Teaching Colonial History Through Literature
This year, I am bringing social studies to life through literature. 5th grade curriculum concentrates on American history and many of my students (children of military parents) have been out of the country for a good portion of their education. Through discovery, I have found reading aloud, with students taking notes and a reflection afterwards, really effective. We stop to discuss detail, events, historical records, culture, the what, who, where, when and why along the way. We look at maps, trace voyages across the ocean, discuss why ships were a favorite mode of transportation and why colonies started on the coasts. If I say we are too busy to read today, the moans can be heard outside our walls.
Under Siege!, historical fiction that tells the story of the 1702 English siege of the fort in America's ancient city, St. Augustine, Florida, is on the agenda as soon as our timeline enters the 1700s. I am happy to say the reviews have been good and it has been listed on the BookList (America Library Association) notable preview list.
We are currently heading toward the end of Blood on the River and the kids have loved every minute of it. It has been a great way to introduce first hand accounts and learn how we are hearing real thoughts from people who lived in the past. One of the class's favorites was the journal entry from Chief Powhatan. We realized we were listening to a blend of old English and broken English from and English learner.
Mapping character traits has been fun to do since the characters have such strong personalities. It has been especially fun for me because I am currently reading The Journals of Captain John Smith for college credit and I've been able to augment the story with extra first hand accounts.
At the beginning of the book, there was a great paragraph with wonderful imagery describing the port in England. The paragraph vividly described the three ships sailing to America with John Smith and Samuel Collier. I read the paragraph aloud several times while the kids drew what they heard. 5th grade illustrations always make me smile and this was no exception. We now have several illustrations mounted on our timeline.