Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Gold Rush Series: The Early Days Unit

Problem: LeAnn and I (the teachers behind Thank A Teacher) love the California Gold Rush. That shouldn't be a problem except we have way too much information! Sometimes too much of a good thing leaves us feeling a little overwhelmed. LeAnn does her Gold Rush unit near the end of the school year which means she sometimes has to edit the material to fit the schedule. We wanted to create our own curriculum that covered everything important but was flexible enough to use in a variety of ways. We also wanted each section to be able to stand alone, so we decided related activities should be included.

Solution: We decided to create a comprehensive Gold Rush Series of informational and engaging original texts each focusing on a specific aspect of the California Gold Rush. The first in the series is called "The Early Days" and focuses on the back story and first few months of 1848. We cover John Sutter, Sutter's Fort, James Marshall, Sutter's Mill, Sam Brannan, methods to test gold, and the entry of the U.S. into the territorial picture.  

The rest of the series will cover the following: Gold Fever, Routes to California, Minorities in the Gold Rush, Mining Techniques, and Daily Life as a Miner

Results: Because the text is so visually enticing, I used my Promethean Board to project the PowerPoint slides. We read the text in chunks, as a whole group, then break up into groups to complete the discussion questions.  I also preteach from student copies in my guided reading groups some of the historical vocabulary and text features. I’ve had students beg to do social studies, that’s making history come alive!