American Presidents

Chester Arthur American Presidents Teacher Guide

Biography of Benjamin Harrison
August 20, 1999 on C-SPAN
Recommended Use:
Secondary Level

Before Viewing American Presidents

Part 1
Have students identify basic biographical information on or about Benjamin Harrison. Divide students into eight groups and assign to each group one of the influences on President Harrison's life listed below. Instruct the student groups to conduct some preliminary research on their assigned influence using resources such as the Internet including C-SPAN's American Presidents Web site.

Influences on Benjamin Harrison

1. Family connections

2. Home state

3. Religion

4. Marriage(s)

5. Friends/associates

6. Political party

7. Military career

8. Policy decisions

Part 2
Provide students with some questions regarding President Harrison they should consider while watching C-SPAN's American Presidents program.

While Viewing American Presidents
Directions: Take notes on information which connects with your assigned influence as presented during C-SPAN's American Presidents program featuring Benjamin Harrison.

The student groups should:

  • Identify key people and events;
  • Raise some questions presented by the teacher;
  • Make one connection between your assigned influence and another influence in the president's life.

In addition, when information may apply to other categories in addition to your own, write the second (or third) category name as part of your notes in capital letters.

After Viewing American Presidents

Part 1
Jigsaw student groups by creating groups of eight, with at least one student representing each influence. Have students share information, and begin to make connections between various influences. There are several possible answers to each question below.

  • Which influences overlapped? (For example, perhaps Benjamin Harrison's family connections and military career overlapped, because his grandfather was a Major General.) How did they overlap?

  • Which influences had dissimilar effects? Explain. (For example, he did not enjoy his military career, whereas religion was something that played a part in his everyday life.)

  • Which were most significant in Benjamin Harrison's life? In his presidency?

Part 2
Have each group of eight divide themselves into smaller groups of influences that have a natural association with one another. There are many possible "answers", i.e. Family connections, Home state and Marriage may be in one group; Religion, Political party and Military career may be in another group, with Policy decisions and Friends/associates as a third.

Have these groups justify their association. If there is time, have the groups of eight reconvene, then subdivide again, forging and justifying a new sub-group.

Ask students: what did you learn by trying to make connections among the various influences in Benjamin Harrison's life? In what ways was Benjamin Harrison, the whole person, known by the public at large? By the party? Are presidents elected because of who they are, or what they represent for the party? Explain.

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