Social Studies Wednesdays
Some thoughts about Civil War Day:
- Living history presentations are worth all the trouble it takes to find, fund and organize them. Every one of our students learned so much from our presenter, even how to drill! This made learning so much more meaningful when we were back in our classroom on Monday learning about the battles and the rigors of soldiers’ lives.
- Having access to authentic artifacts students can touch and interact with engages even the most disinterested student. Just about everyone wanted to try these on:
There was something inherently interesting about donning the entire uniform – which has led to great conversations about what it was really like for the men during battle and marching towards battle.
- Inquiry as a basis for social studies learning has to be a part of lesson planning from day one. Students in my class are used to studying maps, political cartoons, music and paintings as part of every unit of study. The Gettysburg Trunk rotation was my “station” during Civil War Day, and I couldn’t help but notice that there were students from some of the other classes who really did not know what to make of the artifacts – they kept looking to me for direction…what should they do with all this stuff? My kids just dove right in – they knew to examine the artifacts through the lens we had explored all year: what do these items tell me about the time period, about the lives these people lived and the choices they were given/had to make? This type of thinking takes lots of practice, but it’s well worth the time invested.
- A good balance between presentations and hands on learning makes the day much more enjoyable for the kids. The music, art and dance activities organized by our exploratory arts teachers was exactly what our day needed. Sometimes it is difficult to make cross curricular connections, and sometimes it is just impossible to get every department on board for a day such as this, but when it can be done (thanks to supportive, generous colleagues) the experience is so much more meaningful for our kids.
- Take notes about everything because…there is always room for improvement next year!
Linda at TeacherDance shares a wonderful idea about how to integrate some creative writing into units of study, by sharing passages of poetry so that students could create poetic epitaphs to show important aspects of a character’s biography.