In this lesson, students will learn about the history of their town while improving their writing and research skills. No matter how big or small the town, there’s always something fun to uncover in this assignment!
After completing this lesson, students will be able to write a short text explaining the historical significance of part of their town.
Introduction (5 minutes)
- Call students together.
- Ask students to think about historical places they have visited, e.g. the White House or any monuments in Washington, DC.
- Ask students to think about how they learned about the history of that place.
- Encourage students to think about the historical signs that may have been present at the location, particularly the large signs posted outside explaining the historical significance of the monument or building.
- If students do not remember these signs, show examples available online or in other pictures.
- Inform students that today, they will be writing signs for historical places in their town.
Explicit Instruction/Teacher Modeling (10 minutes)
- As a class, brainstorm a list of historical places in your town. These can include parks, old railroad depots, houses lived in by significant figures, the historic town library, etc.
- Next, ask students to think about different sources of information they could use to learn more about these locations, e.g. interviewing people or reading books.
- Talk to students about how to organize the information they find. After listening to different student ideas about how information can be organized, discuss why chronological order might make sense when discussing the history of something.
Guided Practice/Interactive Modeling (10 minutes)
- Explain that as a class, you are going to make a sample sign marker for a United States monument or major historical location.
- Begin by researching the location through books, the internet, and any other resources.
- Compile key facts and organize them in chronological order. Have student volunteers help lead the class through this.
- Have every student try writing out a final sign in their own distinct voice. Share some of these with the group.
- Ask if there are any final questions. Make sure that every student has something in mind to start researching and writing about.
Independent Working Time (20 minutes)
- As students are working, walk around the room and answer questions.
- Assist with locating research materials and help students connect their thoughts in ways that flow.
- Since numerous students may need the same materials, making photocopies for individual students can be useful.
- Enrichment: For advanced students, encourage deeper research through the use of more primary and rare sources. Additionally, as a greater challenge, they can create pamphlets or a class book that includes deeper descriptions and longer writings.
- Support: For struggling students, working in pairs or small groups can serve as a scaffold. Providing them with a list of questions to research or useful books and websites to use can help them with finding necessary information during their research time.
Assessment (5 minutes)
- Students can be assessed on the depth and quality of their research. This can be evaluated based on the variety and number of sources used. (ex. personal interviews, internet searches, book research, etc.)
- Students can be additionally assessed on their writing sample. Student writing should show evidence of quality research and good writing technique.
Review and Closing (10 minutes)
- Call all of the students back together.
- Have students take turns sharing what they have written.
- As each person goes, have other students point out facts they find particularly interesting as well as evidence of good writing technique.
- After every student has shared, discuss sending these to the town historical society or to the caretakers for each historical location. Perhaps one of the students will find their writing posted or otherwise published!