Thursday, February 27, 2014

Get Creative with Teaching about History

I am loving this new Writing Unit that I created for my students! I took the Lucy Calkins' Writers' Workshop model and created my own Historical Fiction Picture Book unit.

Building Historical Fiction Elements Background Knowledge
During the segregation unit, I read historical fiction picture books and had the students extract the historical facts from the stories through conversations and independent activities. When I started to teach about the Japanese-American Internment Camps, I would share historical fiction picture books with explicit lessons for detecting Fact from Fiction. Students would complete an activity while I shared the book.Now that we are writing our historical fiction picture books, I can use the books I read to the class as mentor texts for the writing lessons. 
Here are just a few of the books that I shared and use as mentor texts:

Students completed this chart while I read The Bracelet, and used it to guide their conversation afterwards.

Applying the Learning
In this unit, students are applying the knowledge they learned (and are still learning) about history to create a historical fiction picture book. To begin, I taught about segregation and Japanese-Internment Camps during WWII. I spent four weeks on each and this allowed students to really immerse themselves in the history, ask questions, make connections, have discussions, and create projects. I started the historical writing unit 6 weeks into it all, after students had a very solid amount of background knowledge on the topics. (During the first weeks, the students wrote Persuasive Letters to convince their readers of a change they would like to see in the world). 

Constructing the Stories
When we talk about our stories that we are writing (of course, I am modeling this entire process with my own historical fiction story that I wrote), there is a lot of conversation about how to intertwine the historical facts and the fictional elements of a story. Students are constantly fact-checking with each other, me, as well as using books in the classroom to make sure their story correctly reflects history. 
To begin drafting, students used a Planning Page to jot down ideas for the characters and setting and the rising and falling actions. They use their planning page to draft the story and the Partner Conferencing Sheets that I provided to help guide the writing in ensuring that it all makes sense when it is written on paper.

Revising the Stories

I focus on revision as a goal to teach the audience about history through character feeling, actions, and/or thought. I guide students by teaching with a mentor text and anchor charts. I also use my own writing as a model for how to implement the learning. 

For the mentor text, I use a book that students are familiar with. For example, we reread a part from the story, Freedom on the Menu and discussed when the little girl was told that she couldn't sit at the counter, she felt inferior. This was how the author chose to depict history through action and feeling. Then, I taught from my anchor chart to organize the process for students. I break it down into steps. Afterwards, I model it with my own writing. Students then discuss with their writing partners where and how they want to depict history in their own stories, and then they are off to revise! It is a wonderful process to see them be able to formulate writing in this way!

Anchor Charts and my writing for the model portion of the lesson

I am so excited to share the final project, but it will be a while before these are finished! Publishing will include meeting with the art teacher to discuss different illustration options as well as a visit from Joanna Cole (author of the Magic School Bus series)!

Stay connected to see how these all turn out!! 

What do you do in your classroom to make history interesting and engaging?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Introduction to World War II: Allies and Axis Powers

Today we started the World War II part of our unit. I wanted to make sure that I was able to provide my students with a good amount of background knowledge before they started to read Farewell to Manzanar, by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston in Literature Circles. This novel is a true story about a Japanese-American family that was sent to an internment camp during WWII. 

I shared with my students a timeline that I created which discusses a bit about how Hitler came to power in Germany and the events that led up to the attack on Pearl Harbor as well as the events that eventually brought an end to the war. 

The students completed a "craftivity/foldable" that I created after we reviewed the timeline. This activity demonstrates the Allies and Axis powers and which countries are on each side. 

This was the introduction to our unit. This week we will focus on Point of View by reading diary entries from a U.S. Marine and a Japanese Fighter Pilot on December 7, 1941 (book below) and completing classroom activities.

The Axis/Allies activity is available in my Teacher Store by clicking here, you can view it!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Celebrate Black History Month - Teaching Idea

I started teaching about Black history at the beginning of January as part of a unit of study which focuses on the inequality of several groups of people. We started with Blacks in the South during segregation and will move to Japanese-Americans during WWII. The end of this unit will be about students with learning disabilities and their struggles for a fair education.

I used a book entitled, A Dream of Freedom by Diane Mcwhorter which is wonderful because each section highlights what happened from the years 1954-1968 in a way that made it easy for me to pick and choose which topics I wanted to teach and share with my students. I also read Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry by Mildred Taylor to help facilitate conversations about life before the '50s. Students read The Watsons go to Birmingham - 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis, and worked on reading comprehension strategies in Literature Circle groups. 

I also pulled in a lot of historical fiction picture books and nonfiction picture books that guided many conversations. 

Each week, I focused on a different person or event that interests me and that I thought my students could appreciate. Even though I list only several people and events, through conversation and questioning from the students, we touched in on more than just what is shown in this project below. 

Week 1: Martin Luther King, Jr. and his history and contribution to The Civil Rights Movement

Week 2: Rosa Parks and the Bus Boycott

Week 3: The Greensboro Four

Week 4: Ruby Bridges and The Little Rock Nine

This week, I put students in pairs to make a piece of the timeline that we hung up over our classroom library. Students had a chance to demonstrate their knowledge of what was learned. It was great to see them get excited when I told them which person or event in history they were to depict on the poster. 

Pictures of their work:

If you are interested in a Novel Study Unit for The Watsons go to Birmingham, click here.

How do you teach about Black history in your classroom?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Homophones: Its & It's - Engaging the Students

Today, I had a great time teaching the students how to use the correct "its" and "it's" in their writing! 

This is How it Went
On Monday, I taught my class the difference between the two words by first, using the anchor chart below. 

I then posted sentences with fill-in-the-blanks for "its" & "it's" with my document camera. The students responded to the sentences by holding up the response cards shown below. (I just put the two cards together with a clothespin so they would be easy to take apart and store for next year.)

Today (Wednesday), I broke the students up into pairs. Some of the students played a sorting game for the homophones and some played a board game. Afterwards, they edited their persuasive letters for any "its" or "it's" that needed to be changed. 

The board game and sentence cards! 

The Sort with sentence cards!

SIDE NOTE:I teach writing using the Writers' Workshop model, and I love it! However, there are no specific grammar lessons that are supposed to be taught with that program so I have incorporated it in with the Editing stage of the Writing Process. 

After students played these two games, they went into their Persuasive Letters to find any mistakes with "its" or "it's" in their writing. They know that since this skill was taught, they are now going to be held accountable for the skill when I grade their letters and any other final writing piece they do from here on out. This resource from Lynda made my grammar lessons for this week so much more fun than the way I usually teach them! 

I received this from Lynda at Time 4 Teaching on Teachers Pay Teachers. (You can click here to view this specific teaching resource!) I particularly like it because it includes so many different resources! I have homework for this week, and I plan to give students the fill-in-the-story sheet as an assessment on Friday. It was such a relief to be able to put my energy towards the big project we are doing to culminate our Civil Rights portion of this unit (which I will be sharing with you on Friday) instead of how I was going to get across to students that two "ITS" exist!!!

Big Goals Equal Big Plans

Hi Friends,

A few days ago, I responded to a thread requesting for a teaching resource that could be shared with others. Through that request, I met Fern, from Fern Smith's Classroom Ideas. She read the guest post I wrote last week, and invited me to write about something I do in my classroom for her blog!

I am so honored to have been asked to write something for her! I quickly got started on an article about how I teach Research Writing in my classroom. Please head on over to Fern Smith's Classroom Ideas and have a read!

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