Blogging the American Revolution

Spirit of '76One of my favorite things is when teachers come to me and say, “This is what we’re studying, how can we integrate technology?” They know they want to use technology, they’re just not sure how to do it. It’s my job to help them come up with ideas, train them on any tech they need to learn, and help them teach the unit.

Before winter break, two fifth grade teachers came and asked what they could do with technology for a unit on the American Revolution. I always take a day or so to flesh out a few ideas before I present them to teachers.

As I began thinking about this project, I came up with two main things I wanted to accomplish. The first is something I have noticed a lot this year: fourth and fifth grade students are struggling with research skills. So, I wanted to incorporate both online and print research into the project. I’m working on developing a guide to help them organize their research. The second is introducing them to interacting with others in an online environment — i.e., moving from web 1.0 to web 2.0.

Here’s what I am thinking. Students will “become” an individual from the Revolutionary War era (soldier embedded at Valley Forge, mother on the home front, participant in the Boston Tea Party, signer of the Declaration of Independence, etc). I have created a blog that will serve as a compilation of diary entries written by students in the guise of their assigned persona. They will reflect on what it is like to be living during that time and what they are “experiencing.” Students will also post comments to their classmates’ entries. My hope is that individuals with expertise in early American history will comment on some of the posts as well. I believe that knowing that a wider audience will read their writing (rather than just their teacher and parents) makes a significant difference in the quality of student work.

We will begin the project by discussing primary sources and examining actual letters and diaries from that time period. Students will be asked to conduct research about that era in order to accurately portray their character. Using Kim Cofino’s Blogging is Elementary post and the series of posts about blogging with elementary students on the Langwitches blog as guides, I will introduce blogs to the fifth graders focusing on safety and etiquette.

At this point, this is only a rough sketch of the unit plan. The classes do not return from their break until late January (we are a year-round school and these two classes are on a track that finished their nine weeks in school at winter break, so their three weeks off started on January 5) so I still have some time to finish planning.

I’ll post a link to the blog when we get started.

[Image: Spirit of ‘76. Painting by A.M. Willard, 1876. 148-GW-1209.  From the National Archives.]