Sunday, September 22, 2013

Social Studies Mentor Text - Civil War

Happy first day of autumn! I can hardly believe it is September 22nd, and it seems impossible that we are almost through the first 9 weeks of my school year. I feel like time is evaporating.  
This is the first year, in a long time, that I have been responsible for teaching all of the subject areas to my students. Previously, I teamed with a co-worker and we split the responsibility of science and social studies. Since my best teacher teammate retired last year, I have been flying solo. 
I believe that students should have time with both subjects daily, and prefer not to teach one subject for a few weeks then teach the other. There are plenty of teachers who pull this off well, but it does not work for me. I also worry that my students lose touch with the content when we do not discuss the subjects daily. The downside is it is tough squeezing in all of the social studies and I am constantly working at the best way to teach all of the concepts. 
I always find myself wanting to tell all of the story behind the content so I get really in to the concepts. The kids fall in love with the stories too; they ask great questions, so I really have to watch the clock. 
The conundrum of time means that I have to be creative. One of the best solutions is to integrate social studies stories in to language arts time. This week I will use 2 books from one of my favorite authors, Patricia Polacco, to integrate the social studies curriculum. 
Civil War is still our main focus and I love the chance to tell stories for them to see the personal connection to a time they are finding hard to relate to. (I am so impressed with this groups' questions related to slavery, they really are flabbergasted at the concept of selling people and treating people like property. Their question of, "Whose idea was it to sell people in the first place?" gives me hope that bondage in our world may end if these kids have any say about it.) 
The first book we will read is, Pink and Say

We will discuss the plot, setting, and theme from the book. We will also use the story to review the confederates and union soldiers, their mission and what they were fighting for. 
I always emphasize this line from the book when reading it, "Touching the hand of Lincoln is symbolic for hope for a better future and a country without slavery." 
That line makes a great mentor text sentence for us to continue our discussion of structure. 

The other book we will read is, Just In Time Mr. Lincoln, where two young boys find themselves transported back in time to Antietam. 

The pictures in this book and the urgency expressed by the characters helps you feel the devastation of the era. This book clearly expresses how horrid war is, and that killing is not glorious. 
We will discuss story elements while reading this book, but also pull out the historical events from the Civil War. 
If we do not run out of time (we have 2 early release days this week and a mock writing test) I would really like them to create an acrostic poem using Lincoln. Ideally, I would love them to create them on the computers, but if time is tight we can write them out by hand. Read Write Think has an acrostic poem online tool activity that is user friendly. 
If you are looking for a video on Abraham Lincoln, I found one through neok12 that focuses on how he helps to fix the problems of our nation. 
In addition, I found a great resource with text connections and quizzes online. Check it out here. The activities are conducive to independent exploration or a small group exploration. 
What text do you plan to use this week in your classroom? Looking for some mentor text ideas? Check out the links at Collaboration Cuties


  1. So touching. I love this one and used it with my fifth graders. Thank you so much for sharing how you use it with your kids.

    Sarah @ Hoots N Hollers

    1. Thank you so much. I always get choked up and cry when I read these books.

  2. I love Pink and Say...such a beautiful book. I use it in reading as well, but it really does help to build some knowledge for the Civil War. Thanks for sharing how you use it!

    Hunter's Teaching Tales
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    1. Thanks Bethany. It really is a classic and a book that leads to great discussions.

  3. These texts look very moving. I'll have to pass your post along to our 5th grade social studies teacher.
    Thanks for sharing.

    School Is a Happy Place

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting. I hope your teachers enjoy the texts!


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