Knowing the importance of reading with fluency, some of the kids read to the wall. We don't get to read aloud very often, but this method allows for all students to do so simultaneously.
Throughout the year we will continue to build stamina in our reading. I want my students to have the ability to focus for longer and longer periods of time on reading for their own enjoyment.
As I took this trail to the north of the Elk Horn Tavern at the Pea Ridge National Battlefield in northern Arkansas, I soon discovered terrain that was full of hills and lumps. The trail declined in altitude as I continued, and parts reminded me of the ridges and fortifications surrounding Fort Ticonderoga. This route was also used for the Butterfield Stage and is called the Telegraph Road for a reason. Not only must one consider the fighting between the North and the South in the Civil War, but also the times of technology, transportation, and communication changes that were being experienced during the 19th century.
One who does not take the road less traveled will not see the house foundations that still mark the locations of settlers in the area. One will not find the location of a large hide-tanning operation near the creek. One will not read the historical plaques describing the rolling wilderness battles that took place. One will not stand in the location of a makeshift Confederate hospital to care for the wounded.
That's why I enjoy these peaceful treks into the unknown. I even enjoy them without a companion. It is a chance for me to wonder and imagine as I get my exercise - not along a city street or country lane, but in a marked route through the forest on a Sunday afternoon.
Most trails can be found at the Elk Horn Tavern site. Though there is no signage to mark the beginnings of the trails, with a little exploration, as well as trial and error, I was able to find a couple of the paths trailing off into the woods. A couple of these even intersect with other trails without warning, so going too far in an unplanned direction is always a possibility.
I really enjoyed the serenity that the five miles of exploration allowed. Not only was it an aerobic workout, it was also a peaceful moment to appreciate the historical and natural world and wonder about how it might have changed in the past 150 years. A couple of deer ran off before I could approach too closely to them, and I was able to find tracks of a few animals along the trail. I discovered a cave, a spring, and the location where hide tanning was carried out in a previous era.
Watch for more photos soon.
Thirteen students participate in our afterschool program - the History Arts Group. Fourth and fifth graders have a lot of fun, but they also dig a little deeper into primary source documents provided by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and the Hamilton Education Program.
The group chose to investigate the surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown - the battle that signified the beginning of the end for the American Revolution. Two documents were provided - one from George Washington to Cornwallis and another from Henry Knox to his wife Lucy. The task for the group was to identify key words from these two texts and rewrite them both in the authors' words and in the students' own words.
Adding some creativity, they then teamed up to write scripts for very short scripted conversations in modern, and sometimes humorous, skits. Some even wanted to include a song in their scene. This is a continuing project, but no matter how good (or not) the skits end up, we've just enjoyed spending time with each other and learning just a little bit more about our nation's history.
I wanted my students to bond with some of these people - to see just how worn out they were, yet how resilient they had to become. Things in the 18th century weren't easy for any of the folks living in the New Land, but for the native peoples, things could get especially brutal. You can't always see those things in a photograph, but for many of the sketches my students created, the hardships and mistreatment can be read - in the wrinkles and determined expressions they display.
I am currently readying myself for an upcoming, two-day trip to Columbia, Missouri, to attend sessions at the 2021 convention for the Missouri State Teachers Association. I am not a voting delegate at the convention, but rather a presenter for two breakout sessions of professional development for other attendees (Descriptions are below.). I will also have the opportunity to attend a couple of sessions for myself. Even though I plan to be absent from teaching on these two days, I hope that my gains in information and practice will still benefit my class and my teaching.
The theme of this year's convention seems to follow a trend of perceived need for educators: social-emotional health.
Dale Hoggatt is the 2021 Missouri History Teacher of the Year and a Master Teacher with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. In his spare time, he teaches fourth-graders in Joplin, Missouri. He taught in Oklahoma City during the terrorist bombing of 1995, and in Joplin, Missouri, during the tornado and recovery of 2011. His experiences at these locations are reflected in two of his books - Crumbling Spirit and Out of the Wind (available on Amazon). An educator for 32 years, Hoggatt shares opinion, reflection, and vision to help teachers improve their craft and thrive in the stressful world of education in his book for educators, There's No Busyness Like School Busyness.
During our first looks at the French and Indian War, we took some time to compare three maps of the East Coast. We considered the names of the 13 British colonies along with the political cartoon with the label, "Join, or Die".
What kind of message is that? Join, or Die? Students wondered if that was a threat, or was is a veiled attempt to unify colonies that did not always agree in a cause to support the English crown.
Benjamin Franklin, creator of the Join, or Die political cartoon (and subsequent flag), depicted the nation as a snake which, if cut into pieces would die. His goal at the time was to encourage support for the British cause during the skirmishes against France. How ironic that just a few years later, he would roust support against the British in the fight for independence!
We got more familiar with some of the American Indians when I brought out my portraits of the different tribes for students to observe. One theme for the year seems to be Details Are Important, and this activity brought that out yet again. Each student chose a tribal representative to sketch, with the directive of enlarging the busts and paying attention to the finest wrinkles and shadowing.
Some students were surprised at the final products, Some photos will be posted in a couple of days.
A couple of weeks ago, I took a jaunt into Arkansas to have a look at the scenery. The leaves were just turning and beginning to fall for the season. I wasn't dressed for hiking, but I found some nice spots for some pictures. These places aren't far from our hometown of Joplin, Missouri, and if you look, you can have some great times exploring.
...to a student who has moved across town and left our class and our school. The class will miss getting to see NAHLA everyday, and I will miss getting to see her develop during the remainder of her fourth grade year.
Our week with the artist-in-residence culminated with some extended writing time. Students have worked on interpreting art, and now their writing demonstrates their abilities. One student told me, "This is the most I've ever written...and enjoyed it!"
Some students will soon be chosen to record their voices to be included in the on-site museum experience at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.
On day three with our artist-in-residence, students responded to art featuring the Native American experience.
On the fourth day, students wrote a bit of poetry based on art that featured African experience in American history.
Last week, we were honored to have Will Knaur, a representative from Crystal Bridges, as our artist-in-residence. His focus for the week was colonial art, of which Crystal Bridges has a valuable collection. Students were able to discuss the lifestyles of people living in the British Colonies in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Then, in homage to the We the People installation at Crystal Bridges, students decorated their own shoestrings for a collective piece of art to be displayed.
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