When Opportunity Knocks
In 21st century classrooms across the United States, teachers are grappling with the best way to meet both student needs and federal/ state requirements. As a self-contained elementary teacher (one who teaches academic subjects to the same class) I find using Teaching with Historic Places (TwHP) lesson plans to be an exciting, intriguing, efficient, and effective way to have students dig deeper into history while meeting these needs.
While this approach may seem narrow-minded at first glance, using TwHP lessons actually allows the elementary teacher three great opportunities:
1. Helping students make connections to the larger historical era under instruction;
2. Helping teachers dip their feet (or fingers or toes) into the sometimes murky depths of using historical documents as teaching tools, which will then help students to become thoughtful and detailed readers, thinkers, and writers;and
3. Allowing self-contained teachers the possibility for integration into most if not all subjects across the curriculum during the school day.
The TwHP lesson plan that I will be using as a reference is The Trail of Tears and the Forced Relocation of the Cherokee Nation. According to West Virginia Content Standards and Objectives (CSOs), fourth grade students study the early explorers to the end of the American Revolution, as well as West Virginia History;fifth grade students pick up from the end of the American Revolution through to the current time.For elementary teachers, time is one of our most precious resources –we just don't have enough of it during the school day to cover effectively all requirements the state and federal governments mandate. Using the TwHP lesson plan format, I'll demonstrate how I've broken down the lessons for use in my classroom. Like my colleague Paul LaRue (see "Less is More"), I don't use an entire TwHP lesson plan –I pick and choose both what works best for my students at any given time and also what helps ensure that we meetstate and federal standards.