Saturday, May 5, 2012

Making It Up As I Go Along

I love History, enjoy the Founding Fathers/Birth of Our Nation period, and was looking forward to Social Studies with my new 5th graders. Except I was told S.S. is not on the State test, 5th grade has a Science benchmark, and besides, the students don't like it anyway...

My little red. white, and blue heart was crushed, from the jump.

So we did a lot of Science, took the test, and will keep doing Science cuz it's on the State test too, but I must get in some George Washington or I will feel like a failure as an American and a teacher.  Especially since we're studying archetypes in LangArts and there would be great connections to heroes, rebels, etc.

Then I looked at the textbook. Oy, several chapters still to go before 1776, and they don't look like the kind of chapters that keep 11 year old eyelids open. I suppose I could skip stuff, but they do need some background, right?  Then I started getting ideas, whether from the ghost of Ben Franklin or what I learned Education was really supposed to be like in my Credential classes I'm not sure, but I'm gonna go with it....

I'd love ideas, suggestions, warnings, project-based, um, projects, places to check out and things to do online, whatever ya got to help make this work. Call me naive and foolhardy, but I really do want my students to learn something AND not hate Social Studies!
So here's my Lesson "Plan":

Notes from a work in progress. The only part we've done in class so far is assign the groups and discuss where on the map we are (my Native American group wanted to be Hopi).

  1. Gave each table group their assignment: Middle, Southern, New England Colonies, Great Britain, Native Americans, African Americans. Spent several minutes convincing them Great Britain, Britain, and England were one and the same. They didn't like this choice until I mentioned one of them could be King! The African American group probably has the least info in the text, so I gave it to a group of good researchers.
  2. Each group of 4/5 students also will assume characters -- 1 or 2 children and a reporter, a politician/leader, and a farmer or businessperson.  They can find out how their characters would work, play, dress, live, etc and compare with same character in the other groups.We're voting on a class Postman (need to work Franklin in here somehow) and students will be able to write letters/questions to other characters, hopefully more or less in character. I'm also hoping we can use their blogs to post a diary/journal for each character so others can read and ask questions. Through all of that will each student learn about the other groups w/out having to read the entire text and do all worksheets?
  3. Need some good historical fiction...
  4. Students can build houses (Popsicle sticks?) to show the various ways people lived.
  5. Each group's Reporter will create a newsletter to publish info and events from their area -- maybe discussing famous people from their area? Op ed and letters to editor as we get closer to shot heard 'round the world?
  6. Art: pose as artwork from the period? Work up a script, what are these people doing, saying, and why?
  7. Hmmm, King vs Colonist tax policy debate? Family Feud  game show?
  8. Each group has a political figure, gov official, tribe leader. What power/responsibility does each have? How were they chosen? Why did they want position? Interesting to compare the various styles of gov. For AfrAmer need to find a Northern figure, or could they be represent a slave?
  9. If there are 5 students in a group, do their characters all need to be connected? Same tribe, same town, etc? Will students have ability to research needed if all separate?
  10. Time lines (or is it timelines?) -- I love timelines, and the kids love folding papers into cool shapes and gluing them into their journals, so we'll make a time line that expands out of their books and they can add events/dates as we go through unit. I'll start with them making a personal timeline and checking out something cool online, hopefully interactive -- any suggestions?
  11. Maps. You know I love maps. Students can research cartography (right, like we have time for that) and create maps showing their groups area(s) and how connected to other groups areas -- follow that mail carrier! How would a letter get from one person/place to another? 
  12. They also need help with paraphrasing, too much to use the Dec of Independence and have them reword it a little?
  13. I need music! Need to start playing them colonial/British/spiritual music while they read and work... now what section if the record store will that be in?
  14. Thanks to this awesome LiveBinder and a cool "foldable" I saved from my son's class got an idea for them to collect their key info (and anything involving folding and gluing they really get into).
  15. I need to make a big puzzle where each group's puzzle piece fits together to make the map we've been looking at, Great Britain to the Adirondacks. On each piece they can illustrate key elements. I suppose each group's big piece could be broken into smaller pieces of puzzle, 1 for each group member to work on.  Now the question: How do I make a giant puzzle? Working out details of puzzle on google doc (link below)
  16. The Domino Book! Liked this idea since Son #3 brought one home a few years ago, and now I know it's called a "Foldable" -- the tricky part will be getting the less hand-eye coordinated students to not end up with a big ball of paper. The facts for each category will be across the folded page from an example and/or illustration, when booklet is completely unfolded one side shows all facts and other side all examples.

Does a link to google docs work here? "Soc Studies Colonial..."

Teachers Done Got It Good

A comment on this much read and commented on post. I guess I'm just full of myself enough to repeat it here. ;)

We need a comprehensive, scientific poll: I always wonder how many teachers, the ones who love and respect the job and the ones who whine and complain (and yes, you could do both) would change careers if they could? Just pick another job and *poof* now you’re a contractor, lawyer, restaurant owner!* Then compare those stats to all who would switch to Teaching as their paycheck?

IMHO, and as one who as worked 20 years outside Education first, Teachers done got it good. Yes we work hard, yes we must be creative, yes we deal with bothersome irritations, constant frustrations, and seemingly unattainable expectations/goals, but what job worth doing doesn’t? Not to mention apathetic students and ignorant parents. Yet we are doing something that makes sense, means something, can and does have a positive impact, AND we can be home most days by 4:00 and never, ever work Christmas Eve!

Appreciate it, Respect it, and get back to work.

*Choosing “All Pro Linebacker” or “Multiple Oscar Winner” doesn’t count. Stay realistic.