|Raphael. “School of Athens.” 1509-1511. Apostolic Palace,
Have I got a treat for you! As our final assignment for the Social Studies course at Brock University, my group members and I have compiled a 12 lesson unit plan for the Grade 4 Early Societies strand. Most of these lessons are longer than one hour, so will provide your students with weeks, even a couple months (depending on how you organize the class schedule) of fun and exploration of world civilizations. You can access the unit plan and the links to the individual lessons here.
The Big Idea for the unit is: how has the environment impacted the development of societies? This unit plan is strongly influenced by the ideas of Jared Diamond from Guns, Germs, and Steel fame. For those unfamiliar with Diamond’s work, the Reader’s Digest version of his thesis is that gaps in power and technology between civilizations is influenced by environmental differences. Students will have opportunities to explore this idea through a variety of assignments that involve collaboration, technology, integrate other subjects such as Language or the Arts, and allow students to choose their own adventure through inquiry projects.
There are so many fascinating civilizations to study that our group tried to pick societies from multiple continents so students would not have a purely Eurocentric exposure to early societies. We chose to do lessons on Egypt, Greece, Mayans, Medieval England, and Medieval China.
Our culminating assignment will also knock yours (and hopefully your students’) socks off. Students get to create their own civilization!! Based on everything they’ve learned about ancient and medieval societies, they can take the best and leave out the worst of these societies. So many fun questions they’ll get to consider! What continent will their civilization be on? How important will art, culture, or trade be to the civilization? What sort of government will it have? I kind of want to do one for fun!
|Will your students choose to make a democracy or become a
Please feel free to contact me if you use any of the lessons or if you make any changes to the lessons for your own classroom. I am always learning and on the hunt for ways to be a better teacher and give students a better learning experience!
“We don’t receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us.”
–Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time
This has been a very eventful semester for me as I’ve been working like a madwoman to get my ducks in a row before my son was born on the 12th. By and large I accomplished my goal of getting all the major assignments done ahead of time, it’s just small things such as this blog post/course reflection that I have to take care of now. My ability to get things done ahead of time was helped quite a bit by the blended learning of this and some of my other courses.
Since Cooper was born, I’ve been thinking a lot about accessibility. Armed with a stroller, I have a newfound appreciation for any store or establishment that has a ramp! Blended learning and a tech-friendly classroom is my academic ramp because it allows me to participate when my health and familial responsibilities make it difficult for me to physically be in class. I think blended learning could serve the same purpose in a Junior/Intermediate classroom.
Now, it is unlikely that any student in a J/I class is going to have a baby to take care of, but there are many other reasons why a student may need to video conference into class or do their learning at their own pace online. Maybe they get injured while playing sports or have to get their appendix removed. A classroom where the teacher uploads assignments and course material online would give those students the opportunity to keep up with their homework.
For students that struggle with participating in class, perhaps due to shyness or because it takes them longer than average to collect their thoughts, having a forum set up where they can add their thoughts gives those students a chance to make their voice heard, but in a way that might be more comfortable for them because they can save their responses, edit them, or completely rewrite them until they’re perfect.
“It is never too late to give up your prejudices.”
–Henry David Thoreau, Walden
“Christian, Jew, Muslim, shaman, Zorastrian, stone, ground, mountain, river, each has a secret way of being with the Mystery, unique and not to be judged.”
This almost goes without saying, but people like it when they can relate to their environments and what they’re learning. Inclusive education can heighten student and even parent engagement and a good teacher should be trying to get to know their students and their students’ backgrounds anyways. I love incorporating things into the classroom that I know about students e.g. making reference to jokes or music they like or acknowledging their background. For example, if I know that many of my students are Muslim, I know not to bring any gelatin or Jello products as treats because they are not halal.
Whether this is accurate or not, whenever I think of a historian, I can’t help but think of a man or woman in a tweed suit, with big glasses poring carefully over yellowed documents in the backroom of some library or government office, using tweezers to turn the pages so as not to disrupt the integrity of the primary sources they’re investigating. However, thanks to an increasing amount of resources being put online and the increased knowledge of restoration and preservation of artifacts, you don’t need that PhD and tweed suit to investigate the past in a hands on way! Students, even students as young as primary grades can have encounters with the past through primary documents.
Primary documents are an interesting and fun way to make history come alive for students. Rather than reading about events that happened through a textbook (and thus a historian’s interpretation of that event), students can piece together for themselves what happened and even assess multiple resources about the same event to try to find “the truth” or at the very least figuring out what most likely happened.
“The frog does not drink up the pond in which it lives.”
Environmental education in the social studies is increasingly essential given recent developments in climate change research and the difficulty in distributing resources to an ever-growing global population. Students need to develop green habits that they can share with others and carry on into adulthood.
“There is money; spend it; spend it; spend more; spend all I have.”
–Shakespeare, The Merry Wives of Windsor
“Financial literacy is critical to the prosperity and well-being of Canadians. It is more than a nice-to-have skill. It is a necessity in today’s world.”
–The Task Force on Financial Literacy
When I was old enough to start receiving an allowance, my father gave me three little boxes of varying sizes. The largest box was for Long-Term Savings. That was for big, more expensive things that may take several months or even a year to save for. The medium-sized box was for Short-Term Savings. That was for toys or books that I might be able to get after saving for a few weeks or months at the most. The tiniest box was Mad Money, which 98% of the time went to purchasing the chocolate bar or candy I was allowed to have once a week.
|Vassily Kandinsky (1913) Composition VII. [oil on canvas]
Treyakov Gallery, Moscow.
“One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.”
–Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra
Night and day. Yin and yang. Apollonian and Dionysian. Order and Chaos. We as humans love our binaries and dichotomies. The longer you live and the more you study though, you come to realize that you don’t need to pick between one or the other, because often it is in finding balance between two seemingly oppositional ideas that we attain harmony. It is no different in a classroom.
So once we’ve all recovered from the collective groan and eyeroll caused by my punny title, let’s start thinking about some of the goals we have for Ontario Social Studies lessons right now. Educators should strive for lessons that utilize inquiry or research (important 21st century skills that put the power of learning into the students’ hands), field study when applicable (let’s get up out of our seat and into the community please!), and innovative.
The Ontario curriculum has a specific meaning in mind for “innovative”lessons. Lessons that use innovation allow students not only to make up their own ideas, inventions, or products, but use them in some way in the “real world”. For example, if students make a design for a memorial for Hamilton Aboriginal war veterans, then they would actually submit that proposal design to the government rather than putting it up in the classroom and letting it collect dust.
Even if you don’t read or watch the news on a regular basis, you must have a vague notion in your head that “something’s gotta give.” We eat too much, or in most places not enough, or not enough of the right stuff. It’s possible to buy that cute t-shirt with the cat driving a car for $5 because the woman who made it works for pennies an hour. A man’s chance for financial freedom and social mobility are ruined because of a mistake he made in early life and a prison-industrial complex that has no interest in rehabilitation or providing post-incarceration job opportunities.
What I’m trying to say is there is a lot that needs to be changed.