I participated in the seminar on Everyday Life in Early America. Currently, the New Haven Curriculum for first grade includes the study of Native Americans, and their beliefs, institutions, ideals, traditions, and conflicts. However, it is not developed extensively and does not include sufficient resources, goals, objectives or rationale for such a study. The Social Studies curriculum is in draft form and does not offer a significant amount of support or a detailed outline of instruction. This seminar on everyday life in early America is the perfect opportunity to merge my newly gained insights and knowledge with the open-ended curriculum and interdisciplinary studies.
This seminar and its topics of discussion has increased my preparation and added to my personal background knowledge of Early America. Through the many meaningful significant discussions and lectures I was able to effectively design an interdisciplinary unit as well as plan to deliver and teach the unit to students in an authentic way. The topics being explored in the seminar align directly to the important components of Native American life on the plains.
The unit authentically explores relationships, customs, traditions, beliefs, environment, food sources, and both written and oral communications of the Plains Indians during the 17th and 18th century. The unit allows children to connect to Native American culture and draw similarities and differences between their own self, their own lives, and culture to that of another culture of an earlier day. The lessons are directly linked to children's understandings of the similarities and differences among all of their experiences of everyday life. This unit is responsible for getting children, who come to first grade with an incredible sense of self, to move from taking an experience of their own life, and comparing it to Native American life and vice versa.
The unit is rich in literature and illustrations, utilizing seminar discussions and children's fiction and nonfiction literature relating directly to Native Americans. The unit is also filled with skills students will learn and build upon. Skills such as graphing, writing, drawing, communicating, language development, critical thinking, reflecting and sharing are all incorporated.
The unit provides students with the chance to identify with Native American culture and allow me to find out where their interests lie. In developing the unit I will remind myself that it becomes a starting point for children as they grow into an extreme world of diversity.
I am currently working as a curriculum staff developer in a K-4 school in New Haven. I am responsible for supporting student learning through assisting teachers at each grade level. Some of the professional support tasks I do include: conferencing with teachers about instructional planning, organizational procedures and policies, managing individual differences, implementing classroom management plans, home school connections, and evaluation and assessment of both themselves as educators and what students have learned. In supporting teachers I must model, coach, and demonstrate. I decided to participate in the Yale Teachers Institute because I saw it as an opportunity to continue supporting teachers in the above mentioned ways while implementing a specific unit of study. I hoped that teachers would be able to see the relationship and connections between the unit I planned and the support tasks above.
Columbus School houses New Haven's biggest bilingual population. 80% of our children are native Spanish speakers and are acquiring English as their second language. Therefore it is extremely important to use an abundance of visuals, vocabulary, word lists, discussion and hands on meaningful experiences to ensure successful teaching and learning is taking place. I have incorporated all the disciplines in the unit so that it cuts across the curriculum as well. Since the new social studies curriculum includes the theme of Native Americans and since I have never developed deeply into this topic, I saw this seminar as a perfect opportunity to merge my knowledge involving the Multiple Intelligences with my prior experiences in curriculum and interdisciplinary studies.
I thought it would be exciting to create a unit of study that gives each student the opportunity to exploit his or her own learning styles. This unit is full of opportunities for children to be creative while exploring Plains Indians through the multiple intelligences and developing skills through the disciplines. Most of the activities outlined in the overview of the unit, as well as the activity plans themselves, are quite open-ended and can be performed by children in a variety of ways. This gives students with limited English language skills a comfort zone that promotes a safe learning environment. Children at Columbus know that there is no right and wrong, there is only explanation of how and why. The materials used for the unit are numerous and diversified, thus encouraging student success and creativity.
The unit is designed to be challenging for students of all abilities. It encourages students to break out of normal patterns of learning, and to solve problems that are life related and involve empathizing with other cultures. The unit also guides children into seeing relationships between ideas and actions, reaching their own conclusions about what they have learned.
There is an abundance of skills, such as writing, problem solving, reading, charting, graphing, cooperating, sharing, language development, and critical thinking, explained in the activity plans. The unit provides each individual with the opportunity to tap into his or her own intelligence. Student success is always highly correlated with feelings of comfort and security. The unit is designed to promote this comfort by supporting students with varying learning proclivities and language abilities, while engaging in a study of Plains Indians.
I have decided to take interesting pieces of Plains Indian culture to use as the lessons. I believe it is important for the students to know how Plains Indians dressed, the importance of the buffalo, what they ate and the importance of corn, how they communicated with each other, forms of entertainment, and housing. I would like also to design the unit so each lesson gives students some product/project to keep. The following outline will assist in explaining the important components of the unit.