David Kitts teaches first grade at the Santo Domingo Elementary School in Santo Domingo, New Mexico. Situated halfway between Albuquerque and Santa Fe and surrounded by a reservation, the school is named for the local Native American tribe, the Santo Domingo Pueblo. (Pueblo is Spanish for "village," named for the communal adobe/stone homes. Some Santo Domingos commute to Albuquerque or Santa Fe; many farm their land, make jewelry, or work at local schools. All of the students at Santo Domingo Elementary School speak their native language -- Keres -- an oral, still-unwritten language; English is their second language. Mr. Kitts has a Santo Domingo teacher's aide who helps translate when necessary.
Throughout the year, Mr. Kitts used examples from students' lives to teach them social studies concepts. For example, because many of his students' extended families live near them on the reservation, Mr. Kitts began the year with a unit on the family, in which students explored their ancestry by interviewing family members. Units on the harvest and preparing for winter connected the agricultural life many students know well with science and social studies. In a unit on non-Pueblo tribes, the class explored similarities and differences between themselves and people of other cultures.
Prior to the lesson shown in the video, "Historical Change," Mr. Kitts had introduced the concept of "long ago" by inviting students' older family members to speak to the class about what life was like when they were growing up. Farming was and continues to be a way of life for the Santo Domingos, making agriculture a natural focus of the lesson. Then the class created a timeline that helped illustrate the passage of time by marking events the class had studied or had learned about in family interviews.
In this lesson, Mr. Kitts focused on changes in farming practices to teach about the passage of time. Because many of his students are still learning English, Mr. Kitts often used children's literature to reinforce their literacy skills while teaching social studies concepts. Here, he used two children's stories to give the students a sense of how something can change (or stay the same) over a period of 200 years. Students then created time wheels and used them to compare the two stories. The time wheels identified important elements of each time period in farming history, and the similarities and differences over time. The time wheels incorporated art and writing, new vocabulary words, and Venn diagrams. They also gave Mr. Kitts a means of assessing his students' understanding of an abstract concept like historical change.
This lesson helped segue into the next unit on Japan, giving students a foundation for understanding historical change in Japanese culture and history. Mr. Kitts used his own experience as a Fulbright Fellow in Japan to teach his students about countries and cultures beyond the reservation.
Lesson Background >>