For the past month, my students and I have been reading and writing about reconstruction using any types of materials we could get our hands on. Although we still took the traditional Social Studies tests, and still had traditional notes to study, pretty much everything else we did for our unit was totally woven into our reading and writing stations and small group lessons. There was a learning curve for all of us because this was the first time my students or I had experimented with fully integrated content material.
I have to admit that after we got our feet wet, we jumped in head first! It is truly a wonderful way to explore the events that have occurred throughout history. Yesterday,we had a celebration to wrap it all up!
The focus of this ELA/SS unit was OPINION WRITING and RECONSTRUCTION. Because our opinions play a huge roll in the point of view and perspective we take when we write, we worked A LOT on point of view. Also, because voice is so important in opinion writing, I chose a task that allowed us to weave VOICE into the lessons as well.
Our culminating writing task was this: Each student will write 2 letters representing the opposing points of views of the issues that existed during the RECONSTRUCTION ERA. The students will first take the stance of a FREEDMAN and write to their grandchild explaining what reconstruction was like from their point of view. The student's second letter will also be written to their grandchild, and will take the stance of either an EX-CONFEDERATE GENERAL, or a member of the SOUTHERN ELITE, and will tell the story of reconstruction from their opposing point of view.
Because the letters were written to their grandchildren, the students were able to experiment with voice in some truly amazing ways. :) There were a lot of "sugar dumplings" and "honey pies" addressed in their letters. They were required to explain their points of view on at least 3 different issues, and give at least 3 details about those issues to prove they knew their facts about the topics. We were all quite pleased with the final products, and although they were very NERVOUS, they were excited to share their work.
So, onto our celebration! We invited the parents and drew numbers for our celebration groups. Each student drew a number 1-5 to select their celebration table. Once there, each student took 5 sticky notes, and each parent that was attending took 5 sticky notes as well. Each student stood to read their letters, and then waited as every member of their group, including the parents, wrote sticky notes of praise about their writing. The sticky notes were added to their "Walls of Fame," (see below) and their walls of fame will be added to their writing portfolios for safe keeping!
I plan to have a celebration at the culmination of each unit. By the end of year, each student will have 9 WALLS OF FAME in their portfolios.
Benefits that I noticed right away:
- The students had an opportunity to share their writing and practice public speaking in a safe setting with an authentic audience.
- The students heard other writing models, and were able to mentally compare their work to the work of their peers. This should help with future pieces.
- Their sweet faces simply lit up when they received their sticky notes of praise about their work. :)
- They are now aware that we are working toward these celebrations throughout each unit. The awareness that their work will be shared in this setting should be quite motivating as they gather their research.
On the teacher side of things:
- The students shared in groups of five, so I simply rotated the room and listened a bit to each group. Knowing we had a few parents at each group to keep things moving along, I was free to observe all the celebrations.
- The white table cloths were a simple touch that made the experience special for my kiddos. :)
- Other than organizing the materials, there was little work on my end. Now that the kids and parents are trained, the celebrations should almost host themselves in the future! ;)