Now that our school year is coming to an end, I can now truly understand the effectiveness of each unit in terms of the success each one had with the students’ acquiring and absorption of the subject material and accompanying skills. I have to say, I am delightfully surprised at how well rounded my students’ knowledge is now of the subject matter and skills in each project, and they truly have become little specialists with each topic – often surprising me with the depth and high level of knowledge obtained through Summit.
The high level of details and understanding each student has obtained is at least equal, if not greater than the traditional school route – and this is a great thing to see! On that note, I shall now review and discuss each project that my 5th grade class completed this school year.
Book Review –
This was our first unit in ELA. This truly was a great unti to start off with. In this unit, the students learned what a book review is and how to write one. This was an integrated project in terms of how to write in essay form. My students learned the structure of compositional writing, while, unbeknownst to them, all of the skills associated with this type of writing – punctuation, grammar, detailed descriptions, openings, presenting facts and proof, persuasive writing, etc. The list of what they learned goes on and on. This unit really set the stage for detailed, organized and structured compositional writing.
Playing with Poetry –
In our second unit, we took a brief departure from essay writing, and instead studied all the forms of poetry and how to write all the many forms of poetry. This was a bit more free in terms of writing structure, but also a bit more creative, and truly allowed the students to begin developing their own writing style.
They each wrote several versions of a poem on a topic of their choosing. They also learned and mastered many poetic techniques and how to experiment with different images. Also learned was how to write using many different rhyming patterns and how to effectively use line and stanza breaks. They especially mastered writing staples such as simile, metaphor, sensory descriptions, rhyming schemes, onomatopoeia, personification, etc. They enjoyed this unit immensely, and have since developed into budding poets. I often catch them writing poems on their own now, and it has become almost something of a shared class culture now – my students write poems and share them with each other on their own free time!
Research and Give a Speech –
Here, students wrote and delivered a speech about an issue they cared about. They chose from a list of approved topics: e.g., the need to reduce pollution; the value of freedom of speech in schools; whether the school day should be shortened; whether technology is too powerful in our lives. Then, they asked questions relevant to their stance on the issue, and then had to research the answers to their questions; they then incorporated their information into their speech. The speech had to use figurative language (which they learned in the previous two units) to convince the audience to take a certain action and/or believe a certain viewpoint. Finally, the students presented their speech to their classmates.
The boys took heart to this project, and became very passionate about their topics! Our most popular topic was why there should be more recess in school. They were very passionate about this and truly learned how to convince the audience to their point of view and how to effectively use facts and research studies to prove their point. They did a fabulous job delivering their speeches, and truly mastered public speaking!
Break a Leg! –
Our last ELA project was perhaps the most fun of all for the boys – here they learned how to develop and write a play! We studied and mastered how to use scenes, dialogue, and stage directions to build the structure of a play and tell a story. We also learned how actors use these elements to perform the characters in a play. This included writing and turning in a script, including scenes that use verbs in the various perfect tenses to convey the passage of time. Then, they made revisions to the script until they reached a polished final product. All of the writing skills they acquired in the previous projects now came into play here, and were united together to write this much more complicated piece of writing. A play is truly a mixture of all the pieces of writing we learned throughout the year, and thus a sort of pinnacle point for the boys to really synthesize and showcase their acquired ELA skills from the year!
Letters from the Colonies –
This was our first unit in SS – and it was really such a creative way to teach my students about the development of colonial America and of an American identity. This unit really intertwined social studies with ELA, in which while they were learning all of the facts about life in the thirteen colonies, they were also unknowingly learning the art of letter and diary writing! What a great way to learn about our beginnings as a unified country!
The boys first learned about the 13 colonies, how they each developed in their own unique way and developed their own unique cultures. Then, they had to imagine that they were an actual colonist from one of the colonies they chose and write letters to another colonist from another colony (really another student in the class). They absolutely loved imagining that they were living in their chosen colony. It really brought the history alive to them and made them experience it in such a vivid way, more so than just textbook learning!
Then, to add a twist, the roles were reversed, and we learned about the Native American states at the time and how they were affected by the colonies. They then had to deliver a speech as if they were a Native American during this time, and present a Native American’s perspective on this time period! This really opened their eyes two both the colonists’ perspectives and to the Native American perspective! This truly was an eye opening and unique way to learn about this time period!
World Religions Blog –
This unit focused on what religions were practiced in the world’s early civilizations. Here, again instead of the traditional textbook tradition in learning SS, my students got to pick one of the religions practiced in early Western or Asian civilization – Taoism, Confucianism, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, etc. Then, they had to create a blog in which they wrote about their research findings. This unit focused upon the history of the religions, including the beginnings of the religions, and going up to and including the current happenings in the world for the religion. The boys had the chance to explore the religion through online resources, articles, etc. that were provided through Summit. Again, this SS until combined SS with ELA – while learning about the history of their chosen religion, they also learned blog/diary writing! This resulted in them learning intricate details about the religion of their choice, and becoming experts on the formation and development of that religion. This unit was so interesting to the boys that they even started their own personal blogs outside of the class, and have become blog writers!
Examining Multiple Perspectives –
This unit was truly a culmination of all that the boys learned in the two previous SS units. It combined the study of the different and important events we learned about through American history, and had the boys examine these events from different perspectives – in other words, this unit taught them that history is represented by people who are often biased in their experiences during the time of the event, and therefore, the historical account that is presented to us from this person/history writer will be based upon their experiences and presented in their viewpoint of the event .
Thus, it is important to study and read several different versions/accounts of a historical time period or event to get the full unbiased picture of what really happened! In other words, the boys were made to examine and evaluate different perspectives on an issue to understand the conflicting viewpoints and to develop a broader understanding of the issue. And that to gather a clearer picture of a historical event or issue, it is critical to examine the narratives of conflicting perspectives. The boys had to complete an activity that involves conflicting opinions and perspectives. Then, they had to examine multiple perspectives on a specific historical question. Finally, they used those multiple perspectives to create a claim answering the historical question, and then write a five-paragraph essay supporting that claim.
They learned how to write a thesis statement, and to represent and support their claim with facts and details! So, again, ELA and SS skills were flawlessly combined here in order to educate the boys on being critical and thoughtful receivers of historical accounts! In the end, I had the boys read aloud and share their essays, and they had so much fun examining the facts and different perspectives of each historical account!
To sum up, Summit was truly a unique way to teach my 5th grade class all of the ELA and SS skills and information! They learned to become independent workers and thinkers through summit, while completely and unknowingly absorbing and processing all if the information and skills required in 5th grade. Plus, most importantly of all, they had tons of fun doing it!!!