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Crisis in Kosovo: Web Resources for Classroom Lessons

Looking for background information, maps, timelines, and cultural resources to help your students understand what's going on in Kosovo? Education World has tracked down some of the best Internet resources for teaching about Kosovo at all grades! Included: Simple activities to help clear up the confusion about Kosovo.

What led to the NATO attack on Yugoslavia?

    a. Serbs oppose the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA)
    b. the Racak massacre
    c. failure of the Rambouillet peace talks
    d. fear of a huge tide of refugees
    e. all of the above

Would your students know the correct answer to that question? Do they know where Kosovo is? Do they know who Slobodan Milosevic is? Do they know what language the Serbs speak or why Kosovo is so important to the Serbs? Those are all questions that Cynthia Rapak posed to students in the Crisis in Kosovo Quiz that she created. The questions on that self-correcting quiz might be a great place for your students to begin (or end) their explorations of the crisis in Kosovo.


Are you searching for resources to help your students comprehend the situation in Kosovo? Education World has pored over dozens of Web sites, searching for the best classroom materials. If you're looking for background history, we've got it for you -- written for students of all ages. This story will also guide you to handfuls of timeline, map, photo, and cultural resources.

We'll provide resources that present all sides of the Kosovo crisis. Whenever a site presents a single point-of-view -- the perspective of the Yugoslav government, for example, or that of the Albanian people or NATO -- we will note that for you.

If it's a balanced view of the crisis in Kosovo that you're looking for, then the major international news sources are your best bet. Most of those news organizations have reporters stationed in the Balkan region. And many of those organizations have created special Web pages focused on Kosovo. Among the news resources you might use for keeping up-to-date on the Kosovo conflict are the following:


Challenge students to explore the background resources offered below. You might divide students into groups and invite each group to explore a different site's background pages. The groups could then gather to share what they've learned. Each group is bound to bring something unique to this sharing session!

If it's background information on the conflict that you're looking for, there are plenty of available Web resources. If you teach at the lower grades, you might start with the resources created by TIME for Kids. Begin with The Kosovo Crisis Explodes: Can NATO Bombs Force the Serbs to Make Peace? This story is written for students in grades 4-6. (If you're looking for a resource to use with students younger than that, a story that appeared in the edition of TIME for Kids written for second and third graders might still be available. However, the story, An Attack On Serbia, might have been replaced by now with a new story.)

Another excellent resource, this one created with students in grades 6-12 in mind, can be found on The New York Times Learning Network. See their special report, Kosovo: A Bitter Struggle in a Land of Strife. This most excellent resource includes recent news, a thorough background report, information, Web resources, and much more. Most special are a series of four lesson plans -- including "Striking Out At the Serbs," which introduces students to the conflict by allowing them to examine the positions and actions of various key people, countries, and organizations. Each lesson plan includes background, resources, activities, discussion questions, interdisciplinary connections, and links to national content standards. The Learning Network has also created for students an interactive Who's Who and What's What Quiz based on six images found in New York Times stories about the Kosovo situation.

Among the other excellent background resources are A Beginner's Guide to the Balkans (from ABC News); A Kosovo Primer (from TIME Magazine); and Crisis In Kosovo: A Closer Look (from USA Today).

Another fine background story, KLA Goes from Splinter Group to Potential Giant-Killer, focuses on the Kosovo Liberation Army. A year ago, the KLA was just a tiny militant group that -- due to its small size, lack of popular support, and its modest equipment -- was not viewed as a threat. Today, the KLA has the support of NATO.

An understanding of the cultural influences of the region is also important to understanding the roots of conflict there. The World Wide Web is home to many fine general geography and encyclopedia resources where such information can be found. (The E-Conflict World Encyclopedia is a good place to start; click on Albania or Serbia to learn more.) In addition, you might check out one more site (a smaller, more obscure one) that we found. For general information about the people of Kosovo and for information about traditional Albanian dances, music, and costumes, your students might visit the Cultural Page About Albania and Kosovo.

One more page worth a special note is TIME Magazine's Ask TIME Daily: Kosovo. Here readers are invited to ask questions related to the conflict. TIME correspondents will answer selected questions on the site. An archive of past questions is available on this page, along with directions for posting questions.


Many timelines are available to help students understand the distant and recent history of the area. Students might work in groups to create a timeline based on a specific period of time. The groups' completed timelines could be joined together to create a "big picture" timeline that will be a classroom keeper!

Many WWW sites offer timelines. Some of those timelines trace the region's history back to medieval times and before. Others are focused on the events of the last year or two. Together, these timeline resources will help students develop an understanding of the long history of hatred in the region. Among the best resources are these:

  • CNN's Timeline of Tensions traces the history of the region beginning in 1389, when the Serbs fought and lost a battle to Ottoman Turks in Kosovo (which the Serbs had always considered their ancestral homeland). Click on a year on the timeline and learn about important events during that year.

  • ABC News offers the most thorough timeline in its Beginner's Guide to the Balkans Timeline. The timeline begins with the earliest settlements by hunters in the Balkan Peninsula, south of the Danube River, around 7000 B.C.

  • USA Today offers a Key Events in the Kosovo Conflict Timeline that is focused on recent years. The timeline begins in 1968, when the first pro-independence demonstrations by ethnic Albanians in Kosovo occurred.

  • Finally, the New York Times Learning Network offers a detailed chronology of key events since March 1998 on their Chronology of the Crisis in Kososvo Timeline.


    Create a large, black-line map of the Balkan Region. Then let students explore the many different maps available on the Web. Groups of students might create individual overlays on acetate or tissue to show a variety of information relating to the region, its people, and the conflict.

    Students will never be able to grasp the history of the region and the conflict without understanding a map of the area. Dozens of map resources are available on the WWW, are many of those maps are interactive.

    ABC News provides a useful Beginner's Guide to the Balkans Map. Click on each country and up pops a brief history of the country and its involvement in the conflict. This information could easily be included on a class map. Just create information cards for each country and place them on the outer edges of the map; then stretch a piece of yarn or string between the cards and appropriately placed pins on the map. You'll also find on the ABC News site a map titled Wiping People Off the Map; there you can click on one of many triangles on the map to learn of the location of a known Bosnian Serb concentration camp.

    The USA Today Web site offers a Yugoslavia Old and New Map. Just click to view the "old" (pre-1991) or "new" versions of this comparative map.

    Find links on CNN's Strike on Yugoslavia Web page to interactive maps that show Yugoslavia's military bases and the ethnic majorities in different areas of the region. On the "Kosovo and Its Neighbors" map, click on the triangles to access brief histories of the countries.

    You'll find a couple useful maps on the New York Time Learning Network's site. One map shows The Ethnic Mix of the region prior to the current conflict. Another details the recent Flight of Refugees.

    If it's detailed maps that you're looking for, the best ones we've found are available from the University of Texas (Austin) map collection. For a detailed region map, check out the Central Balkan Region Map; and for a detailed map of Kosovo see the Kosovo Political Map.

    WHO'S WHO?

    Gather news photos of the world leaders who are important to this conflict. Post those photos with brief biographies around the borders of a map of the region.

    Knowing the people, countries, and groups behind the conflict is essential to understanding the news out of Kosovo. Among the excellent resources created for that purpose is TIME's Kosovo Primer: Who's Who, which offers background information about Slobodan Milosevic, NATO, the KLA, and five other individuals/groups. Who's Who in the Balkans, from ABC News, offers bios of Milosevic, Holbrooke, and ten others; just click on a photo portrait to read the bio. In addition, USA Today and CNN offer "Key Player" sections on their Kosovo Web pages.


    Discuss with students the reliability of information offered in communications from the front. Any communication from an individual presents a single point of view. Read and discuss communications from a variety of sources to get a more balanced view of the conflict.

    Another way to learn about the conflict in Kosovo is through communications from people in the area. Several sources offer such resources.

    • The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's site offers a special page, Letters from Kososvo, which includes many letters from people in the thick of the conflict. New letters are added daily.

    • ABC News offers Letters from Belgrade. Here, 37-year-old Vladimir Aleksic, a Serb with ties to Kosovo, describes what it's like living in the midst of a war and being the target of NATO hostilities.

    • CNN Interactive offers E-Mails from Kosovo. A 16-year-old girl e-mails her experiences while living in the middle of a war zone to Finnegan Hamill, a high school student in Berkeley, California.


    Though not integral to their understanding of the conflict, students might be interested in charting the daily weather in Belgrade, Yugoslavia's capital city. They could compare and contrast the weather there to the weather in their home towns and other parts of the world.

    What's the weather like in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, today? Thanks to the Internet, your students can get current weather stats any time of the day. Students can gather this information at USA Today's Belgrade Weather Page.


    For general resources relating to the Kosovo crisis, you might use any of the major national or international news sources. A handful of those news sources were mentioned in the opening section of this story, but there are many other good ones. Following are a few more of the best general resources that we've found as we searched the WWW:

    • Kosovo Crisis: Spotlight Study Section This resource from Homework Central boasts "10 percent news, 90 percent in-depth knowledge." Yes, some of the resources here relate directly to the crisis, but your students will want to check out this site if they want to learn more about the region's individual countries/provinces, geography, ethnography, religions, languages, history, or culture and arts.

    • Strikes in Yugoslavia This is the special Kosovo area of PBS's "Online NewsHour" site. Reports here tend to be detailed. Links are offered to many sites; the bias of each site is clearly delineated. "NewsHour" also offers a special area for students.

    • CSS Internet News War Resources This is a nice resource for teachers. Included are literature resources and links to many sites that relate to the Balkan region. Also listed are relief agency sites and listservs that will keep students up to date on what's happening in the region.
    The following list contains a variety of additional resources. Note that many of these resources offer a single, often biased, point of view on the conflict in Kosovo. The sites are offered here because they could be valuable teaching tools. Students should consider and examine many points of view before forming their own conclusions.

    The Kosovo crisis is the perfect opportunity for teachers to teach media awareness/literacy. And the following sources are excellent ones for those lessons because the "sources" of information are usually very clear. If you are looking for a tool to use with your students in your media literacy lessons, many are available on the Web. One that we highly recommend is the Critical Evaluation Information site created by Kathy Schrock. Schrock offers three tools -- one each for use at the elementary, middle, and high school levels -- that students can use to critically evaluate a site for authenticity, applicability, authorship, bias, and usabilty.