On any typical day many school children can be found gazing and daydreaming out of classroom windows. They may be pondering of what the future may hold for them as they grow into adulthood. These daydreams can be given powerful wings when the dreamer has a deep understanding of the past and how no matter where they go in the future, the efforts and the struggles of fellow Americans of the past have a connection and impact on the future they will meet. As children learn and grow in elementary school the focus and goals are always related to the future. In addition, as teachers we are always preparing our students with the lessons they need in order to support their future learning endeavors. Oftentimes and unfortunately, history is viewed as facts to memorize and only to be discussed during special anniversaries or monthly themed commemorations. At the elementary level, social studies is an often neglected content area due to our focus on the development of literacy skills and math skills based on the needs to meet the objectives of standard driven curriculum goals in order to meet literacy and math goals. Social Studies is expected to be integrated into literacy lessons as opposed to using Social Studies to promote literacy skills through deep oral, written, and reading experiences. The unit I have created uses literacy as a springboard to bring about conversations, introduce activities, and most of all to stress the importance of looking back to the past history of our nation during the Great Depression of the 1930’s. This unit is designed to promote curiosity, understanding, and reflection in how the impact of the 1930’s and the Great Depression continues to have an impact in our lives today.
This unit was designed for third grade students. However, this unit can be easily modified for any classroom setting within the intermediate grade levels third through fifth. While this unit is designed for my predominantly Hispanic students who are designated as English Language Learners in my dual language school, it is also very appropriate for any classroom setting whether urban, suburban, or rural. Goals and objectives can be easily adjusted in order to meet grade specific Common Core State Standards. In this interdisciplinary unit students will learn through the integration of oral language, reading, writing, social studies, and technology. Most of my students come from Latin and Hispanic cultures from around the world and bring a rich background of diversity to the classroom; however, they lack the historical knowledge of the country in which they are now citizens. While my students are very curious, the opportunity to learn the history of the United States depends on the schools to provide this knowledge for them as their families have lived and experienced a different history in their native countries.
The overall goal of this unit will focus on students learning about life in the 1930’s and how it relates to the lives they live today in their close knit Fair Haven inner city community. The chapter book, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo will serve as an entry point into the 1930’s. While The Miraculous Journey of Edward is a required text for grade three students in my district, there are other comparable texts that could be easily adapted. Suggestions of texts which depict this time period are Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis, Nothing to Fear by Jackie French Koller, or Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor. Synopses of these texts can be found in the resources section of this unit. Lessons and activities will be planned and implemented in order to engage and support critical thinking as opposed to simply presenting material for the purpose of recall. Students will also develop content specific vocabulary which will enable them to have rich discussions and written responses. This unit will incorporate a hands-on and inquiry learning approach. This unit will be broken into three parts. Students will also need access to computers for part one and part two of the unit. The unit will take approximately six weeks to complete with 3-4 lessons a week in conjunction with the read aloud of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane or your text of choice.