Last year, I began a journey with 5th grade that integrated multiple social studies standards into one big project. The teachers put students in cross-classroom groups and assigned them social studies topics for a unit on the turn of the century. Each group made a glog about their topic after using print and digital resources to gather information. We were amazed by the leadership, collaboration, and innovation that took place in that project, but we made a lot of mistakes along the way too. You can read more about last year here and here.
This year, we almost didn’t do this project. The teachers were feeling even more overwhelmed by the content this year because they had to teach 3 social studies units and 2 science units in 9 weeks. You would probably feel overwhelmed too if you knew you had to teach these units in that amount of time:
Even the district planner recommends a total of 12 weeks for the units, but requires that it be done in the 3rd quarter (9 weeks).
After multiple combinations of meetings between me, the 5th grade social studies teacher, the gifted collaboration teacher, and the instructional coach, we developed a plan for how this year’s content might look. Each of the 3 social studies classes were assigned a unit. Within each class, topics were assigned to individuals as well as groups of students. These students made plans of how to divide the content among their group. On Mondays and Fridays, the social studies teacher and gifted teacher did direct teaching of some of the content from all 3 units. On Tuesday-Thursday, students came to the media center to research their topics in online databases, websites, and books. Last year, students just took notes as they read, but this year we wanted students to have a better structure that was based in questions that came from the standards. The gifted teacher combed through the standards and created 2 different graphic organizers with questions for students to consider. The organizer also had space to document resources used. Some students chose to use digital copies of this organizer while others chose to print it out and write their notes.
Once again, I pulled together a pathfinder divided up by topics. This pathfinder gave each student a handful of websites about their topic. I also showed them how to search the databases found in Georgia’s Galileo collection. My paraprofessional took the topics and searched through our print collection. If a book matched one group’s topic, she put a post-it with their names on the book. If a book spanned multiple topics, she put it in a shared stack.
To begin our journey, I briefly introduced the pathfinder, graphic organizers, and how to take notes (not copying and pasting entire paragraphs of information from websites). I also showed a glog from last year’s students to give them an idea of what they would ultimately be doing. We chose not to introduce how Glogster works at the beginning. We also chose to not give students logins and passwords to Glogster. Students then began a week of research. The social studies teacher, gifted teacher, student teacher, my paraprofessional, some college students, and me began working with students as much as possible to support them in their search.
After a week, I introduced how Glogster works by showing a very basic run-through of the kinds things it can do. Students continued to research, but as they finished, they checked in with one of the adults. Most of the time we offered additional guiding questions and support so that they had the most complete information possible. Once students reached a point where they had enough information, they received their username and password to Glogster.
Most students began Glogster with deciding on their wall background. Then, they moved to adding text from their organizer. Eventually, students branched out to include photographs from public domain searches and linked their pictures to the sources they came from. Some students also did audio introductions to their glog or recorded audio for various parts of their glogs. Some students used Screencast-o-matic to do screencasts of timelines from PebbleGo or tours in Google Earth. A few students used webcams to record themselves talking. One group even did a webcam video of their resource list rather than just creating a text box for it.
You can view some of the finished or in progress glogs here:
Once students finalize their glogs, they will present them to the rest of the 5th grade to share the responsibility of teaching and learning this massive amount of content.