Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Our American Revolution Unit Study

Yes, you CAN study the American Revolution with elementary students, and it CAN be exciting! Here's our complete American Revolution unit study, including all the hands-on activities that we did--and all of our travels!

Joy Hakim's History of Us was our spine for this unit, with all of the extra readings, activities, and field trips organized to be relevant to a specific chapter in her text. Although they're roughly in order below, check out her books for the real chronology of what we did.

For each activity, click on the link. If it's an outside link, it'll have the reference that I used. If it's a link to another of my blog posts, it'll have the tutorial, links to any required resources, and links to the other reference materials, readings, and assorted outside resources that we used.
  1. Early America: We listened to/read Joy Hakim's Making Thirteen Colonies for context to the American Revolution, completing just a few field trips and hands-on activities.
    1. Christopher Columbus unit study. He's not a role model, but he does exemplify the Age of Exploration that I wanted the children to understand, and these days there are more accurate resources available to study him. Our Christopher Columbus unit study included a workbook that had acceptable coverage, several readings to provide more detail, a field trip to see recreations of the Nina and Pinta, a hands-on project to make our own recreations, and some live-action role play of their voyages. 
    2. model Jamestown. This was a great way for the kids to see what a colony looked like and how it was structured, and it came out so adorable that the kids were thrilled
    3. Jamestown online adventure game. It's an online role-playing simulation. Can you survive in Jamestown?
    4. Mayflower map model. We made a few of the 3D maps from this book, including this one, a map of the early American slave trade, and a map of Paul Revere's ride. They're all wonderful.
    5. The Bloodless Revolution and Parliament. We went to see a copy of the Magna Carta in person, so I wanted the kids to understand the Bloodless Revolution, but it's also important to understand Parliament as a contrast to the US system of government.
      1. Parliament YouTube channel. Not much is super interesting on this channel, but you can surf around and get a good idea of what Parliament looks like and how it operates.
    6. Geography of the 13 Colonies. Got to have this memorized! I bought these maps and made pin flags for them.
    7. War of Jenkins' Ear. From Colonies to Country covers this; here's a more in-depth map to make the divisions clear.
    8. The French and Indian War. Even if you don't do the rest of the build-up to the American Revolution, you HAVE to start here. It's where Washington learned to lead, and where the trouble over land really got started. Use From Colonies to Country as your spine.
      1. lapbook. We don't do lapbooks, per se, but we did do notebooking with this unit, and they put many of these little lapbooks into their notebooks.
      2. Story of the World, v. 3. This offers a broader geo-historical perspective to the French and Indian War. If you also have the activity book, you can use its quizzes and mapwork.
      3. Fort Necessity. I discuss our trip here, as well as telling you all of the other resources, reference materials, and additional activities that we used.
    9. The Intolerable Acts.  It started as a series of taxes to make the colonies "repay" Great Britain for the war, but then devolved into more taxes just to punish them. Protests, then riots, then rebellion ensued.
      1. Mission: Crown or Colony? The kids have, over the years, played this role-playing simulation of the build-up to the American Revolution several times. It never seems to get old!
      2. England's Reasons for Taxing the Colonies. This little lapbook is a handy reference to have the kids make and stick in their notebooks.
      3. Skittles Role Play. One morning, I divvied a huge bag of Skittles into three Ziplock baggies. Each kid decorated her baggie as one of the colonies. I decorated mine as Great Britain, and only had a handful of Skittles in mine, whereas each of theirs was stuffed full. I told them that at the end of the schoolday, they could eat all of the Skittles in their bags. And then, I began to tax them. I taxed them for breakfast. I taxed them for paper to do their schoolwork. I taxed them to look over their schoolwork. I taxed them for taking them to the park, and taxed them for taking them home. Every now and then, I would enjoy a handful of Skittles from my bag while they seethed. Even though I taxed them only a Skittle at a time, by the end of the day they each only had about six or so Skittles in their bags, and Syd was so angry that she was crying. They will NEVER forget what it's like to be punitively taxed!
      4. Battle Animations. There's a good one of the Boston Tea Party here!
      5. Boston's Freedom Trail. Go there if you can, and see all the sites!
  2. American Revolution: We covered this in a lot of depth, with my goal to paint as vivid picture as possible of the people and places involved, and to really delve into the "why" and "how" of the events. I didn't emphasize the memorization of dates as much as I do in some units, because there was so much else that I wanted the kids to understand about this important event. They can always look up the date of the Shot Heard Round the World, but the reason why it's called that, what happened to instigate it, and what happened after? That's what I want them to know by heart.
    1. American Revolution coloring book. This is a fun review activity to complete as you go; if you color each page as you study it, then in the end you'll have a completed story book of the war!
    2. famous and not-so-famous people. As we went through From Colonies to Country, I had the kids complete one of these little lapbooks for each famous person we read about. 
      1. Write with a quill pen. This is one of those fun activities that gets a kid into the mindset of a person living at the time. We also love dressing up in period costumes and playing the games and eating the food appropriate to the time.
    3. The Shot Heard Round the World. It's so important to really understand this one.
      1. "Paul Revere's Ride." It's not completely accurate, but it makes for great Memory Work.
      2. Animated Map. This makes it easier to see what was going on with the Battles of Lexington and Concord. 
      3. Minute Men National Historic Park. Here's our visit there, as well as the Schoolhouse Rock song that I sang incessantly. 
    4. Declaration of Independence. It's the pivotal event of the American Revolution, and of the history of our country. If you can, go see it before it's too faded to make anything out of it at all.
      1. Independence Hall National Historic Site. It has several Junior Ranger badges that kids can earn. Here's our visit there--you should go, too!
    5. British Soldiers and American Soldiers. They were all just people, and they all had their reasons, many of which had nothing to do with Independence.
      1. Military Perspectives from PBS. You can scroll over the illustrations to learn more about each soldier. 
      2. Comic. This is pretty much what they were thinking, lol.
      3. Clothespin soldiers. If the kids had been younger, we'd have made this.
    6. George Rogers Clark. He led an exciting series of raids against British forts, and that National Historic Site is right here in Indiana! We visited it, the kids earned Junior Ranger badges, and they put brochures and postcards from the site into their American Revolution notebooks. 
    7. battle sites. We didn't spend a ton of time on battle sites that I knew we weren't going to visit, because battles are really just a lot of running here and there and shooting, etc. I did have the kids complete this battle map to use as a reference, however, whenever we read about one or planned to visit it.
    8. Thaddeus Kosciuszko Junior Ranger badge. From Colonies to Country tells the story of Thaddeus Kosciuszko. Go see his house if you can!
    9. Valley Forge. We visited there and the kids earned their Junior Ranger badges.
      1. The kids used Draw Write Now to help them create a portrait of George Washington. Instead of copying the text from the book, though, they had to write their own information about him. 
      2. Mount Vernon. Although this is where Washington lived when he wasn't at war, the museum includes an excellent summary of his wartime actions. We went there, and even off-season, it was a LOT of fun!
        1. We made Washington-era hoecakes, using the recipe in this book
    10. Washington Crossing the Delaware. We visited Washington Crossing State Park, but the most interesting activity, I thought, was downloading and printing the largest-scale painting of Washington Crossing the Delaware that I could find, and then doing some guided viewing and discussion of it with the kids.
    11. Battle of Trenton. This is an important battle! We didn't go there, but we did explore this interactive map
  3. The Articles of Confederation. This is how America was governed before the Constitution was written, so it's important to understand it. We used From Colonies to Country
    1. Articles of Confederation on BrainPop. It's a must-see! The kids watched the video and took the quiz.
  4. The Constitutional Convention and the Constitution: We did most of our learning about the Constitution on our road trip to see it, and learning about the Constitutional Convention completed this unit study.
    1. Independence Hall. Go see the room where it happened!
    2. Constitutional Convention on BrainPop. My kids LOVE BrainPop! They watched the video and completed the quiz.
    3. Germantown White House Junior Ranger badge. Although George Washington did live in this house twice, it was occupied by the British during the American Revolution, and is a great example of a wealthy house during the time period. I put it with our Constitution studies because it's in Philadelphia, and we'd hoped to see it when we went there (alas, we didn't, because it was closed).

That pretty much covers it, although I'm sure there are tons of books and videos that I've forgotten, and, of course, we thought about the American Revolution a lot, talked about it a lot, and contextualized it with our other studies in the ten months that we spent on it. It took a ton of time, and I'm happy to admit that we're taking a bit of a break from intensive history study after that, but it was so worth it, and so do-able, even with upper elementary kids!

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