Sunday, March 31, 2013

Jamestown: A Horror Film

We have been studying Jamestown recently and have been having great discussion about the trials and hardships that were faced by the men who made the treacherous journey toward the official, first English settlement. 
In order to analyze the different experiences the men went through, I took the kids through an activity called "Keep it OR Junk it!" I discovered this phenomenal lesson on the Teaching Channel (if you have never checked their videos out, you are missing a FABULOUS resource!). Here is the original video of a class performing this activity (the activity could be used with any content, but this particular lesson happens to be on Jamestown - SCORE!) The activity works like this: 
First, the students read the passage alone. Then they reread the passage, circling or underlining words or short phrases that help them answer the focus question. My focus question was different then the one in the video. Our focus question was: What was life like during the early years of the Jamestown settlement? 
After they have done that, I had them pick their top ten words or phrases and write them on a sticky note. 
They they worked together as groups, seeing who had similar words. If two or more people in the group had the word then it went on their group paper. 
Once groups had gone through all their words, they choose two people from their group to perform the Keep it OR Junk it activity. The students then proceed down their list asking the whole class whether the words they have on their paper should be #1 KEPT #2 JUNKED #3 CLOUDED
The students in the room communicate with they through hand motions:
1 finger means KEEP 
2 fingeres mean JUNK 
A fist means CLOUD (which means that they are not sure and that we will come back to it) 
This activity went really well, and it was a great way to get the kids narrowed down and focused on what life was actually like in the early years of Jamestown using their own facts that they had discovered by determining importance (another reading skill integrated!) 
We have all decided that if today, one were to make an accurate video portraying the trials and hardships endured, it would easily be a first class horror film (that I quickly reminded that kids I WOULD NOT SEE. I do not do horrors - and I am quick to remind them, in my motherly fashion, neither should they!) 
Unfarmable swamp land, drought, famine, dirty drinking water, mosquitoes, diseases, inter fighting, blistering summer heat followed by an severe, icy winter, unfriendly local natives, shiploads of "gentlemen" who had never really worked a day in their life, and then there was the "Starving Time" (with even a couple of cases of cannibalism!) ... the statistics show just how forsaken and terrible it really was. By June 1610, of the possibly six hundred men left by Smith, only sixty survived... 
To demonstrate the vast difference between what the English were dreaming of when they set off for the "New World" paralleled with the reality they faced upon arrival, the kids created Jamestown Metaphors using the word and phrases we had discovered. We had been looking at figurative speech in reading so it fit in perfectly (whoo hoo integration!). I found this great anchor chart on pinterest which many of you have seen, however, I was especially excited because it goes PERFECTLY with my Jamestown metaphor because it has to do with weather and nature ... and that is what I chose my Jamestown metaphor to be as an example. 
I cannot find the original post for this chart ... only the picture pops up if I click on it. If you know where the original came from please let me know so I can give them credit!
My Jamestown Metaphor example
Here are some of the kids metaphors - they turned out super cute and I feel that the kids really understood the concept! Some of them were really creative! {proud teacher heart}
This was one of my personal favorites! This kid paralleled Jamestown DREAM vs. REALITY with Minecraft - I loved the added touches of sticking the items down in the boxes as the "building items" 
I really enjoy showing history from a different perspective - I think that often were are taught history through rose colored glasses and forget to truly do justice to the people who lived. Many times our history books glaze over tragic stories, embarrassing moments, or areas of history we, as a nation, are not proud of. However, this kind of teaching is wrong. Not only is it disrespectful to the multitudes of people it affected, it gives kids a utopia picture that does not allow for the opportunity to truly do what history is intended to do - remind us of mistakes in the past, so that they will not be made again in the future! I'll get down off of my soapbox ;) All that to say, I love showing my kids appropriate (some content is too deep for younger students) Horrible Histories. A British based series that blends fact, reality, and morbid humor, as only the Brits can do! The kids absolutely ADORE them.
I just had to share the one I use for Jamestown.

Horrible Histories Colonisation from Rebeca Millam on Vimeo.
For more Colonial lessons and activities, visit the link below!
13 Colonies
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