Kathleen Waffle teaches fifth-grade history at John Muir Elementary School in San Bruno, California. Located 12 miles south of San Francisco, San Bruno is a residential community, and the students at John Muir Elementary School reflect its changing demographics and increasing diversity.
Ms. Waffle started the year with units on the Bill of Rights, the Constitution, and presidential elections, helping students make connections between important historical decisions and documents and the elections taking place that fall. Students chose political parties, organized campaigns, and held a school-wide mock election that coincided with the presidential election.
After the election, Ms. Waffle transitioned back to pre-colonial times, with units on Native Americans and exploration of the New World, before moving on to colonization. By the time the class began the lesson Using Primary Sources, they had a solid grasp of early American life.
The inspiration for Ms. Waffle's unit on colonization came from a summer teaching institute at Colonial Williamsburg, where she and other participants lived in a reconstructed eighteenth-century village for nine days. During the institute, Ms. Waffle developed a lesson on using primary source documents to teach students about the daily life of colonial Americans. In the lesson, students analyzed and interpreted an actual eighteenth-century newspaper advertisement and a labor contract to learn about economic development, trade, class divisions, and the relationship between employer and apprentice in colonial America.
Economics and geography were yearlong themes. Students explored the impact and limitations of land use both in colonial times and throughout American history. After the unit on colonization, the class went on to study the American Revolution.
Lesson Background >>