Students in this section will research facts to be able to take on the perspective of a Revolutionary War figure. To do this they will be introduced to the lesson and then select a piece of paper with an important figure's name on it. I wanted my class to view the war from a variety of perspectives to learn that people see events in different ways. This is challenging for a student who has never participated in this or any war, so looking at these firsthand accounts will help to make the war clearer for my students. I also wanted to bring a focus in this lesson to CCSS writing standards, specifically to write using the internet (W 5.6) and historical resources (W 5.7) to summarize (W 5.8) the perspectives of their selected person (W 5.3b).
I start the unit by showing students an old journal I have (or you could show them a picture of a journal) and asking them what they think it is? I give them hints by sharing that in this book there is private writing. It holds memories of things that have happened in the past. It has one author who writes regularly in it. It can be kept and read for years and years. Once my students have guessed what it is, I ask them what sorts of things they would write in a journal?
I explain that even during the Revolutionary War, people would write their thoughts in the journal to express their feelings, their worries or their thoughts. These journals were hidden and later found by people who read them and learned about what it was like to live then. These journals are important historical documents today because they uncover so many clues to life in the late 1700s.
I now introduce the objective that they will chose pieces of paper that will identify a person who they each will research independently. They will each gather facts today to be used for their journal writing activity tomorrow (W 5.2b, RI 5.2, RI 5.9)
Here's a funny clip of students reaction to their chosen tags or pieces of paper:
I have students move into the computer lab and have each student choose a tag of a Revolutionary War figure. These tags range from King, to Loyalist, to Patriot, to African American, to Native American to woman - all playing a prominent role in the war but seeing it from a different perspective (W 5.3b). In that I have 33 students I make two copies of each - this could also be a good strategy if you have differentiated partnerships or helpful peer partnerships because they could work together and support each other on the fact gathering sections (RI 5.10, W 5.9b, SL 5.2)
Students are given their Revolutionary Figure Note sheets and I review their expectations for which facts to research for their person and how the information in each section will add interest and information to their journal writing. They are instructed that they will have 30 minutes to gather data (RI 5.9, W 5.2b). I have them take out their How to Search the Internet cheat sheets and post some good web addresses they can start with on the board and review how to navigate the search bar (W 5.6, RI 5.7). My students have received a few lessons already in how to effectively type needed information into their search boxes. They use these "cheat sheets" to as a resource for when they are unsure what to do to get accurate or specific information on their topics.
Students begin searching for information on their chosen figures.
Those who struggle to find usable or readable data, are given instruction on how to narrow down their research topics, scan websites for key words, or summarize data they have found into shorter, kid friendly sentences. I encourage students to work throughout the entire time so that they can learn as much as possible about their figures. This increases their interest and understanding so that the journal writing comes from both their memories and their notes. I don't have them cut and paste information because I want to teach them how to take good notes and use them for their report writing. Writing down their websites gives them a means to refer back to them in their center work times to gather information they might be missing.
When the timer sounds, students have five minutes to write down their notes and close out their programs before we leave the lab.
Students gather together before we close out this lesson to review what went well and what areas they struggled in. I answer questions and peers give advice for ways to make the research easier - they share what strategies proved to be effective for them (SL 5.1c)
I ask them: What would be easier - reading a first hand account of their adventures from their journals or reading internet sites from another person's perspective? Why? (SL 5.1d)
My objective is to get them to realize the value of these journals in our historical recollections of events. What we know comes from what people wrote down and shared with others. (you could take this back to the "Is it all factual?" question we raised in a previous lesson on whether or not we should change our history books?)