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    social comes to life!
    By melanie

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    Have you heard of the "story-line" method of teaching social studies? I did it with my kids for the last half of the year, after learning about it at a teachers' convention. They loved it! It's hard to explain in a nutshell, but I'll try.

    You aim to teach the unit just as you would teach a novel. The main elements being: setting, characters, plot, climax (problem) and resolution.

    You start off with setting. For you it would be Indiana at some point in history. You do a small research with the kids as to what Indiana would have looked like at the time... ie) what were characteristics of communities and towns, what were the main sources of income, natural resources, etc... You could use your textbooks for this, with small groups focusing on some portion and reporting to the class. I personally like to have the kids use the computers and internet as it also reinforces IT skills. Anyways, after you have sufficient information, the class works together to make a huge mural (butcher paper)of perhaps one of the towns that has a lot of history in Indiana. (Or you could divide the class into small groups and each group designs a different mural map). When this is complete, have the kids take you on a tour. This is the "setting" for the story.

    Next, is character development. Each child invents their own character that they think would live in that town. You spend some time having them write down every small detail: character's appearance, name, job, family, likes, dislikes, age, sex, interesting facts, etc... but they have to make sense for the time period and setting that they live in. Next, they make a model of that character (something like a paper doll) using fabric scraps, yarn, ribbon, buttons... GREAT art project! The characters turned out so interesting and unique in my grade two gifted classroom.

    For plot, you may introduce some event that happened in history. Each child writes in a journal "in character" to describe how the event is affecting them. They may also do role plays in character to discuss events with others in the town.

    For climax, tell the kids / have them research about a really important aspect of the local history, something that had a huge impact on the state. Each of the characters continues to write in their journals, but I had them also do a class debate something like a town hall meeting. They each put together a speech (in character of course) to talk about what "should" be done about the problem. My class got so into this. It really brings social studies to life for them.

    Resolution- The "communities" came to some sort of consensus. You would then compare to what really happened in history. The last journal entry is reflectively written from the student's own point of view (not character's). Talking about what they have learned from the experience.

    I love this approach. It gets the kids out of the textbook and teaches them in a way they can really relate to. It also connects quite nicely to language arts and art. You might also have them do cooking activities (handmade ice cream, butter)or practice sewing by hand. These things get them to really appreciate what their character lived like.

    I hope this is the kind of thing you were looking for. If you have any questions, just post.


    Melanie



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