Sunday, April 19, 2015

American Symbols Research Project & A Freebie

1st day back after 4 months off with this cutie!!
Hi there!!!  Well, I am finally back in the classroom.  As much as I don't like winter, I was lucky to have four months of maternity leave with baby B.  But, as the saying goes, "all good things must come to an end."  Honestly, I didn't mind going back.  Having four months off has made me realize that teaching truly is my passion and my hobby.  I missed my students, my classroom, and my team.  Don't get me wrong, I miss my boy dearly...but, I now I fully cherish every moment we spend together.

In our school district, we adopted the Math and ELA Common Core Standards a few years back. We will introduce the social studies standards next year and science & health will come at a later date. Currently, during the 3rd quarter we teach about American Symbols.  The essential question is: What do some people and symbols of our country represent?  I look forward to this unit all school year!  I take the opportunity to integrate it with our research, writing unit.  Since I was returning to work at the beginning of the 4th quarter, I asked my substitute to save this unit for me...I didn't want to miss teaching it!  I REALLY hope this unit is part of the CC!!


Before I begin teaching, I go to the library and checkout all a lot of books on American Symbols.  I let the students have a few days reading the books and immersing themselves in the subject.  I also show them projects from years past.  This elicits a lot of oooohhhs and aaaahhhs.  They get so excited knowing that they are going to learn about our symbols and complete a project.  Below, you will find different series I've used.  The Welcome Books series is great for your lower readers.  Our media center also has the book, Leveled Texts for Social Studies-Symbols, Monuments, and Documents.  This book has one page articles on most of our American Symbols.  There are three leveled articles for each one.  It's great!!  Click on each picture to find the books.

We also have accessibility to a Dell mobile lab once/quarter.  Luckily, I had them the two weeks I returned to school!!  Our district pays for each of us to have a membership to Core Clicks (which is an AWESOME digital fiction program).  Honestly, Core Clicks deserves it's own blog post, which will happen at a later date:)  So, the students were assigned to read and analyze a non-fiction story called Across the USA.  Guess what it was about?!?!?  You got it...American Symbols!

This is always the hardest part.  Before we even begin to do research, we do two mini-lessons on important vs. interesting facts.  It NEVER fails, you ask a student to name the VIPs of a text and what do you get?  FUN FACTS!!  I don't blame them, fun facts are much easier to remember and fun to share:)  For the first mini-lesson, I created cards that have overall features of American Symbols, such as where it is located vs. how large it is.  As a group, we decide which features are important and which ones are interesting.  Then, I read The U.S. Capitol and we sorted pre-determined facts from the book into important or interesting.  I was surprised with how well they did!!  I left the first sort up so the students could reference it once they start finding their own facts.  At least, I HOPE they will reference it!

At this point, they are jumping out of their seats with excitement!!  They just want to start their projects.  But wait, I have a surprise for them, I let the students choose their own groups!  This causes an even BIGGER flurry of excitement!  I always debate whether I should group them myself or allow them to choose their own groups.  Ultimately, I let them choose because I know they will be more apt to work together and put more effort into their project.  Once they've chosen which symbol they want to research, they're each given a book and have to work on their own...what?!?!?  Work on their own?!  Yes, I expect them to read their book independently and they each have to come up with four facts.  They write notes, not sentences, on Post-its.  Next, they get back together and have to sort their facts into important vs. interesting as a group.  This requires a lot of collaboration and discussion...not always the easiest for second graders (or any grade level).   Here are a few pictures of my kiddos working together to sort their facts.

Since we had the Dell mobile labs, we used Pebble Go as another resource for our research.  This is another website that requires a membership, however, many County libraries have it available for free. Each of the symbols were on the website.  I was so happy because the students just LOVE having access to the laptops.  

The last part of the research is to turn their notes into complete sentences.  They write them on an organizer so the facts are all in one place.  

Now, onto the FUN stuff!!!!  The students write their important facts on blue index cards and the interesting facts on white index cards.  Then, they get to re-create their symbol using black construction paper and construction paper crayons.  Have you ever used these?  They are amazing! They are vibrant and really make the colors POP!  I give them tracers, that I made, and photographs of their symbols, from the internet.  This way, they can add details to their project.  See them in action and check out their final projects!!

I know this was a TON of information but I hope you can use this in your classroom.  As a thank you for reading all the way through, I'm giving you the organizer for important vs. interesting facts!!!  Just click on the picture or {here}.  I haven't put everything into a packet for TPT quite's on my looooooong to-do list. :)

Thanks for listening to my rambles!!


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