Monday, January 12, 2015

Civil Rights in Action~Post #2 Free Timeline Activity

I have updated my Civil Rights Timeline activity. It's a freebie on TPT if you need something engaging for Civil Rights. This mini-research unit takes about a week to complete in my classroom. {If you missed yesterday's post, it contains a Civil Rights Image Gallery activity, another freebie, that is perfect to do prior to the timeline research activity.}
Students research one of 25 events or people from Reconstruction to Civil Rights that help them develop an understanding of why the Civil Rights movement was necessary and what events led to this being a "movement" versus a few small protests. If you know of events you want students to research, you can easily include them in this mini-research project. After all students complete an illustration and summary of their event on the timeline card, we jigsaw the events onto our Civil Rights timelines. (This is one of the aspects of the freebie that I improved--using less pages by omitting years where no events are included in my timeline and stretching out years where many events took place).

I used the African American World Timeline from PBS to create this timeline activity. The website only gives a short description of the event and many of the links within are now unavailable :( So, this week, I had to quickly find other websites that would help students complete their research.

One website that has been popping up when I type "for kids" is Have you used this website? It seems pretty useful and on a kid-level for was even useful in our biome research during science today. are links to some of the websites we are using:

Freedom: A History of US
Civil Rights for Kids
Civil Rights Events Resources (a few)
Learning History through Art (lots of background)
16th Baptist Church Bombing
Montgomery Alabama bus boycott
Plessy v Ferguson
President Truman's Executive Order
Greensboro Sit-Ins Homepage
Ruby Bridges
Civil Rights Video Links
Ruby Bridges goes to School

Did you know that you can copy and paste links from one webpage to another? If you want these on your own class website, just copy and add! Just keep in mind that I have not explored the sites fully, but believe that the pages I have linked to are appropriate for 4th graders. 

Head over to TPT to download this updated FREEBIE!~~! The download has lots of extras, like a one-page timeline for teacher and/or student reference, a one page Civil Rights vocabulary handout, directions for the teacher, and a list of suggested picturebooks and novels. If you like this activity, show me some love here and on TPT :)

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Civil Rights in Action!-Post #1

In reading, we began a historical fiction unit focused on the Civil Rights. I always want to launch new units with an engaging activity, duh!, although sometimes this is hard to pull off. Luckily, the idea to start with photographs popped into my mind as I was planning. I have used this technique for talking about propaganda used by Hitler during the Holocaust and found it to be really effective and powerful. Images immediately increase students' background knowledge and (especially for studying a new time period), students can get a sense of the setting and the climate of the place at that time. Not only does it provide an awesome way to launch a unit, but we constantly refer to the images in our future discussions as we increase background knowledge and move through specific topics and events.
Without announcing the topic of our study, I had students respond to the images in their reading response notebooks. I wanted students to be able to write any thoughts or questions they had, but I also gave them a few questions to give a little extra support for students who might not know how to respond to this open-ended activity. I kept students in whole group to write about image #1 to make sure they knew what they were supposed to do when they began the "image walk."
-I see...I wonder...
-What's your reaction?
-What knowledge do you have about this image?
-What questions does this image bring to mind?
-Can you connect this image to another image?

You can download the set of images I used. I chose 14 images that are pretty famous for the Civil Rights movement, age-appropriate for 4th graders, and some that are specific to events in North Carolina. The download is editable so you can modify it to fit your needs {or just roll with it with plans ready!} I planned for students to analyze the images for about 30 minutes and they could have used 45 or more. It really depends on whether or not you want students to get to write about them all. If so, I suggest choose just a few images from the 14. 

My procedures: 
-Preparation: Post images in hallway or other space around the room. I printed two sets of the images so that with 21 students, 28 images were available for analysis. I also printed the images 4 to a page for students to refer to later in their discussion groups. 
-I allowed students to do a silent walk by the image gallery before beginning the written response. This way, if they didn't get to all images, at least they got to see them. It also was a way to trigger some prior knowledge on the topic.
-Students responded to the images independently, trying to get to as many as possible in the time allotted. I traveled around the room reading their responses and noting individual students' background knowledge and pushing students who were not going beyond describing the pictures (literal thinking) to go into deeper responses. (Each image is numbered so that students can record the image they are responding to).
-After the allotted time, students met in groups of 4 to share and discuss what they saw and what they thought. I had them choose a recorder to take notes using a t-chart where they listed "questions" and "thoughts" from their group. 
-Finally, I wanted us to meet in whole group to discuss and chart our questions, but we ran out of time and had to do this the following day. 

Now, each day, I choose one or two images for us to discuss prior to beginning our minilesson and activities for the day. I try to choose something related to what we will be discussing. For example, I'll choose the Norman Rockwell painting of Ruby Bridges on the day I read The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles. Use this as an opportunity to elicit questions to see if the read aloud (or video resource) answers those questions.

Stay tuned for post # 2 tomorrow where I share my Civil Rights timeline activity and a list of appropriate books for a study of the Civil Rights. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

One Word~2015 Style

One-word. I know you've heard about it. I love this concept of figuring out one word for the New Year. So many of us have SO~MANY~GOALS we want to work on. Let's face it, our lives are not simple. We are busy. We are teachers, lesson-planners (those are two separate jobs!), home-based chefs, housekeepers, bill-payers, going organic, organizers, sleepers--yes, sometimes, coffee-drinkers, "sharpening-the-saw"ers, commuters, runners, business owners, mothers or fathers, significant others, daughters and sons, volunteers, (ah-hem~over-extenders), friends, the list goes on!

And dang, I want to make goals to be Ahhhh-mazing in all of those things! But, just reading that list was a little overwhelming wasn't it? "One word" for goal setting (@ New-Year's or anytime) is awesome because you can really choose something that generalizes to all areas of your life. My "one-word" for 2014 was:   
SIMPLIFY is my PERFECT word for 2015. How did I come up with my word this year? To be honest, I wasn't even sure I was going to have a resolution or word...I'm always still working on the goals I had last month (haha)!

I follow the blog 99u on facebook and one of the articles I caught related to New Year's really stuck with me. The article's called "5 Scientific Ways to Build Habits that Stick." #3 is Eliminate Excessive Options.  In the explanation, Gregory Ciotti says there is great willpower in being boring. He shares an anecdote about Barack Obama and his grey and navy suits--that these are the only color suits he has in his closet so that he can spend his time making the important decisions. Research has found that "making repeated choices deplete(s) the mental energy." Ummm, yes. Yes, it does! And, I think we just found out the reason why teachers are so dang exhausted at the end of the day!

Well, being that decisions weigh me down constantly, that caught my attention. And being that 2015 is 99% certainly going to be one of the biggest decision making years of my life--think sell house, buy new house, possibly transition to a new school {again}, live with the {LOVES} of my life,--yes, in the same house, and choose a great school for a 7 year old, I need some SIMPLICITY in 2015 so that I can make the big decisions that need to be made.

As a teacher, I have a tendency to over-think (or shall I say "over-complicate") things. Not making decisions quickly enough, not keeping things routine and simple enough, and not prioritizing effectively make up my teacher "Achilles heel." And then I end up wanting to pull my hair out, or cry, or pull my hair out and cry, because I'm not planned for the day, the week, or even the next minute! It's like I never learn from my past successes to---hey---just do that thing again! 

How do I plan to simplify in 2015? Well for starters:
-eat the same thing for breakfast, snack, and lunch Mon-Fri (yes, I over think food, especially since I want to cook for myself and eat healthier, and I like to eat, but I am also satisfied eating the same things over and over--this will also help with my "get back in shape" goal!) I found an awesome list of 50 salads on pinterest and I plan to just pick a different one each weekend and make my salad bowls for the week. (Routine, but varied just might work!)
-make teaching decisions faster based on what I've done in the past. Stop over thinking it and looking for "new" things. If it worked, do it again. If I have time to re-think something, fine, but don't make re-inventing the wheel the only way I do my job. K.-I.-S.-S.! Keep It Simple Smart teacher! At work today, I pulled out this old-goodie and got to planning my historical fiction unit (yes-based on what I had done in the past!!) It's a freebie if you need something for Civil Rights!
I introduced my 5th graders to "one word" last year and they came up with some amazing (and very fitting, full of reflection) ideas. I gave them 1 page and 1/2 page clip art frames to write their word on. The idea was for them to post the 1/2 page sign in their locker and the other at home as a reminder of their "one word." I will probably take the time to have my 4th graders create "one-word" next week because it's such a valuable opportunity to reflect and commit to some changes.
Are you following me on Facebook? I wish ya would, because reaching out to my followers more is another one of my goals for 2015 ;)


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