Our fifth grade students are studying the United States around the turn of the 20th century and are required to know about several historical figures. I made a list of the names and divided them among the three classes. Each teacher assigned the students groups (about 4 students in each group) and they pulled a name from a hat.
I had the students use either World Book Online (we have a subscription) or Britannica School Encyclopedia (available online in Georgia through the state). They used their Chromebooks to independently read about their person and take notes, each student required to record about 5-8 facts. I narrowed their focus on the time period around 1900, as several of the historical figures had long lives with many accomplishments.
Besides including the facts, each group had to cite their resources on the poster. I’m trying to repeat this requirement over and over.
Social Skills-Group Work
Each group then had to decide which facts they would include on their large poster (white butcher paper). I had a copy of a photo of each figure they could use to draw their person from. I could tell they need more practice working in groups as a lot of time was spent on deciding who would do what. Or one person was telling everyone what they were going to do–and I had to remind them how to decide as a GROUP who would do what. After observing for a few minutes I also had to tell them that I should NOT see anyone just sitting there, that the paper was sufficiently large to allow ALL group members to be working at the same time.
I’m not sure I will do this activity again; too much time was spent coloring in dresses, etc. The third grade classes did a similar activity and they were much more effecient in accomplishing the work in much less time.
It was a struggle to get the students to fill the large piece of paper. Many of them wanted to draw very small portraits of the people. They also wrote very small for the most part and it was hard to read. If I do this again I’ll let them use markers as this might make reading the sentences easier (not as easy to correct mistakes, however) and have a model product for them to view.
Extended Activity-Making Connections
I tried something different this week to follow up on the poster research and poster activity. I had the students make connections with the accomplishments of the historical figures with the world today (or their life). Using a basic graphic organizer they chose one figure and with a partner read the facts on the poster and then decided how the discoveries/accomplishments of that person impacts our lives today. We then went back into the library and each group shared. I think it went very well and hopefully they now have a better understanding of why we study these “old” people!