As part of their study of our nation’s history, Pleasant Lea Middle School eighth-graders created children’s books about the American Revolution with younger students from a nearby elementary school serving as informal book critics.
American history teacher Matt Sisk said the assignment was designed to evaluate the students’ knowledge of the historical events in a more authentic and memorable way.
“The students created children’s books over the causes of the American Revolution, and they chose a cartoon character, like Spongebob or Scooby-Doo, to be the main character in their story.” Mr. Sisk said. “The character experienced the tumultuous time period of the 1760s and 1770s in Colonial America alongside the colonists and shared the frustrations right alongside the colonists as well.”
The eighth-graders spent about one week creating the books, which included text as well as illustrations.
“It was challenging to tell some of the events in a kid-friendly language.” Mr. Sisk added. “Many of the eighth-graders were asking if it was OK to bring up something as violent as the Boston Massacre. This led to some great conversations about how in writing, the audience we are addressing can affect the kind of language we use. The kids came up with some very creative ways to present some tough topics!”
After completing the books, the middle-school students traveled to nearby Pleasant Lea Elementary school where elementary students served not only as an audience for the books but also as evaluators. The elementary students filled out a brief form, providing the eighth-graders with feedback about whether the book made sense to them, flowed well and taught historical facts and real-life lessons.
Students were also challenged to focus on the concept of taking a stand against injustice. “The colonists stood up to Britain in many ways leading up to the Revolution, and I thought it was important that our kids know ways to do this in their own lives as well,” Mr. Sisk said. “We talked about the best ways to take a stand, and kids incorporated this as the last page of their children’s book. They made the connection and engaged the PLE kids in a dialogue about ways they have had to take a stand as elementary students, such as standing up against bullies or peers who pressure them to make bad choices.”
Mike Walker, eighth-grade social studies teacher at Summit Lakes Middle School, also conducted a similar activity with his students, visiting Trailridge Elementary.