Fifth Grade Studies

20th Century America


Overview of the Unit

The Integration of Technology

Organization of the Unit

A Walk Through the Twentieth Century

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The Twentieth Century comes alive every fall as people, places, and events are researched, depicted in artwork, and dramatically presented by each student in the fifth grade. "A Walk Through the 20th Century," a contract of class activities and expectations, has helped the students structure their time and to focus on such skills as the collection, organization, and analysis of data. Through the use of a variety of traditional and electronic reference materials, the students create theme maps, analyze graphs, and design portraits of famous Americans. Note-taking is taught through directed lessons on "highlighting" and simple outlining using a "who, what, where, when, and why" format. Reflection upon their notes is required through the inclusion of two additional questions, "so what," asking for the historical significance, and "what if," allowing the student to speculate logically and/or creatively. The World Wide Web helps broaden our scope of experiences as students search the globe for additional information, current statistics, and different perspectives on issues.

Regularly scheduled math and language arts classes also take on an historic flair. The gathering, analysis, and presentation of data through graphing complements the study of 20th Century statistics. A variety of Twentieth Century biographies are explored in literature class. Small discussion groups are formed to investigate the social and historical issues surrounding the lives of such noted individuals as Rosa Parks, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., Amelia Earhart, FDR, Zora Neale Hurston, Theodore Roosevelt, and Georgia O'Keeffe. This literary genre brings history to life for the students. Literature logs are utilized as a way for students to review and expand vocabulary, formulate thought-provoking questions, and write personal responses and letters. These notebooks provide opportunities for an ongoing dialogue between students and teachers.

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Integration of Technology

During our study of the twentieth century in the United States, there are many opportunities to use the computer. Writing naturally is important. Databases are useful in the collection, organization, and analysis of the facts. When data is collected in the form of a spreadsheet, graphs can be generated by the computer, enabling the students to see the components, format, and the purpose of a graph. "Where in America's Past Is Carmen Sandiego?" a program based on the TV show, helps students develop research skills, logical assumptions, and team work. Multimedia encyclopedias such as "Encarta '98," "Time Almanac," "Her Heritage," "Chronicle of the 20th Century," and "Our Times," provide invaluable information for the children to incorporate into their contract activities and assignments. The World Wide Web is accessed daily to glean information about famous people of the 20th Century, as well as historical topics and issues of individual interest to the students. Fifth graders learn how to create web pages to publish their poetry and essays during this study.

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Organization of the Unit

The entire 20th Century Unit is organized around Essential Questions. Once these questions are selected, the children work through activities designed to equip them with the skills and knowledge to answer the essential questions. These activities are presented in the form of "A Walk Through the 20th Century," a type of contract, wherein students work to complete goals.

These questions are brainstormed with the children. The following are the ones we decided upon for our Fall of 2000 "20th Century America Study:"

What events in the 20th Century make my life what it is today?
Who are the important people of the 20th Century?
Why is it important to study civil rights?

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A Walk Through the 20th Century

This is the list of activities fifth graders were expected to complete after class instruction and search time.

To avoid duplication of research, students are asked to clear all of their choices of topics, people, events, etc. with their support group teacher before they begin their research. Since this unit occurs in the fall, students are guided by due dates, clear expectations, and structured lessons.

1. Portrait with Plaque

Research a famous person from the 20th Century - the list of "faces to remember" in your 20th Century Almanac would be a great resource. Create a border for your portrait. Make this border appropriate for your person: e.g: airplanes for Amelia Earhart, a gavel for Thurgood Marshall, etc. Use a piece of snow white drawing paper, draw a free hand portrait of this person. On a 5 X 8, write the following information:

2. Then and Now Graph

Research a topic and display the information on a graph showing how the data has changed over the 20th Century. Compare data for each decade. Remember to label the axes, title the graph, provide a key, and draw a conclusion. A colorful graph is much more interesting. The conclusion, written on a 5x8 card, should include:

1) observations ("I notice that the graph rises sharply...") 2) guesses ("I think it dropped because..."

3) what really happened (Research for the truth) 4) prediction ("It will probably rise in 2000 because...")

3. Theme Map

Research a theme from the 20th Century. Using a piece of graph paper, draw a free hand outline map of the United States. Enlarge this map by utilizing the proportional drawing techniques taught in Math Class. Use "Snow White" drawing paper for this enlargement. Title the map. Label the states and their capital cities. Indicate the major rivers - including Mississippi, Missouri, Colorado, and Delaware; major mountain ranges - including Rockies, Appalachians and Sierra Nevada. Draw a colorful symbol to mark the location of one notable event related to your theme. Make a key to help explain the symbols you use.

4. Poem

Word process a poem dealing with a struggle for freedom in the 20th Century. The poem must be at least 2 stanzas long and each stanza must have at least 4 lines.


**************************************************************************************************** Select a 20th Century topic to examine in greater depth. Research this person or event. Make an outline card that answers the questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? and So What? about this event or person. Form a group containing 3 members. Plan a presentation that will get this information across to the audience. Three different points of view are expected. These will begin after November 1st and will continue all month.

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