Abraham Lincoln is one of our most beloved and most celebrated Presidents, so I couldn’t wait to study his life with my kiddos. This One Week Wonder was centered around the Caldecott winning and very comprehensive book Abraham Lincoln, although it is important to note that it would be easily adaptable with other texts as well.
Abraham Lincoln: A One Week Wonder is part of a series of week-long units with complete lesson plans (“One Week Wonders”) I plan on sharing with all of you over time! Here’s a glimpse into my classroom to see how it all panned out!
We created Abraham Lincoln lap books to record information gained from the book and additional research on the i-Pads. This little craftivity is fun and functional, and the crafty part of it is quick! In the intermediate grades, I still believe that cutesy has a place as a hook for students. That said, it has to have a greater purpose, and it can’t monopolize time. This was a win in that respect.
We also completed a Read the Room activity to review common and proper nouns once again. This time, all of the words are in lowercase letters so students have to ready think about the category each word or pair of words belongs in. This activity is so adaptable, so it is part of my regular lesson rotations. We review a ton of standards this way, and the great thing is, because we are always switching up the standards and since it gets my students out of their seats, it’s always a big hit!
We also did a little STEM-esque project to inspire some procedural texts. I broke my students up into teams, and they were responsible for creating weight-bearing “cabins” using nine index cards and glue/tape. It was interesting seeing the different designs. Some were really complex. Some were incredibly simple. Some had “logs”, some were basically reinforced cubes. Some used pillars. Some were open in the middle. I loved seeing the innovation they brought into the lesson as they worked through various designs and trials. I also loved listening to their presentations!
The expectation was that each group would create a “cabin” that could support the weight of a full pencil box. All of the groups accomplished this…eventually. Some had to redesign their cabins, and others barely supported the weight. Others, however, held an incredible amount of weight. Check this out! I was so impressed!
Throughout our biography study, week after week, the research center has been a class favorite, and this week was no exception. My students LOVED researching presidents and creating a multi-media presentations about their lives. The slideshows are simple, but they are powerful. I love that my students can practice research skills on a regular basis, because I fervently believe that strong research skills are imperative, not only to school success, but also in the professional sphere as they become adults. It’s sometimes a stumbling block, but I am already seeing improvements in their research skills, and this was only the third week we’ve implemented this center. I can’t wait to see the long-term results!
I did employ this Abraham Lincoln meme to remind my kiddos about fact-checking. I always use the Tree Octopus website to warn of the dangers of misinformation and to encourage cross-referencing. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth a look!
This is another center that I have made a regular part of our rotation each week. Each card features an important term from the text, and the students are responsible for creating a question that corresponds with that word. It’s like creating a test question that has that particular answer, and it’s a great way for my students to refer back to the text, reread, and think critically. This was challenging at first, but they are really coming along.
This week, I used my “Mystery Hat” from Learning Resources as Abe Lincoln’s hat. We stored lots of documents inside (just like he used to do). In this case, the documents were cards with verbs from the text. I had my kiddos pull them out one at a time and use them in a sentence. If a student used the word correctly, he or she got to keep the card, but if they used it incorrectly or they were not sure about the definition, they looked it up in the dictionary and had to put it back into the hat. (If students in the group were unsure of whether that student’s answer was correct, they consulted the dictionary.) I had my kids set a timer on this center, and whoever had the most cards at the end of the game won. Of course, they had to look out for the WAR cards. If they drew that, they would have to return all of their cards to the hat. It was a lot of fun listening to them cheer each other on and even groan on occasion. This was a great way to work on dictionary skills in a fun and engaging way while growing their vocabulary and verb-knowledge.
The next center was a commonly misspelled/confused word center. Similarly to the other center, the students had to use the words correctly in a sentence. (A dictionary was also kept nearby to consult, if needed.) If students got the word right, they could place a craft stick on the background to “build a cabin”. The first person to get to 10 craft sticks won! It was a big hit. A few of the boys asked, “Is this going to be 2D or 3D? Because they seemed a little disappointed that it wouldn’t be 3D, I dug out some Jenga blocks, and they had a choice between craft sticks or 10 Jenga blocks. The game was played the same way otherwise, and they LOVED it.
Vocabulary was, once again, a big focus this week. We explored politics, wit, clerk, emancipate, quarrel, and debt through a variety of different activities, and as always they were displayed on our focus board.
Because my students have been struggling with the difference between character traits and emotions, I decided to make a SCOOT game to practice differentiating between them. I played songs like “Happy” and “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” while they moved around the room filling out their recording sheets. It kept the mood light and fun while they worked. The kiddos also worked on a graphic organizer to describe Abe’s traits, feelings, and motivations.
It is important to note one thing about this particular book. It was written in 1939, and as a result, quite unfortunately, there were a few parts (on two pages) that were politically incorrect. The book is so comprehensive, so well-written, and so well-done that I didn’t want to completely dismiss its merits. However, I also did not feel that I could read it as it was. So, I took some white out to it and deleted a derogatory term and the word “black” any time I felt it was unnecessary or redundant. When I read this aloud to the kids and they noticed the white-out and my purple pen, we just had a quick conversation about Ruby Bridges and the injustice that people that Abe Lincoln, Ruby Bridges, and people like Martin Luther King, Jr. were trying to eradicate. I just explained that this book was a little insensitive, and because of that, I decided to make a few changes. That was that, and we moved on, focusing instead on the merits of Abraham Lincoln (the book and the person).
This blog post doesn’t include every single activity, but it includes many of my favorites. Here’s a more comprehensive list of the contents:
Cloze Vocabulary Introduction
Vocabulary Book with Frayer Models
Vocabulary Cards for Focus Wall/Pocket Chart
KWL Formative Flap
Abraham Lincoln Discussion Questions Mini-Book
That’s What It’s All About Main Idea/Key Details Organizer
Common and Proper Nouns: Read the Room Activity
Written Conversation Template
Extra! Extra! Newspaper Summarizing Template
Index Card Log Cabin STEM Activity
Biography Lap Book and Craftivity
Traits, Motivations, & Feelings Organizer
Vocabulary Cards (small)
Emotions vs. Character Traits SCOOT
Primary/Secondary Sources Sort
Fact and Opinion SMARTboard/Sign Language Activity
Whoa! Tableau! (Create a scene from the text!)
List, Group, Label Vocabulary Activity
Get Informed: Ten Important Facts Writing Prompt
SMARTboard Activity: Complete Sentence, Fragment, or Run-on?
Comprehension Question Cards (for teacher)
Comprehension Quiz (with original text & optional extended response)
WAR! Center (verb definitions)
Commonly Confused Words Center (Build a craft stick cabin!)
What is the Question? Center
Mentor Corner: Presidents (Internet Inquiry/Multimedia Presentation)
Mentor Corner covers Andrew Jackson, George W. Bush, John Quincy Adams, Lyndon B. Johnson, George Bush, Gerald Ford, Herbert Hoover, James Madison, Jimmy Carter, John Adams, Richard Nixon, Ulysses S. Grant, Barack Obama, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Franklin D. Roosevelt, George Washington, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, and Woodrow Wilson.
So, there you have it! I am personally LOVING this approach to teaching literature. What’s next in the biography unit? The Boy on Fairfield Street! After that, I will be bundling the four biography units and moving on to Tall Tales. Stay tuned for more One Week Wonders!