Update: America: The Story of Us is now available as an InstaStream through Netflix! We also had it available at our local library. If you didn't receive a complimentary copy, you won't have to pay the $30 for it!
Many of us received a complimentary copy of "America: The Story of Us" from The History Channel. What a treasure! As soon as I received my copy I knew that I wanted to do a full year of American History with Dawson, who will be in the 9th grade next year. Since Brynne is pretty advanced in her abilities, I decided that I would go ahead and do an American History unit with her, as well, toned down to her level. She will be in the 2nd grade.
I wanted this to be a full-functioning curriculum, with loads to read, see and do. Notebooking seems to be the way to go for us, so I knew I wanted to incorporate it into our regular work. Dawson also needs some work with his structural and creative writing, so somehow a writing program needed to be included, as well.
So, here are the materials and resources I am using:
- "America: The Story of Us" (The History Channel) dvd set
- http://history.com/america Episode Guides to "America: The Story of Us"
- "America's Heritage: an adventure in liberty" cd (another free resource with great hands on activities for elementary school, middle school and high school, even for Spanish speaking students)
- Hold that Thought! notebooking pages cd, Advanced World History Volume 2 (for Dawson) and Beginner's World and U.S. History (for Brynne)
- U.S. History-Based Writing Lessons, Volume 1 and 2 (Institute for Excellence in Writing)
- The Tulsa City-County Library System (invaluable!!!)
- The world-wide web and all those amazing teachers who have forged this path before me and come up with fantastic lessons
Why 3-week units? There are 12 dvd episodes. We have 36 weeks of school. That gives us three weeks to do each unit. (The Westward unit was so expansive, however, that I decided to make it a 6-week unit and skip the last unit which is the Millenium.) This also gives us three weeks to read a Living Book from that era .. a good, substantial, interesting novel.
Here is how I plan a unit, specifically:
- I watch the "America: The Story of Us" episode for that unit. Each video is 45 minutes. While I am watching it, I jot down notes: events, people, dates, etc. I start to formulate in my mind the things we definitely want to cover in more detail. This also helps me when searching for the Living Book we will read.
- I then decide what topics we will cover each week and divide those into Week 1, Week 2 and Week 3.
- I go to the Episode Guide for that video and print the vocabulary words, discussion questions and any other pertinent activities for that episode.
- I pull out my Hold that Thought! cd and print any relevant notebooking pages: events, people, places, etc.
- I look through the America's Heritage cd and print any activities we will do with this unit.
- I choose a Living Book, and any supplemental dvds we might want to watch, and create a List through our library website, with the title of the unit (i.e. Dawson Westward 1) and dump all books and dvds onto that List. Then two weeks before each unit starts, I can pull up my list and request everything on it for use when we get to that unit.
- I finally go through the IEW U.S. History-Based Writing Lessons workbook and assign the writing lessons that correspond with that unit.
- Then I put everything in order, hole-punch it and place it in the U.S. History binder behind a tab for that particular unit. (When school starts in August, all I will have to do is pull out the unit we are on and write the specific daily assignments on our planner.)
- For Brynne, I basically do the same thing, although the majority of her assignments are reading Living Books at her level, watching dvds, doing copywork, notebook pages and supplemental fun activities (like cooking assignments, era paper dolls, craft projects, etc.) But she will be working on the same unit as Dawson, and I am hoping she will pick up some information from what he is doing, as well.
So here is an example of what we will be doing for a 3-week unit:
Unit 3 ~ Westward 1
Living Book Daily Read-aloud: The Captain's Dog
- Day 1: Watch Episode 3, do vocabulary and video quiz
- Day 2: Read Daniel Boone by Janet Riehecky, do Daniel Boone notebooking page
- Day 3: Read The Lewis and Clark Expedition by Christin Ditchfield, cook something from Cooking on the Lewis and Clark Expedition
- Day 4: Watch "Lewis and Clark: The Journey of the Corp of Discovery", do Lewis and Clark and Sacagawea notebooking pages
- Day 5: Do PBS Lewis and Clark Lesson 1, Section 2 (this I took from the PBS site, another great resource)
- Day 1: Do PBS Lewis and Clark Lesson 1, Section 3 and 4
- Day 2: Complete Lewis and Clark's Expedition Map notebooking page
- Day 3: IEW Lessons 27 and 28
- Day 4: IEW Lessons 27 and 28
- Day 5: IEW Lessons 27 and 28
- Day 1: Rewatch the Donner Party clip from "America: The Story of Us", read "The Diary of Patrick Breen", do the Donner Party notebooking page
- Day 2: Do US Flag group activity and Flag Code, IEW Lesson 22
- Day 3: Put dates on Flag worksheet, IEW Lesson 23
- Day 4: The Star Spangled Banner vocabulary, Francis Scott Key notebooking page, IEW Lesson 23
- Day 5: The Star Spangled Banner discussion questions, IEW Lesson 26
As you can see, I don't put dates on anything. There is a great likelihood that we will not be able to keep up with the IEW lessons as they are planned right now. I have Dawson doing the lessons that go with the subject matter we are covering. But it is a lot! If we need to slow down, we will.
I realize this looks like I am reinventing the wheel. I am certain there are great US History curriculum out there for purchase. But I am just one of those weirdos who likes to plan lessons. We used A World of Adventure last year, and although it was great on many levels, I found myself supplementing a lot anyway. I don't want to purchase a curriculum and then see holes that I feel need to be filled. This way I know we are covering everything that we want to cover. And this is also the only subject I am planning this year, other than Brynne's little science units. Everything else will be a purchased curriculum, and most of it will be independently completed by Dawson and Brynne.
I just like spending time with my kids, and this gives us a great way to do it. We all learn together and have a great time doing it.
The hard work is worth it.
Update: I realized I didn't post what Brynne (2nd grade) will be doing for this same unit. Here are the topics we will cover and the activities associated with each:
Brynne Unit 3 - Westward 1
Read: The Legend of Daniel Boone
Notebooking: Daniel Boone
James and Dolley Madison
Read: A Picture Book of Dolley and James Madison
Dolley Madison story - (from What Your Second Grader Needs to Know, Core Knowledge Foundation)
Notebooking: James Madison
Do: Three Branches of Government "Tree" craft/visual
Star Spangled Banner and The American Flag
Watch: "US Flag" on dvd
Read: Red, White and Blue: the story of the American Flag
Do: Make paper and star flag (as a review) and Make American Flag cake, do copywork of "The Star Spangled Banner", do "The Star Spangled Banner" puzzle
Notebooking: Francis Scott Key coloring page
Lewis and Clark
Read: Lewis and Clark, A Picture Book of Lewis and Clark, and A Picture Book of Sacagawea
Notebooking: Lewis and Clark coloring page, Sacagawea coloring page, Lewis and Clark map
Read: Don't Know Much About the Pioneers
Watch: "Westward Expansion in the US" dvd