Monday, May 27, 2013

Social Studies Sunday: You Wouldn't Want to be an American Colonist...

It never ceases to amaze me how wonderful our blogging community is and how perfect strangers will reach out and support one another without even having to be asked.  I am very proud to be a part of that community and wanted to show my support for those of Moore, Oklahoma by donating an item to Teacher's Notebook.  If you have not already bought your bundle, I highly recommend it!  It will probably take me all summer to sort through the goodies (over $2,000 worth of products) and the bundle will only be on sale until tomorrow, May 28th!

The Colonial era and American Revolution are two of my favorite things to teach in Social Studies!  I love the stories and history and perspectives and just EVERYTHING that happens during this time.  Now your students might be like mine and live in their "video game world" as I like to call it.  Usually all the problems we encounter in history together can be solved by simply doing something very violent that they saw on their video game, in their eyes.  I had one little boy tell me a few years ago that this whole King George issue was "Nothing!  I would just assassinate him."

Well this instantly broke my heart that this was the first thing he thought to do but I can't let this teachable moment go by so I ask him, "Okay, say you were old enough to join the minutemen.  You're in the colonies, how are you going to get to England?"  This begins a huge group discussion (because thankfully a lot of the students agree with me or are starting to see my point) and they bring up the months of sea voyage and the blockades.  Then other kids ask, "How are you going to get into the castle and pass his guards?"  His response, a little bit more hesitant now I can say, is a sniper rifle.  Well a student instantly jumps in with, "THEY DIDN'T HAVE THAT KIND OF WEAPON THEN!"  Now I am happy to see that this young boy, who was not violent by nature in any means, has started to actually THINK about history and that maybe this wasn't the way to go about bringing ol' King George down a peg or two.

This is when I realized that history is usually glorified, especially in their video games.  Even I'm guilty of doing it sometimes, not telling both sides or perspectives, the good, the bad, and the ugly.  It's not all the Johnny Tremain Disney version.  There was battle and death and disease and issues that had to be dealt with logically by using their critical thinking skills.  I wanted my students to see that and to do the same.  That is about the time that I came across this series of books: You Wouldn't Want to Be...

They have so many different books that cover all the different eras or events in history!  It's funny to watch my students read this book and you can see the astonishment when they learn that's not actually how the first Thanksgiving went, lol.  This nonfiction book has wonderful vocabulary, timelines, graphics, historical information and more but all with a humorous twist that keeps kids interested the whole way through.  After reading these books they can't wait to tell me what they learned!  And they actually use the information!  These are the facts that they store away in their file cabinets for the debates to back up their theories or the details to add to their journal entries.  I could not say enough good things about this series.  All in all it is a nice way to introduce the "bad and the ugly" to my students without traumatizing them or putting a very violent twist on things and gets them really thinking about what life was like during that time.  I use the American Colonist version during our Colonial and American Revolution unit and it is always a success!


  1. These books are so awesome!! PS I love how you used a teachable moment to get him out of video game world. Thanks for sharing!! :)
    ideas by jivey
    Follow Me On Facebook! :)

  2. This is my first year using this series of books - I am using "You Wouldn't Want to Be a Medieveal Knight" today! Thanks for sharing your teachable moment!

  3. Those are great books. And I agree with you about kids immediately saying what they would do, usually involving violence. Or what they would do if there was an intruder. Yeah, right.

    Funny you should mention Johnny Tremain. The kids love that movie, although it's a little dry in the middle :)

    Fifth in the Middle

  4. Hey Sabra,
    It is so sad how many young students use video games as their "connection". I love when you get that teachable moment, that dose of reality to help broaden, if not change their way of thinking. It sounds like you had a great class discussion.
    The Picture Book Teacher's Edition