interaction and discussion while still maximizing content attainment online. COVID-19 has undoubtedly created a new and unstable world, and educators must step up and adjust for the sake of their students and the success of the educational system as a whole.