Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Social Studies, Research, and News Reports

It is no secret that there have been many changes made to the social studies curriculum in New York State.  These changes make it a perfect time to reevaluate past lessons and find some fresh ways to teach new content.

Mrs. Asquith was hoping to bring her fifth grade social studies students down to the library to learn about Native American culture areas of the Western Hemisphere.  By working with the new standards, students would gain an understanding of the different Native American culture areas present in the Western Hemisphere.  Students would learn how the environment in each area helped to shape the distinct culture of each group.  After discussing what is meant by the concept of culture, we were ready to dive into the project.
Students chose three Native American culture areas for their research.
We first stated that we would be studying one culture area within each region: Canada, United States, and the Caribbean.  The students used a map in order to locate their culture areas.  They shaded in these areas on a blank map.  The blank map was linked to Quiver, an augmented reality tool.  When placing the Quiver app over the map, the paper map turned into a 3D globe!  This made it easier to visualize the culture areas that were closer to the North Pole or closer to the Equator.  In seeing this, students were able to make predictions about the climate in each of the areas they chose to study.

In order to gather information about each culture, we turned to the Britannica databases.  Through Britannica's online encyclopedia, we were able to locate wonderful, detailed information about each Native American culture area.  To make the project a bit more interactive, we printed out the Britannica articles, photos, and illustrations.  Each culture area became a separate station within the library.  Students moved to the station for the area that they were researching.  This allowed for students to move around during the activity and work together with different classmates to find the information they were seeking.

The research portion of this process took a long time, but this was due to the fact that students were really taking time to learn about the different cultures!  Before each research session, students shared out a cool fact they learned the previous day.  Students had interesting things to share and it was clear that they were making the connection as to how environment influences culture.
Students used Britannica resources to complete an organizer for three culture areas.
Once the research was complete, students were then able to display their knowledge of culture areas in a creative way.  They would take on the role of action reporters and film a short news clip.  This news report needed to contain compare/contrast information regarding two of the culture areas researched.  At first, students were a bit reluctant to be recorded - they were nervous about being on camera!  They were reassured that public speaking is difficult, and should be considered a challenge to tackle in order to build new, important skills.  This pep talk alleviated the fears of many students.  They were off and running with the preparations for their news report.
The beginnings of a news report draft.
The finished products were wonderful!  In addition to displaying their knowledge of culture areas, students infused their own personalities and creativity to make for some very interesting newscasts.
Some students worked together on the newscasts.

Other students worked independently on their newscasts.
Although many aspects of this project went well, there are some changes we would hope to make for next year.  We would like to use a green screen in order to get the real-life experience of news reporting.  Additional editing would make the newscasts come to life even more!

This project was a great way to blend social studies with a research component.  Students enjoyed moving to different stations and making culture area discoveries on their own.  We will be looking for more ways to infuse research into the social studies curriculum in the future.

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