The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Lewis and Clark

I love social studies. This may come as a surprise to some, since most of what I seem to talk about is literacy and mathematics, but, honestly, social studies is a wonderful content area that easily lends itself to both literacy and mathematics, so it kind of makes sense why I love it so much.

Unfortunately, the push toward more rigorous standards in literacy and mathematics has meant that, from time to time, social studies takes a back seat to these other areas. So we don’t spend nearly as much time exploring the what and, more importantly the why, of history as I would like. But we still do some of it.

Our United States history curriculum covers the pre-Columbus period up to, but not including, the Civil War. As a team, we have decided to focus our study on three distinct time periods: European exploration, colonialism, and westward expansion. To this end, I invited one of my student teacher observers, Ms. W, to prepare a lesson about the expedition of Lewis and Clark through the Louisiana Purchase. She decided to make it an Internet-based activity, with the students going to a website she put together to find important dates, places, and other information to put in a timeline.

The lesson went very well! The students eagerly watched videos and read about the Corps of Discovery and worked together to complete the timeline. They also had wonderful conversations with one another about the things they were learning. (One of the things that everyone seems to get a kick out of is that prairie dogs were given their name during this expedition!) I felt like this lesson did a great job of encapsulating the concepts that we expect our students to know and it did a fantastic job of integrating literacy into the content area!

Sadly, today was Ms. W’s last day with my class. The students were very disappointed when she had to go, and she expressed her disappointment that she couldn’t stay longer. Alas, exams and projects are looming large for the students at the University of Illinois! We all wish her all the best as she continues on her journey toward teacher certification and beyond!


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