Past To The Future: The Futurist

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Objective: Students Will Be Able To synthesize research about the American Revolution into their own lives to make a CHANGE in their world in order to affect their futures.

Big Idea

Use the PAST To CHANGE the PRESENT in order to SAVE our FUTURE

Prior Knowledge and Language Objectives

Prior Knowledge: Basic background of the American Revolution. The Major events that led up to and happened during the Revolutionary war. Basic computer skills. Being able to save files properly. Being willing to make mistakes and chances.

Language Objective: SWBAT use persuasive language in order to convince others that their ideas are worth changing the world

Technology Used

Technology Used:  Each Team has a separate project outcome which requires different technology. Technology listed here are not the end all and I encourage you to find technologies that you are comfortable using. I ALSO encourage you to find new technologies and explore them. I am always amazed at how quickly students learn new technologies and how much they teach me about the ones I do know!

Technology that I use: Word, PowerPoint, Movie Maker (a lot!), GiMP, Scratch, Skype, Class Dojo, Edmodo

Project Overview

Driving Question:  If you (we) could initiate one change in your present life, that would shape or change the future, what would you do and how can you use history (the past) to justify/support your idea/cause(s)?

Theme: All history is about change. We need to connect our lives to historical events in order to engage our students in understanding history, AND creating a "want to know more" environment. (*Challenge: to engage students in researching history by using it to connect to the (their) real world.

Final Project/Outcome: This part of the project is the Gamification of the classroom. Everything we do has points attached and students work in teams to do everything! Student motivation and engagement are major challenges for schools. Gamification, or the incorporation of game elements into non-game settings, creates an opportunity to help schools engage student in their own learning.

General Lesson

90 minutes

Gamification of the classroom is a great tool to really engage students in to everyday activities. It adds an element of excitement but also builds community. The teamwork that is instantly created is amazing. Leave NO ONE behind is the motto: teams work together to make sure everyone is learning!

Here is a basic outline that I used to create the teams in my room. The idea of the game builds slowly to get the students invested, but the teamwork developed quickly and organically. There was no magic lesson that created team spirit. I think students like to work as teams. There is a lot more strength in the team as opposed to partners or small groups!

I created 3 teams: The Actionist, The Explorationist and The Innovationist. 

  • The Actionists make change in the world through actions and words.
  • The Explorationists make change in the world through new discoveries.
  • The Innovationists make change by inventing new ways to get things done.

Students are given a list with these three teams. I asked them to consider which one describes the way they think, and to rank the choices 1 - 3.

I didn’t tell students I was going to make teams based on their choices, because I wanted honest answers. Surprisingly, in all of my 3 classes, each group divided evenly into three teams. So there is one of each of these teams in each of my three classes. Below I list the implementation elements of this project.

  • The next day I announced that we were going to start working as teams. Everything was about teamwork. And I stressed that no team's work was complete until everyone is done. Everything we do in class has points connected to it.
  • When doing math or science everyone needs to know what we are doing and to be able to explain, successfully, his or her thinking. What I have found in teams is that those students that “get it” quicker become teachers, and really work with the struggling students. They can’t just give out answers because I ask students to explain how they got this answer or that answer and if they can’t tell me the team loses points! (I only teach math and science this year but our writing teacher and literacy teacher are also using this model with great success!)
  • Once the teams are established, they create a flag, a banner with their motto, a mascot, and a banner with their team name on it. These are hung on the walls outside my classroom to promote team pride. This is another tool to engage the students into this game.
  • Points and Challenges:
    • Points: I use a free online program, Class Dojo, to track team points because it makes it quite easy to track points. Class Dojo only allows you to add one point at a time, so I track one point as equal to 100. This is important for the Team Control part of the game (see below).
    • Badges: students are also working to earn badges that are STEM related, through a program set up within our district. Although this is more of an individual project, students can still earn points that will go to their team!
    • Edmodo Challenges: I set up four accounts using Edmodo, which is similar to Facebook but intended for the classroom. There is a whole group and then each team has their own group. I post random challenges and pictures so that teams can earn points. Sometimes I post questions and collect responses. I even use it to post lesson directions and have teams log on at the start of a lesson so that they can’t say they didn’t know what they were supposed to be doing! Students also use it to communicate with other team members that are not in their class. Students also use it to communicate with adult mentors of their projects.

The Game: Team Control     

Each team works to earn points for CONTROL over our community!

This game builds teamwork organically. Students have to support each other and work collaboratively in order to be successful.

  1. Make a map of your school with all the rooms included, distinctive areas (e.g., mural, garden, trophy cases), playground areas, etc. Give each area a POINT value. For example, my classroom would be worth 1000 points. When a team uses points to buy an area/room it will double its value. If another team wants to buy it from the team who owns it, the price is now 2000 points. Each time, the value doubles when another buy is made. If a team acquires three rooms that are connected, that BLOCK now has to remain a block unless the teams sells the room back to the game or trades it with another team.
  2. The game goes beyond the classroom. Anything can come under the control of a team. Team members just need to post a picture of the team members at a particular location. They will post these pictures to the class group on Edmodo. They must name their team, and explain why this particular place is valuable to them, and worthy of purchase. Important community locations can be subject to some personal interpretation, with examples such as public art, historical locations, favorite eateries…anything that they feel is important to their community. Photos MUST include team members, and they cannot use photos grabbed from the Internet.
  3. On launching day (the first day), I allow the teams to meet and discuss what TWO rooms they want to control. From then on, their meets can be arranged at recess. The game unfolds organically from here. 

Cross Curriculum Connections

Reading – Writing – Social Studies – Science – Math - Technology

Real World Connections:  The change students are making is within their school and community, solving problems that they see as important. While grade levels will dictate the scope or theme, in all cases students direct the focus. Connecting what has occurred in the past to themselves, students make research relevant to their own lives. They are directly applying their learned knowledge to their own lives. Students are driven by the idea that they can "change the world". Using real world connections makes a compelling case that motivates students to critically think about their learning. Using what they know to drive positive change gives purpose and meaning to learning. Students will also be connecting with people in their own community to open up the classroom into the real world, not just relying on their teacher to lead.

Research / Reading Connection:

Motel of Mystery by David Macaulay.

Science and Technology in Colonial America by William E. Burns. 

George vs. George, The American Revolution as seen from Both Sides by Rosalyn Schanzer. 

Memoir of a Revolutionary Solder: The Narrative of Joseph Plumb Martin by Joseph Plumb Martin.

Soldier’s Secret: The Story of Deborah Sampson by Sheila Solomon Klass. 

Chains (Seeds of America) by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Writing connection:

  • Major product: Students will write 2 or more reflective letters from your ‘past’ self to your ‘future’ self, based on information collected to explain what they are learning about why people chose to change things (CCSS W.5.3a).


This project is connected to (these other projects insert links).

Skills Development

Collaboration - Individual ResponsibilitiesStudents will work in teams to collect research to support their final product. Information and ideas will be shared in the form of a Socratic Seminar model.  Rubric to be created to assign team roles and responsibilities. CCSS SL.5.1a-b

Each team member will be responsible to complete their work, help their classmates and work as part of a team. Individual work is always related to what the team is doing. Individual work doesn’t feel isolated. A team is only as strong as its weakest link so it is important that team members support each other learning

Collaboration –Team Responsibilities: Students will work in teams to collect research to support their final product. Information and ideas will be shared in the form of a Socratic Seminar model.  Rubric to be created to assign team roles and responsibilities. CCSS SL.5.1a-b

Teams will be responsible for working together on ALL projects. In order to have Team Control it is important that the team collaborate on strategies in order to be successful.

Team project is dependent on teamwork to finish.

Teams will also process through revision work where students give supportive and critical revision suggestions to one another. Teams work together so that every project is the result of teamwork.

Critical Thinking Skills: Students will be able to take their learned knowledge of the changes made during the Revolutionary War and apply it to their own lives, seeing that their own voice is just as powerful as the voice of the young Americans.

Students will be able to work together as a team, support each other and use the minds of the team to create the most successful team. It is really important that teams identify the strengths of each team member and work together to be successful.

Problem Solving Skills: Students will be able to work together as a team to come to common solutions. Teams will assign responsibilities to each team member in order to be successful.

Students will be able to bring together all the strengths of the team to overcome problems. Challenges will be designed so that no one person can do all the work!


STEM Connections:


Science and Technology in Colonial America: What is the role and context of science in the colonial era.


Application for research (internet), Movie Maker, Web Cams, PowerPoint or Prezi, GiMP, Scratch, Edmodo.


Grade level social studies/history. Grade level science materials. Historical fiction book for group study.

Science: Science in Colonial America


The final product, building digital presentations.


The final product, use of art and creativity to argue and justify a message, cause, and/or campaign.


Math centered activities that use colonial life to connect learning in math: currency, data/charts, fractions.

21st Century Learning Skills

Learning and Innovation Skills:

• Creativity and Innovation

• Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

• Communication and Collaboration

Information, Media and Technology Skills:

• ICT (Information, Communications and Technology) Literacy

Life and Career Skills:

• Flexibility and Adaptability

• Initiative and Self-Direction

• Productivity and Accountability

• Leadership and Responsibility

ELL and Special Education Support

Project Based Learning is very supportive of ELL and SpEd students. Allowing them to create final project based on their abilities is very rewarding, especially when working in a team.

ELL Support: Finding videos, research/support materials in a home language is quite supportive. Visual representations such as diagrams and art are also very helpful. Finding events that relate to home countries provides personal context. I find pairing ELL students with classmates speaking the same language to be supportive. Allow ELL students to use a more graphical, rather than text-based, presentation allows all students to participate fully, especially when students have great ideas but have yet to develop the language to frame ideas in English. You can also partner-pair for final presentations.

SpEd – Find the research materials for these students to use, because you want to save the cognitive challenge for the work rather than the search for research. Partner support can be a great support. Simplify elements of the final project (differentiate to meet individual needs) yet keep the same high expectations. An example of an outcome would be a PowerPoint that has 5 slides rather than 10 while still delivering the critical information. Quality not Quantity!

Educator as Change Agent / Bringing Educators & Community Into the Project

It is vital that you work to bring outside community members into students' projects. I find social media is a great way to find "specialists" to support this work. I rely on Edmodo (similar to Facebook but for school use) because it allows student to blog with experts. This way the experts are more likely to be available, as they don't have to travel to the school!

It is really amazing how much more engaged students become when they make a connection with someone, outside of the school, who is interested in their work! Also, I urge you to bring more teachers into the project work, as it is a lot easier to manage when there are more minds involved. Each of my lessons in this this project have suggestions on how to involve other teachers, community members, including corporate involvement!


Suggestions for Assessments


Formative Assessments

(During Project)


Summative Assessments

(End of Project)

  • Journal/Learning Log


  • Written Product(s), with rubrics
  • Preliminary Plans, Outlines, Prototypes


  • Oral Presentation, with rubric
  • Rough Drafts


  • Multiple Choice/Short Answer Test
  •  Quizzes/Tests/Exams


  • Essay Test
  • Notes


  • Other Product(s) or Performance(s), with rubric
  •  Checklists


  • Peer Evaluation
  •  Concept Maps


  • Self-Evaluation