Thursday, April 25, 2013

Underground Railroad Quilts

We are in the middle of our Civil War unit, my FAVORITE unit! I love teaching history and this is my favorite part of the year. Today, we read and talked about the Underground Railroad. My students were very interested and asking lots of great questions. We read the book Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt by Deborah Hopkinson. This is a great story about Clara creating a quilt/map that leads to the Underground Railroad.

After reading we discussed how quilts were used along the Underground Railroad as secret codes for the escaped slaves. My students then created their own secret code quilts using the site Pathways to Freedom. The site shows you examples of patterns that were used and then lets you create and explain your own quilt. This was a quick and easy activity that went great with the book.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Queen of the Falls plus so much more!

If you have never read the book Queen of the Falls by Chris Van Allsburg you should! It is a great story about Anna Taylor, the first person to ever go over Niagara Falls. I have a lot of boys in my 5th grade class and it is hard to keep them interested sometimes. This book and project kept them interested. Below is a basic daily layout of how I used this book in my classroom.

Day 1 - We started by reading about Niagara Falls and looking at pictures of the falls. When I first asked what they knew, the students could only tell me that it was a waterfall and that a man tight rope walked across it, Nik Wallenda in 2012. This actually took longer than I thought it would, the kids were really interested. Living in Florida we do not see waterfalls unless we are watching TV or traveling, so we had a great discussion about the falls. 

*You could easily stop here and save the rest for the next day. I had time that day and the kids were into the lesson so we kept going. 

After all of this discussion, I read aloud Queen of the Falls. I read until the barrel went over the falls and then stopped. :) All my students asked, "Did she live??" or "What happened?" I asked a few basic questions such as: do you think she lives?, if so will she be hurt? Then I finished the story. The kids were amazed that a 63 year old woman survived the 165 ft fall. It still amazes me every time I think about it. 

I asked the students how the information we read about Niagara Falls helped the students understand the story. This was a great opportunity for the kids to relate the story to the non-fiction text we read about Niagara Falls.

Day 2 I posted several different questions about the book. We discussed the student's answers. We then read a poem titled, Queen of the Mist, which tells about Ms. Taylor going over the falls. (We became very familiar with Ms. Taylor and referred to her as someone we all knew personally). As a class we talked about the poem and then students discussed with a partner how the poem was similar and different from the book. I try to compare different types of text as often as possible. 

Day 3 - Throughout our discussions of Ms. Taylor and reading about her, my students ask, "Did anyone else go over the falls?" On day three we learned about the other 13 people who intentionally went over the falls. I listed only the names of each person on the board and let the students pick who they wanted to write their report on. Niagara Falls Daredevils

To keep the kids in suspense, I did not let the kids look at their paper or the picture of their person until everyone had pick a daredevil. When I said, "Ok, you can read your paper." They were silent followed by comments such as; "Oh my gosh!" "This guy is crazy!"I love this part of teaching, watching the students get so excited about a topic.

After reading through their report, they completed the venn diagram on the Daredevil Report. Students compared Ms. Taylor to their person.

Day 4 & 5 - Students worked on writing their report and eyewitness account of their daredevil going over the falls. 

We also read Native American legend Lady of the Mist. Legends and folk tales are always fun to discuss.

This is a completed Daredevil report.

Day 6 - And of course we Tweeted about our Niagara Falls Daredevils.