Monday, February 3, 2014

Layering ELA Understandings Through the Lens of U.S. History

Examining Beliefs on Building Schema:
Layering ELA Understandings Through the Lens of U.S. History
Throughout Our Students’ Elementary Experience

* Dedicated to all those who crave a richer social studies experience for our kids, or maybe just some support along the way.

Do you catch everything the first time you hear or learn about it? The second time? What happens as you look and study the different facets of a topic?  We layer students’ learning of the thinking strategies, year after year, right? So, it’s only fitting that we honor that same process with deepening understanding of America’s complex history.

I’ll back up a little:  Just checking…how often do you hear or utter the words, “Our social studies curriculum is so dry. It lacks depth and there’s nothing for our kids to really sink their teeth into and get vested.” These honest and accurate sentiments are typically shared by K-4 teachers. Or maybe it’s, “ We have to teach all of American history in 5th grade! From beginning to end- all of it. It’s just too much.” Of course, these teachers are right, too. Well, they used to be right. Now, our ELA curriculum threads powerful and engaging U.S. history through at least one of the units during the year.   Don’t get me wrong, the literacy learning takes the forefront and is the true focus, but who can resist the opportunity to build background knowledge so that the powerful history of our country makes more sense as students continue to reengage and build depth with it year after year? I can’t.  Nor can I argue with the logic and the excitement it create in learners. Ask any of our 5th grade teachers about students’ willingness to participate or eagerness to learn more about American’s history: slavery, war, and ground-setting humans of our past. Children typically enjoy the emotional and factual connections our history has to our present, so why not layer their learning through literacy? The timing to consider this could not be better as we begin to plan our Unit 5 in an extended ELA planning session. It’s American History Background Building Time!

Curious about the intentional literacy and historic connections offered in Units 5 or 6?  These units support our learners with such skills and understandings as: questioning information fosters opinion making and depends understanding, cause and effect, revising for readers, comparing literary and informational texts, using digital tools, building and effectively using content-specific vocabulary, making sense of text structures.

Scaffolding students to build background knowledge for 5th grade American History through texts/concepts in a theme
Unit Title
Historic Connection and possible texts for literary focus
America’s symbols and celebrations
focus on symbols and celebrations
American Contributions (unit 6)
important Americans (presidents, Paul Revere, Betsy Ross, Jackie Robinson, Pocahontas, Ben Franklin
A Long Journey to Freedom
long and multifaceted effort to break down barriers to racial equality in the United States (Harriet Tubman, Lincoln, Rosa Parks, MLK Jr., civil rights movement)
The People, the Preamble, and the Presidents
people, the Preamble (to the Constitution), and presidents of the United States. Immigration, America’s Start
Revolutionaries from the Past
American Revolution, Abigail Adams, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Molly Pitcher, Revolutionary War, Sam Adams, John Hancock, Paul Revere. Trail of Tears
America in Conflict
American Civil War, Underground Railroad, Sojourner Truth, Abraham Lincoln,  Bull Run, all things CW

"United We Stand, Divided We Fall," right? Here's to powerful and layered learning experiences for our Bears.

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