My Mission Statement

I write to serve, to unite, to educate. I write to share literature and flesh out ideas that may be of interest to others. I write to document an emotion, experience, or a blip in time. My mission is to write in such a way that the reader is reminded that we can find humor in all situations. It's one of the great blessings of life.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Common Core Curriculum: Kindergarten Unit 4 America: Symbols and Celebrations

"In this fourth six-week unit of kindergarten, students explore America's symbols and celebrations through literary and informational texts; they begin to write informative/explanatory pieces."  

Someone will disagree with me, but I think establishing an appreciation for our country, a pride in America, an early semblance of patriotism, and a knowledge of the Pledge of Allegiance and patriotic songs is an ESSENTIAL part of early education.  No matter the student's background.   If they are being educated in America, they need to be taught pride in our country.  If students don't grow up to believe in this country, they will not be responsible, contributing citizens.  If we don't have responsible, contributing citizens, our entire democratic system falls apart.   In the words of Thomas Jefferson,  ". . . whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government; that, whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them right."   One day these kindergarten students WILL be trusted with the government, so they need a pride and understanding of patriotism.

This unit comes after the unit on neighborhoods.  As you can imagine, students begin to understand the workings of the world immediately around them, and then expand their understanding to include broader society.  They learn about and become more aware of symbols.  They may use patriotic text and song lyrics to discern meaning from text.  They will use language to describe people, things, and events that they have a personal connection to.  While this unit begins with the foundation of American symbols and celebrations, it will expand to include the symbols and celebrations of other groups.  This inclusion offers a great opportunity to utilize the diversity in classroom and community.  Also, to note, depending on the region, this unit may also correlate with election day.  Retelling familiar stories from history, understanding cause and effect, comparing and contrasting, and adding new vocabulary will play a role in this unit, as well.

For writers:

WOW!  Writers, this unit is a really fun opportunity to take some of the 'tried and true' old texts and re-tell them in a new way suitable for kindergarten.  Non-fiction for kindergarteners can be more of an introduction to a topic or person from history, but it must be done in a fun and engaging way.  Writers of nonfiction for children have traditionally geared their work toward older children.  They often complain, "It's been done"  about many topics and historical figures from history.  But GOOD NEWS, writers, a LOT of topics that have been written to death for older children has not been introduced to this young set.  I planned to resist book recommendations during this series, but I just HAVE to mention the brilliant picture book, JOHN, PAUL, GEORGE & BEN by Lane Smith.  It is an excellent example of introducing historic figures to the younger set.

Writers, here are the kinds of books teachers will need:
**And let me mention here--when I say teachers will need these kinds of books to support this curriculum, I do not mean to say that some of these books don't already exist.  However, there are huge holes in certain subject area/age group combinations that will guarantee a demand for certain books as the CCC takes hold.

1.  Teachers will look for books about the PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE, the STAR SPANGLED BANNER, and other classic American songs of patriotism.  Books that include the lyrics, with illustrations, are good, but books that provide some background information---again, appropriate for early elementary school and/or reading aloud---will be staples.

2.  Teachers will look for books like JOHN, PAUL, GEORGE & BEN that provide an entertaining introduction to 'big names' in American history.  If we can connect names from history with some character traits or a particular event, and we can do it on a level that kids really enjoy, that book will be a HUGE score.  Plus, as kids grow older, they will already have that framework in place when it is time to learn the longer versions of the story or when they see these figures within the bigger picture of history.

3.  Teachers will look for Patriotic books that employ vocabulary words that may be new to their students like SYMBOL, CAUSE, EFFECT, TRADITION, etc.

4.  So many school children say the Pledge of Allegiance every day, and they have NO IDEA what it means.  A really cool, creative, informative, illustrated and explanatory version of this piece would be amazing.

5.  Teachers will need books that tell about other traditions and holidays in America.  These books will bring in the great 'melting pot' of diversity in our schools.  Teachers will likely look for books that reflect the culture of their particular region.  For example, a teacher in rural Georgia will have different needs in this category than a teacher in L.A., but they will both needs books that show culture, tradition, and holidays like Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and the Chinese New Year.

6.  This unit lends itself to starting off with American patriotism, and then reaching out to include other cultures into the mix.  While I don't necessarily disagree with that structure,  I would LOVE to see a book that begins with a glimpse into a variety of different cultures without our country, then culminates with everyone together celebrating an American event.   I would love to see some kind of cool, creative illustrations that pulled together lots of flags into an American flag, somehow.

7.  The other awesome thing about this unit for writers is that many of the needs I discussed above can also be categorized as "Fourth of July" books in the holiday displays at bookstores.  That's not a reason to write a book, of course, but it is something to think about.

So Happy Writing, all my dear writer friends!  The Common Core Curriculum needs you to produce EXCELLENT manuscripts for our young people, so GET TO IT!

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