Vincent E. Mauro is a K-5 elementary school although this status will change when it becomes a magnet school drawing students from outside the neighborhood. The school is located in a part of New Haven, Connecticut, known as “the Hill.” In the 2001-02 school year the student body consists of 54% African American, 45% Hispanic, and 1% other. Twenty-three percent of the Hispanic students are in the bilingual program. Six percent of all the students are receiving special education services. My students are in the third grade bilingual program. Their first language is Spanish, but most have already acquired their second language of English.
The environment of the school plays a role in the type of students I receive from year to year and this has an impact on planning. Much depends on the class’s background, how much needs to be explained about the topic, and class writing ability: in other words, can students express their ideas in writing and have students been writing in previous grades? The classroom schedule for elementary social studies can be inconsistent because of all the other important demands on time. But these are the hurdles that we have as teachers before we can begin any unit. As a result, this unit is written to be flexible and easily modified or adapted.
Whether we can spend many class hours or only a few on this unit, all lesson plans were developed to reinforce students’ culture and to create dialogue among the students about their ancestors and what affects their relatives had on American history. These lessons teach students how history shapes the world where they live today. This dialogue gives students the opportunity to practice listening, speaking, reading, writing, and higher order thinking skills. Students will be asked to answer critical thinking questions and to listen attentively to stories in order to identify key details and concepts. For bilingual students, these various opportunities to participate help in building their knowledge of the English language through oral comprehension, conversation, reading and writing skills. Ultimately, students will have opportunities to share each others writing. This experience will lead to a better understanding of themselves as well as one another while acquiring a second language.