Monday, June 2, 2014

Common Core IRL: Life in Colonial America (grades 3-5)

Our older elementary students spend a lot of effort learning how to read and write informational texts, especially in 4th and 5th grades. The Common Core State Standards identify some of the key skills students need to master in this process. Students and teachers often ask their librarians for help finding resources for their research projects.

This year, both Cathy Potter (of the Nonfiction Detectives) and I have helped classes with research projects on the American Colonies. So we thought that we would share some of our resources as part of our ongoing Common Core IRL: In Real Libraries series. Check out these great posts this week:
Life in the American Colonies -- what an enormously huge topic. My biggest challenge in finding resources was helping students who are reading below grade level. They need clear information, well organized and presented, but not too complicated. Two books stood out to me from my search.
Life in a Colonial Town
(series: Picture the Past)
by Sally Senzell Isaacs
Heinemann / Capstone, 2001
Lexile 680 / GRL O
Your local library
ages 8-12
Using clear, straightforward language, Isaacs describes daily life in the American colonies, primarily during the years 1650-1750. I especially like the basic introduction Isaacs provides in the first chapter, along with a simple timeline and map.
"A colony is like a small, new village or town. It is created in a country by people from a foreign, or different, country. Beginning about 400 years ago, people from Europe started coming to America to start colonies" (p. 4).
The text is organized into short two-page chapters, each focusing on a different aspect of everyday life. Students will gain a sense of colonists' houses, schooling, clothes and diets. I would recommend this book as a good starting place for students who need a basic introduction. It does not cover several topics my students were interested in, such as the conflict between Native Americans and European colonists, the slave trade, or religion. Here is another example of the text:
"Many colonists built wooden houses. The wood came from nearby forests. Most houses had a stone fireplace. Its fire heated the house. It was also used for cooking" (p. 12).
As students develop a clearer focus for their informational reports, they need books that go into more depth. But how can we do this for students who have trouble reading more complicated text? We have experimented with Capstone interactive ebooks and are liking our initial experience.

The real story about government and politics in colonial America
(series: Fact finders. Life in the American colonies)
by Kristine Carlson Asselin
Capstone, 2012
Lexile 720 / GRL T
Google Books preview
Your local library
ages 9-12
Asselin examines how government was organized in the colonies and the relationship between European governing countries and the colonies. Students will find the description of leadership and government in different Native American societies, including the Iroquois and the Powhatan confederacies, very interesting. As the colonies grew, England developed more systematic forms of government for the colonies, with clearly established local roles.

"Each town or county elected two citizens to the colony's assembly."
Students have loved the audio narration that accompanies the Capstone interactive books--with a real human voice, and not just computer text-to-speech narration. These digital books have worked well on Chromebooks in the classroom, and are accessible to all students (we purchased an "unlimited copies" version for our school). We have integrated them into our FollettShelf, accessible through our Destiny Catalog and it has worked very well during our pilot year.

Both of these texts will help students with both reading and writing skills. As students read these texts, they must work to identify the author's main points and learn how to summarize the text (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.2). Teachers can use these as mentor texts, showing writing that introduces and develops a topic (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.5.2). For example, students and teachers could look at the way Asselin develops her main point about the role of governors in the colonies:
Much of the Common Core really continues our work helping students learn to read, understand and write informational texts. It is a difficult job, one that requires providing interesting materials that students can access independently as well as mentor texts we can look at together.

I am excited to read about other resources my colleagues have found in their search: Common Core IRL -- In Real Libraries. This week, we are excited to share:
The review copies came from our district library collection. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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