Real World Revolutions

I’m back to the beginning of my American Revolution unit with the other group of 5th graders this week.  Focusing on social studies has really enabled me to evaluate my units and experiment with different learning activities.  One of my personal goals is to enrich the experiences for my students so that they can find meaningful connections between the events of the American Revolution and modern day events.  This was something that I really learned going through the National Board process last year.

On my first round with my class I used far more images to spark thinking and discussion than I ever had before.  I created a type of “webquest,” although I varied it to suit my needs, that would directly address some of the misconceptions and opinions that I heard them state during class.  Lastly, I suggested end of unit inquiries that would encourage them to analyze, reflect, and synthesize information to come up with their own ideas.  If students had an alternative idea they were allowed to create a proposal that detailed what they wanted to study and what they hoped to learn.  However, I steered students away from projects that merely regurgitated information.

For the most part, I was very pleased with the results.  Many of my students moved away from surface level inquires such as “Who were the famous women during the American Revolution?”  into deeper inquiries such as “What would life have been like for women during the Revolution?  What decisions would they have been forced to make and what events would have impacted those decisions? How did their involvement impact the war?”  Some students were even able to explore how those decisions compare with decisions women make today.

However, as I went into my second round, I felt like something was missing.  When my issue of Time magazine arrived with the bold headline of “Revolution” I knew what it was.  There are revolutions happening right now on the other side of the world.  I wondered, did my students leave the unit with a sense of what the word “revolution” means and how revolutions impact the course of history?  This time around I plan on using more current events to help students get at the big ideas of my unit.  I started with a human opinion line using five belief statements.

  • A revolution is the same thing as a war.
  • Revolutions are always violent.
  • In a revolution all people agree, they all have the same opinion.
  • Revolutions can happen anywhere.
  • There is usually one main thing that causes a revolution.

Next I’m having students read four articles about different types of revolutions and viewing four videos on brain pop.  I’ve set up a Google doc for them to reflect on their learning and to generate questions. (Yes I am obsessed with Google Docs lately.)  Then I’ll take it from there!

Here are a few photos of some of the final products from our end of unit Inquiry.  Many students started with my suggestions, but took their research in a direction that felt comfortable to them as they developed questions and read around their topic.  You can see that we had a wide range from art to digital projects, I even had some digital story telling.

Several students created diaries and letters. They synthesized historical information with their own interpretations to explore the war from different perspectives.

Letters from Molly Pitcher

Letters from different people about the same event, showing perspective.

Cracking the case about Paul Revere!

Analyzing cause and effect relationships

A student uses their artistic talent to create a painting depicting symbols from the Revolutionary War. It is accompanied by a detailed plaque that describes the significance of each item.

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3 Responses to Real World Revolutions

  1. Tara says:

    Awesome! We went in depth with the Revolution and its causes, too – then my students extrapolated onto current events…we came to realize that revolutions are going on even today, which led to some great discussions about the human and universal yearning for freedom. I love teaching social studies, and I can tell that you do, too.

  2. Katie says:

    Tara we should chat sometime this summer and share resources and ideas for that unit. I’d love to hear what you’re doing with your students.

  3. Tara says:

    That would be great!

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