Reflecting on Your Practice
- What are some challenges you've faced in teaching controversial topics in American history? How did you respond?
- How might you use the controversial nature of a topic to engage students in the content?
- How do social studies topics in your curriculum lend themselves to the integration of other subject areas (e.g., using literary devices in presentations)?
- How do you or might you use teaching strategies like guiding questions and learning logs to connect different units in social studies?
- What other guiding questions would you ask students to consider in a unit on the explorers in North America?
Taking It Back to Your Classroom
- Provide a brief overview of some books about exploration that are appropriate for upper-elementary or middle school readers. Two examples are Brendan the Navigator: A History Mystery Written About the Discovery of America and Where Do You Think You're Going, Christopher Columbus? by Jean Fritz. Ask students to choose a book about exploration to read and explain to a younger child.
- Students interested in math and science may enjoy learning about the history of navigation from print resources and Web sites. Ask students to share what they learn about the age of exploration by giving a presentation.
- Ask students to write about the encounter between the Native Americans and European explorers from both points of view. Students can then role-play and act out what they write.
- Ask students to select a modern-day explorer that they would like to know more about (for example, a famous astronaut or deep-sea diver, or a pioneer in the fields of art, science, politics, or music). Then have them research the explorer's life and accomplishments and write a brief biography for an "Explorers Today" bulletin board.
- Ask students to speculate about future explorations. Their predictions can form the basis for a creative writing assignment in which students write science fiction stories about future explorers. Students can also read predictive stories from early science fiction writers who wrote about space exploration in our time, and determine how accurate they were.
- Ask students to set up a personal "learning log" in their social studies notebook. Encourage students to take notes on each day's lesson to serve as a record of their class work and to provide continuity from one unit to the next. Have students date each entry and write the title of the lesson. Entries may include reflective writing; responses to prompts, quotes, or pictures; graphic organizers; summaries of what has been learned; drawings; answers to essential questions; or notes from reference materials.
- Ask students to work together to develop assessment criteria for an upcoming assignment. Students can use the criteria to help them prepare for and complete the assignment. Then have students assess themselves or a partner, using the rubric. Be sure to teach students how to give positive feedback that offers constructive help to fellow students.
For related print materials and Web sites, see Resources.