In September, the second grade teachers shared their concerns about fitting in both their writing and social studies curriculum as well as preparing their students for an upcoming field trip. As a result of this conversation, a project was born! Instead of trying to teach each thing as isolated subjects we decided to marry them all together and turn it into a piece of student writing.
Second grade uses the Lucy Calkin’s Writing Workshop as the framework for their writing curriculum. The focus of the first unit is narrative writing. Students learn how to take a large event and focus in on one small moment. This allows their writing to become more descriptive.
The social studies curriculum, at the start of the school year, focuses on the pioneers. Students compare life in the past to the present day. Additionally, they take a field trip to a local museum with a pioneer village. This village includes a one-room schoolhouse, general store, and log cabin houses.
The project created had students write a narrative or “small moment” story as if they were a pioneer. This project was a true collaboration between the 4 second grade teachers and me. We realized that this is a lot to ask a second grader to be able to do, so we had to focus on the steps of the process in order to make it manageable.
We started by having students research what life was like for the pioneers. Using a graphic organizer, students had to find information about schools, clothing, chores, toys and games, transportation, and other interesting facts.
They used print materials about pioneers as well as a Symbaloo that was created with sites where information would be accurate. This led to a discussion about the accuracy of various websites, which then allowed the information literacy curriculum to be infused into the project.
Two 30–45-minute research sessions were used to help students collect information. Students found as much information for each part of their graphic organizer as possible. The classroom teachers also provided additional information through their social studies textbook, mentor texts as read-aloud, and videos.
Then before the trip, the students brainstormed what they would like to write about. They decided on a character, setting, and a general story idea. They used their research to help narrow their topic and keep their focus on the narrative story elements.
The Field Trip:
When on the field trip, students continued their research based on their brainstorming. They added additional information they observed or questions they had answered. These ideas helped them to complete their narrative writing when they returned to school. They also took a picture on the trip that became a part of the small moment story. This allowed the trip to become more than an isolated experience, but one that had meaning and purpose to their learning.
When students returned from the trip they used their research to write their small moment narrative. Although, the quality of the writing varied based on the student’s ability, it was more about the process than the final product. This type of project allowed the content to be taught in a connected way. Most importantly, it allowed students to make connections between all parts of the instruction. It will be exciting to see what other subject areas and units can be married throughout the year!
Author: Kelly Hincks
I am the librarian at Detroit Country Day Lower School in Bloomfield Hills, MI. I have worked as a school librarian for the past eleven years. I was a classroom teacher for four years prior to that. I have worked in charter, public, and private schools. My favorite thing about being a school librarian is the opportunities I have to work both with students and teachers. I love the co-teaching opportunities and connections I have been able to make! I have served on AASL committees as a member and chair. I currently serve as secretary of my state association, Michigan Association of School Librarians (MASL).