american history.jpgUnit 5: American Contributions

In this fifth six-week unit of first grade, students meet Americans who have contributed to our society in various ways and during various times of history.

Building on the work with fiction and informational text in previous units, students meet famous Americans in informational books and then hear fictional stories about the same people. Focusing on reading independently and fluently, students read non-fiction to learn about the contributions made by interesting people in America. By placing events of a similar time period on a timeline, students are able to visualize the connections among events and people. Students also write and revise an opinion piece. The unit also focuses on vocabulary in context as students learn to read and reread for meaning.
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How can reading teach us about writing?

Focus Standards

LAFS.1.RI.1.3 Describe the connection between two individuals, events, ideas or pieces of information in text
LAFS.1.RI.4.10 With prompting and support, read informational texts appropriately complex for grade 1.
LAFS.1.RF.4.4 Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension
LAFS.1.RF.4.4(c) Use context to confirm or self-correct word recognition and understanding, rereading as necessary
LAFS.1.W.1.1 Write opinion pieces in which students introduce the topic or name the book they are writing about, state an opinion, supply a reason for the opinion, and provide some send of closure.
LAFS.1.SL.1.3Ask and answer questions about what a speaker says in order to gather additional information or clarify something that is not understood

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Suggested Objectives:

    • Read nonfiction independently, proficiently, and fluently.
    • See and describe the connection between two key events or ideas within a text and between two texts.
    • Use context to confirm or self-correct word recognition.
    • Reread when necessary.
    • Write an opinion about an interesting person studied in this unit, supporting their choices with reasons.
    • Revise opinion writing.

Interdisciplinary Connections:

  • This unit teaches:
    • Art: portraiture, Gilbert Stuart
    • Music: George Cohan
    • Geography: United States (e.g., 13 colonies, 50 states, territories)
    • History: Important Americans (e.g., George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Harriet Tubman, Geronimo)

    This unit could be extended to teach:
    • Geography: Appalachian Mountains, Rocky Mountains, Mississippi River
    • History: American Revolution (e.g. Boston Tea Party, Paul Revere’s Ride)

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Word Bank
Words in Context

Sample Activities:
Art, Speaking & Listening
Select several works to view -- for instance, you might choose to compare the Copley with the Stuart. Ask the students to turn to the person next to them and discuss such questions as: "Who is this subject? How did the artist choose to depict/portray this famous American?" Just by looking, search the paintings or photographs for important clues to discover who this person really is. (SL.1.1, SL.1.3, SL.1.4, SL.1.6)
Reading Literature, Reading Informational Text, Speaking and Listening
Create pairings of books that are literary and informational (e.g., George Washington and the General’s Dog and The Rookie Biography of George Washington). Discuss how reading a story about a character/historic person differs from reading a biography of the same person. Talk about how these two books connect to each other. For example, ask questions like, “How were the books the same?” and “How were they different?” In this unit are numerous potential book pairings among the biographies, fictional stories, and even a fictional story written by the historical person himself (Benjamin Franklin). Pairing the readings presents an opportunity to highlight the different characteristics of each genre. (RL.1.5, RL.1.7, RI.1.3)
Opinion Writing
Give students this prompt: “Choose one of the people from this unit that you think is the most interesting. Write about the person. Be sure to name the person and to give two or three reasons why you think he or she is the most interesting.” (W1.1)
Music, Vocabulary
Display the lyrics to each of the songs on an overhead projector or interactive whiteboard. After singing the songs together several times, allow the students to choose words that are interesting to them and circle them. Help students look for clues in the text to determine word meanings. Check for the correct definitions in a dictionary. Collect these and other words to add to the word bank from reading throughout the unit. Continue reviewing the songs until the lyrics are well known or memorized. (RF.1.4c)
Reading Literature, Informative Writing, Narrative Writing
Read and discuss The Hatmaker’s Sign (Candace Fleming and Robert Parker). Talk about how it relates to revision. Instruct students to take a piece of their writing (such as the “most interesting” piece) and carefully work on revising ideas. Students should edit their pieces and publish them. (W1.5, RL.1.2)
Reading Informational Text, Reading Fluency, Speaking and Listening
Have students choose one of the biographies they enjoyed reading. Have them practice reading the book until they can read it well (i.e., with phrasing and expression). As students read their biographies independently, look for opportunities to use context to confirm or self-correct word recognition and understanding, encouraging the children to reread as necessary. Take the books to a kindergarten class and have students read the books aloud to students there. (RF.1.4a, RF.1.4b, RF.1.4c, RI.1.4, RI.1.10)
Reading Informational Text, Speaking and Listening
To help students make visual connections between events and people during early American history, create a simple timeline and record events as you read books on this topic together or as students report back on what they read independently. Students should understand that although these informational texts focus on different people or topics, it all happened at the same time in history. By extending the timeline to include historical figures, students begin to understand chronology and the connections between events in informational texts. (RI.1.3, RI.1.10)
Informative Writing, Language Usage, Vocabulary
Give students this prompt: “Write three sentences about an American person we’ve read about recently, using at least three new words from our word bank in your work. Illustrate each sentence to demonstrate the meaning of each word.” Do a mini-lesson on articles (a, the) and demonstrative pronouns (this, that, these, those) as the students write their sentences. (L.1.1h, L.1.1j, L.1.6, L.1.5c, L.1.2a, L.1.2b, L.1.2d, L.1.2e)
Art, Speaking and Listening
Show students Stuart’s portrait of Washington, the Martin Luther King Jr. photograph, and the photograph of Geronimo. Ask students to focus on the setting that surrounds each of the subjects. In the case of Washington, how did the painter place his subject in order to convey his importance? What does the painter add to the scene? How does this differ from the Martin Luther King Jr. photograph, where the photographer had to instantly capture the setting? Can you see a merging of these two qualities in the image of Geronimo? (SL.1.1, SL.1.3, SL.1.4, SL.1.6)
Speaking and Listening, Informative Writing
Invite a person from your community who has made a notable contribution to visit your classroom. After the speaker has shared his or her story, invite the students to ask questions to gather additional information or to clarify understanding. Write thank-you notes to guest speakers, telling the speaker one new thing learned during the presentation. (SL.1.3, W.1.8)

Online Resrouces:

Read Works Passages/Lessons:

Sight Words
The expectation for first grade is for students to learn the first 200 words by the end of the year.