Help my brother teach 5th graders about colonial history-chronology
April 19, 2010 9:50 PM   Subscribe

Help with Grade 5 English/S.S. lesson (related to chronology in U.S. colonial era)

Asking for my brother, who is currently student teaching in a Grade 5 classroom: Do you have any ideas for a fun one-day lesson which has students re-learn and demonstrate knowledge of the chronology of important events/dates in colonial 1770-1787? The lesson should involve English-Language Arts. On a field trip last week to an American Revolution/Colonial living-reenactment site the class was asked when the Stamp Act took place. A student answered, "1940." This is only an extreme example of the misconception students are having with "knowing" and "understanding" the "what and when" of American Revolution/Colonial dates. The students have been exposed to this material for about 6 weeks already.
posted by DuckGirl to Education (5 answers total)
Make a time line. Get a long piece of thick twine that will go all the way around the classroom, tie thick knots to show decades, bows for change of century, then label all the important events (including the birthdays of all students, the teacher, and (volunteer) parents.

Unless you count writing labels, there isn't much language arts, but it throws a bit of math in, so maybe the math teacher could seek some writing into a lesson.

(If it works make a different one on a geological scale -- show appearance of different kinds of plants, dinosaurs, and mammals, et c)
posted by Some1 at 10:07 PM on April 19, 2010

*seek = sneak of course
posted by Some1 at 10:08 PM on April 19, 2010

Perhaps he could build a one-day lesson out of the adventures of Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys in capturing Fort Ticonderoga, as described by J.W. Barber, 1860. Some of the class members may even be making notes about it with their #2 Dixon Ticonderoga pencils.
posted by paulsc at 10:14 PM on April 19, 2010

I agree with the timeline suggestion-- it's a good way to help students visualize the events in relation to one another. Depending on how many events your brother needs to cover in his curriculum, split the students up into groups so that each student has one or two events to add to the group's timeline.

For each event, ask the students to take an 8.5x11 sheet of paper and fold it in half (the short way or "hamburger style"). Students should orient the paper so that the fold is on the top so that it becomes a "lift the flap" kind of thing. On the outside, they should write the name of the event and the year, and then draw some kind of picture. The picture can be their own illustration of the event or of something that symbolizes the event.

Then they should lift the flap and write about the event on the inside. This is where language arts comes into play AND where students will need to work together as a group. Inside the students should write three paragraphs about the event. The first paragraph should explain the immediate cause of the event. (This will again give students perspective of how the events related to each other because most of these events were direct reactions to the things that preceded them and causes of the things that came after them. Like tax on tea --> Boston tea party --> closing of Boston harbor --> other colonies beginning to support Massachusetts and see themselves as one, etc.) The second paragraph should describe the actual event, and the third paragraph should explain the effects of the event.

The lift-the-flap events can be posted on a wall or bulletin board directly to create the timelines. Another possibility is to cut lengths of bulletin board background paper if your brother has access to that. You could also punch two holes at the top of each event paper and thread some yarn/twine through them to make a hanging timeline.

If your brother has his students keep a notebook of some kind, he can give them copies of an 8.5x11 timeline he has created with the years. Each student should go look at another group's timeline and use it to fill in the personal timeline. Maybe he can ask them to color-code the events (initiated by colonists vs. initiated by England vs. something they both did) as they add the events to their personal timelines. Definitely encourage them to draw little symbols on the personal timelines to represent the events.

Also, if he hasn't heard of them already, your brother should check out the Foldables series by Dinah Zike. She is the lady who came up with the hamburger/hotdog names for folding-- when she does workshops in Japan they call her The Hamburger Lady. These books outline all kinds of ways to help students learn/retain ideas by creating neat stuff with basic supplies (paper, scissors, glue, something to write with).

I'm a high school teacher so I've used different titles, but I'd recommend your brother get the elementary school math and elementary school social studies books. While the books do use specific topics in the examples, your brother will be able to take the underlying structures to cover any topic/concept in his curriculum. For example, the "compare three things" structure can be used to do Northern/MidAtlantic/Southern colonies, Patriots/Loyalists/undecided, executive/legislative/judicial branches and so on.
posted by scarnato at 10:53 PM on April 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Early American Chrononauts is a time-travel card game in which you compete to change the timeline of events in early American history to achieve different goals. (eg, maybe my goal would be to have the British win the war of 1812, what battles need to go differently for that to happen?)

Probably it would be too tricky to get enough sets, but might be useful in some way to know the game exists. If he's very creative he could make his own take-off version that they could play as a class.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:00 PM on April 23, 2010

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