Teaching U. S. History may not be the easiest endeavor for anyone, especially a busy parent in a hectic world. U. S. History is sometimes complicated and confusing, however, if it is taught honestly and positively, even children as young as seven years old will be able to learn simple lessons about the country in which they live.
When reading A PATRIOT’S HISTORY to children 7-9 years old, it will be necessary to break down periods of history into simple and short lessons. A PATRIOT’S HISTORY (PHUSA) is written with vocabulary that would be understood by a much older group of students, but stories and facts can be extracted from each chapter and broken down into smaller pieces, according to the needs of the younger student. In order for the lessons to be meaningful and concepts to be understandable, it would be essential to prepare well by reading the section for the lesson, identifying vocabulary that will need explanation or clarification, and possibly visual aids (i.e., when learning about George Washington, a picture of him as President or a General, not just the profile often used) and other background information that you have available. Attention spans for younger children often varies, and you know your child’s attention abilities. Keep lessons within a 30 – 45 minute period that allows for teaching time, question and answer discussion time, and an activity to enhance the lesson. Children will enjoy learning about U. S. History if it is made interesting, not just a lecture and worksheet lesson.
A Sample Lesson:
After pre-reading the section on pages 14 – 16, under the heading Foundations for English Success in the New World: A Hypothesis, prepare a poster with 3 columns, headed with each column having a K, W, or L. (see illustration 1.1). Ask your student, what do they already know about the first people to settle in America (not Native Americans)? Write their response in the column with the K. Ask: What do you want to know about the first settlers in America? Write their response in the column with the W. Leave the column with the L, blank for the time being. You have found out what your student already knows and what he/she wants to know. This is a basis for a good lesson on why people from England wanted to come to America. The use of maps to show how far ships had to travel to get to America and locations of the first settlement will add to the lesson. To cover the information in this particular section, vocabulary words should be introduced. For example, business, settlement, settlers, New World, risk, investing, and property could be vocabulary that needed to be understood prior to the lesson.
Factors to teach would be the concepts of businessmen taking a risk to invest in the unknown New World, owning property in the New World, and why England’s business practices had been successful in other parts of the world. Asking questions about business like how would a person know that their business was successful or why do you think it might be exciting to go to a new country and own property would allow your student to think about possibilities that the first settlers in America had or what risks they were taking.
After discussions about the lesson, ask your student what have they learned? Write their response in the column with the L. The KWL graphic organizer has now been completed. It may used as review before moving on to another lesson. An activity that would be a learning experience would be to have a blank map of the world on a sheet of paper and have the student locate England and America. This would need to be modeled for the student (you will make a sample) and then lead the student to produce something similar. This map could be an ongoing activity as new places are learned about in other lessons, for example, Jamestown, Plymouth, Charles Town, Canada, Spain, and France locations.
Other Lesson Ideas: Boston Tea Party, Davy Crockett, The Civil War
An event in U. S. History that would be a good lesson for younger students to learn about is the Boston Tea Party, found on pages 67 – 69. If this lesson followed other lessons in Chapter 3, the Boston Tea Party would contribute to a student’s understanding of why the colonies in America wanted to establish their own government. Review of previous lessons, possibly the Stamp Act, Boston Massacre, would help the student to be prepared for yet another reason for breaking away from King George III. Introducing unfamiliar vocabulary and presenting background information surrounding the event, as well as, important names of persons who participated in the event would be necessary. An activity that would be fun, but a learning opportunity, would be to have your student make protest signs related to the Boston Tea Party.
The United States has many fine men and women who were important in the telling of the history of America. Among them is Davy Crockett. A lesson on some of the folk heroes in America would certainly include Crockett. Information on Davy Crockett can be found on pages 230 – 231. An important aspect of teaching history is to stimulate interest in what happened in the past. When teaching about a folk hero like Crockett, visual aids would be beneficial. For example, while teaching about his adventures in the wilderness, wearing a coonskin hat would enhance the discussion. Side points to be learned might include where the coonskin hat came from and exaggerated stories that Crockett told. Once again, it would be pertinent to introduce unfamiliar vocabulary and review any previous lessons that were related.
Lessons on the American Civil War could include military leaders on the Union side and the Confederacy. Names that include General Robert E. Lee, General Ulysses S. Grant, General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, and General George B. McClellan would be important persons to focus a lesson on. Chapter 9, The Crisis of the Union, 1860-65, has a plethora of facts to teach your student about main characters in the American Civil War. Activities that would be educational might include drawing the Confederate flag and the Union flag or using a map of the United States to identify the states in the North and the states in the South. Students who are better readers could do research on an individual and write a short essay about the person. When assigning an essay, it would be necessary to give clear instructions about the needed parts of the essay (i.e., title, introduction, body, and conclusion) and to model an example of the essay.
More Ideas: Timelines and the American Presidents
Timelines are a good educational tool, especially in history. In lessons where a longer period of time is involved, timelines are a great way for students to put several lessons into perspective. A PATRIOT’S HISTORY incorporates timelines in each chapter. They can be simplified and inclusive of lessons taught. Designing a timeline could be a lesson in itself. Examples of different timelines could be introduced and then using the lesson for that day or the past few lessons, have your student brainstorm ideas for a timeline that would fit those lessons.
Introducing your student to the Presidents of the United States might seem to be an overwhelming task. However, grouping a number of Presidents together, according to the time frame of lessons, could be an easier plan. For example, Chapters 3 through 5 cover the years 1763 to 1815. In that time period, the Unites States elected four presidents, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison. Lessons could be on individual presidents first, then, as a group to compare what they accomplished. Keeping it simple, yet, interesting and informative would enable your student to not only learn the lineage of the presidency, but, also, learn the connection between a time period and a president. Outside information from other sources could be incorporated into the lessons. There are a number of books about American history written for younger students (i.e., Eyewitness Book Series, Smart About History Series) that could be used by your student to do research, in addition to library sources suggested by a librarian.
Teaching Older Children and More Lesson Ideas
All of these ideas/suggestions would be useful for students 10 – 11 years of age, as well. It would be necessary to upgrade the lessons according to the student’s abilities and interests. Assignments could be more difficult or in depth, and, of course, for longer periods of time. Projects related to the areas of content would work well for all age groups, but in particular, with the older elementary student because as he/she enters junior high and high school courses would certainly call for such activities or assignments. An example of a project for a younger aged student might be an assignment to make a booklet that had pictures and written descriptions of colonial or state flags, when learning about the colonies or statehood. An older student might be assigned a project that called for the making a diorama of an early settlement. A diorama is a miniature, three dimensional scene, using figures and a painted backdrop to represent a scene from nature or history. All lessons should be with the student’s ability taken into consideration.
Additional Lesson Suggestions
¨ Pilgrims’ first winter, pages 27 – 31
¨ Railroads, pages 189 – 191, 395 – 396
¨ Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, pages 302, 328 – 331
¨ Booker T. Washington, pages 366 – 367, 483, 486 – 487
¨ Adolph Hitler and World War II, pages 578 – 579, 587 – 588, 591 592, 596
¨ Banking system and Federal Reserve, pages 503 – 506, 553 – 554
¨ Immigration, pages 252 – 256, 443 – 444, 515, 815
¨ Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens), pages 230 – 231, 392, 466
¨ Viet Nam War, pages 676 – 679, 689 – 699, 711 – 715
¨ Colonial America, pages 24 – 25, 39 – 42, 50
¨ Amendments to the Constitution, pages 124 – 126, 347,374 – 375, 381, 507, 527, 530, 542
¨ Space Program, pages 652 – 653, 673 – 674
¨ Cold War, pages 634 – 643, 652 – 653, 673, 762, 768
¨ Slavery, pages 18 – 21, 44 – 47, 105, 114 – 116, 157, 220, 227–228, 245, 257-258