St. Columbkille 4th-grade teacher Ellen Funke describes the rich learning taking place in her personalized learning classroom.

“Introducing the American Revolution to 4th graders is one ‘aha’ moment after another. With each revelation, students start to piece together the bits of American history they’ve collected over the years. When a lightbulb moment occurs, a student may proclaim something like: ‘I thought the Boston Tea Party was about drinking tea!’ or ‘So that’s what we are celebrating on the 4th of July!’ or ‘I know why the Patriots call the British soldiers lobsterbacks–it’s because their coats are red!’

“Building a foundational knowledge of historical events is one my (many) favorite parts of teaching social studies. 4th grade is often the first year students take a deep dive into past time periods. To anchor our learning throughout the year, we work as a class to create a timeline posted in the back of our room. As the year goes on, we add historical events we read about in class. This helps us frame each new event as we learn about them. For example, when we placed the beginning of the Revolutionary War in 1775 on our timeline, students could see this took place prior to the Gold Rush, as well as the invention of the telephone and the airplane. These were all events we had discussed previously and could now add to our frame of historical reference.

“Our study of the American Revolution will not only strengthen students’ foundational knowledge of history, but also provides students the opportunity to demonstrate cognitive skills in their written work. At the end of our project, students will write a four-paragraph opinion essay in the form of a colonial-era broadside, choosing to write from the perspective of either a Loyalist or Patriot. Students will demonstrate their mastery of cognitive skills such as Argumentative Claim, Selection of Evidence, and Organization. Armed with the content learned throughout the project, students can clearly demonstrate higher-order thinking.
“Looking to launch a lesson on the American Revolution? Be prepared for recess to quickly morph into the Redcoats versus the Minutemen, complete with generals, spies, and traitors!”


Contributed by Ellen Funke, St. Columbkille Elementary 4th Grade Teacher

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