What Would Ben, Tom, and George Think? Blogging about the American Revolution
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Students are engaged learners in this lesson as they take on the personas of famous people of the American Revolution. They write blogs that reflect these people's experiences and reactions to various events leading up to and during the war. Prior to blogging, students research their historical figures to be able to put themselves into character. They post an introductory paragraph on their individual blogs that others comment on. Then the teacher posts an event that happens during the time period, and students respond in character to the event. Finally, the students blog in character about an incident from this time period.
American Revolution-Suggested Print Materials: To understand their historical figures and successfully take on the persona of these people, students require in-depth information that may not be available through just the use of websites. Therefore, these print materials (or other similar print materials) are crucial for students to utilize.
Kidblog: Using this cost- and advertisement-free web 2.0 tool, the teacher can set up a class blog for up to fifty students in which each student can have his/her own blog as well as comment on classmates’ blogs in a safe, secure setting. Additionally, the teacher must approve comments before they appear on the blog. If needed, the teacher can set up a second blog with another fifty student accounts.
From Theory to Practice
According to Grisham and Wolsey, “Community is the soul of learning.” Blogs definitely create the needed sense of community for the classroom. Also, they provide students the opportunity to think critically about issues and construct understanding together. Grisham and Wolsey believe this type of situation moves the traditional teacher-centered classroom into a student-driven environment. Furthermore, the use of blogs appeals to today’s students who communicate, as Kennedy explains, using different methods than those of past generations. By combining a current form of communication with a traditional topic, such as the American Revolution, students may be more interested in learning. Additionally, rather than just for the teacher’s eyes, the students’ online writings are viewed by a larger audience. As Rigler points out, “writing in a Web 2.0 environments asks students to take a more active role in the ownership of their language.” They may be more motivated to care about the quality of their writing as they will want to communicate their thoughts precisely to avoid misunderstanding. Furthermore, the ability to respond and comment on each other’s posts may lead to more discussion than the traditional classroom manner because all can participate instead of just a few talking during the class period.
Common Core Standards
This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.
This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.
NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts
- 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
- 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
- 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
- 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
- 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
- 7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
- 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
- 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
- 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).
Materials and Technology
- Computers with Internet capabilities and word processing programs.
- Classroom with LCD projector and whiteboard/interactive whiteboard.
- Biographical books about people of the American Revolution.
This is a great resource for this project because several of the detailed biographies come from Encyclopædia Britannica, a credible source of information.
This website is valuable for those students who research First Ladies and Presidents.
For those students who might have reading difficulties, this website provides easy to read information about the First Ladies and Presidents.
The page is part of the Historic Valley Forge website that was established by the Independence Hall Association in 1996. It has short articles for several of the people.
This website can provide famous quotations spoken during the American Revolution and is searchable by person.
This video can serve as an introduction to blogging in session one.
This short YouTube video defines blogging and could be used in session one.
This video can serve as a tutorial for setting up the class blog.
This website is good for adding primary resources to the teacher’s postings to which the students will respond.
This is an additional source for primary resources for students to examine.
- Before this lesson, work with your school librarian or get materials for your classroom so that each student will have a biography about the person the student will research. Additionally, locate print materials about the Suggested Blog Events students will write about on the blog. Reserve one period in your school library to check out these books and for students to begin their research. Alternatively, have the materials ready for use in your classroom.
- Reserve time in your school’s computer lab for a total of eight sessions. If possible, have the research websites bookmarked on the computers. If that is not feasible, you can sign up for a wiki at Wikispaces where you can create a class page for the links or create a class website using Wix or Weebly, which are both free. If that is not possible, make copies of the Websites printout, one per computer.
- Sign up for a free blog at Kidblog. Watch the tutorial video How to Set up Kidblog Class or use the printout How to Set up Kidblog for the American Revolution. Then set up accounts for the students using the names of figures from the Revolutionary War as the students’ log-ins. To make the experience more authentic, change your name on the blog as well (for example, to The Boston Gazette Editor). If possible, post the address for the blog on the class wiki or website. If this is not an option, add the URL to the Websites printout.
- Decide what two events you will blog about for the class to respond to. Prepare your postings for these events. You can include links to primary resources using Library of Congress, American Revolution, 1763-1783 and American History from Revolution to Reconstruction and Beyond in your entries. Look at the Sample Teacher Blog Entries for ideas.
- Make one copy per student of the printouts Notetaking Sheet, People of the American Revolution, Suggested Blog Events, Event Notes, and Blog Rubric. You can link the printout How to Use Kidblog to your class wiki or website. If that is not possible, make one copy per student of this printout as well.
- identify people of the American Revolution time period.
- develop research skills, using both print and online resources, with the purpose of posting introductory paragraphs taking on the persona of famous people of the American Revolution.
- post these introductory paragraphs to a blog and respond to each other’s writings.
- write responses in character to description of events posted in the blog.
- compose responses to other's comments and questions on the blog.
- present information they have researched about one event of the American Revolution.
- write a blog entry, in character, for one event during the American Revolution.
Session One: Introducing the Project (classroom)
- Put on the board the words “American Revolution” and ask the students to brainstorm in small groups what images come to mind when they think about this era of American history.
- Have the students then share with the class their lists of ideas. As students are sharing their ideas, ask what people are a part of these images.
- For example, students might mention the Declaration of Independence, so ask students who was involved in the writing of this document.
- Likewise, students might know some of the battles of the American Revolution, so ask students who were the leaders. Again the students will probably know George Washington, so to engage the students mention that women such as Molly Pitcher and Margaret Corbin also helped on the battlefields.
- Although students may know only a few of the main people of the American Revolution, explain that several Americans played significant roles in this time period, and each student will research one of these individuals and then blog as that person.
- Show the video What is a Blog or Introduction to Blogging and then discuss with the students the following:
- What is a blog?
- Who writes a blog?
- What do people blog about?
- What makes a blog different from other types of writing, such as a student essay that is turned into a teacher or an article in a magazine? Point out the possibility to comment and respond. Also, discuss the larger audience a blog can reach.
- Explain to the students that they will create two blog entries, the first of which will be introductions to their people and the second of which will be describing an event during the time period as well as expressing their opinions about the event.
- Project the Sample Introductory Paragraph for James Armistead Lafayette. Discuss with the students who the audience is for this introductory paragraph:
- From what point of view is the paragraph written?
- What tense are the verbs in the paragraph?
- Who will read this paragraph?
- What background information does it contain?
- What information is not present? Point out, if students do not mention, that the entry includes a death date.
- What other famous people were mentioned?
- Ask the students to suggest what comments these famous people might write on this blog.
- Hand out the printout Blog Rubric and discuss how students will be evaluated for this project.
- Hand out and project the printout People of the American Revolution. Have students select who they would like to research in the next session.
Sessions Two and Three: Researching (classroom)
- Hand out the Notetaking Sheet. Using the Sample Introductory Paragraph, have students identify where the information in the paragraph would appear on the Notetaking Sheet. Remind the students that they are looking in particular at the role these people play in the American Revolution, so the majority of their information should take place during that time period.
- Using either the classroom library or school library, have each student check out a biography on his/her person.
- Using their print resources, have student complete as much as possible of the Notetaking Sheet. Monitor the students as they work, noting time on task, as that is part of the rubric. Also, check the sheets for accuracy, and encourage students to write detailed, copious notes so that they can successfully “become” their figures from the Revolutionary War. Remind students that in the next session they will use online sources, so they do not have to find everything in print materials for the notetaking sheet.
Session Four: Researching (computer lab)
- Have the students continue to research using the websites as well as their books.
- Again monitor the students as they research, noting time on task. Check for any inaccuracies on their Notetaking Sheets.
- If the students have not completed their Notetaking Sheets in the last four sessions, assign that as homework because the next session will be for writing introductory paragraphs.
Session Five: Writing Introductory Paragraph (computer lab)
- Show the students the Sample Introductory Paragraph again. Together, have students read through the paragraph. Remind students that they are to write in first person and present tense. Furthermore, prompt students to focus on events during the American Revolution.
- Model for students the word processing program that they are to use to write their paragraphs. As students type their paragraphs, circulate throughout the room, helping students with their writing. Check that students are writing in first person and using present tense. Note students’ time on task for the rubric.
Session Six: Posting Introductory Paragraphs (computer lab)
- Check that all students have completed their introductory paragraphs. Allow extra time for those who need to complete this task.
- Model for the students how to sign into the blog, how to save an image for the avatar, and how to post their introductory paragraph to their own personal blogs. Hand out the printout How to Use Kidblog for help as they complete these steps.
- Direct students to the blog using the URL either posted on a class wiki or website. If this is not possible, have students type in the URL. They will choose the pull-down arrow to choose their Revolutionary War person, and for this first log-in use the password you have assigned them. Have students then change their passwords by clicking on Profile. You will be able to reset passwords, but encourage students to choose passwords they will remember but are not obvious. Allow time for students to post their introductory paragraphs to their own blogs. Circulate through the room helping students log into the class blog and post.
- Tell the students to read each other’s introductory paragraphs while waiting for all students to post their paragraphs. Then model for the class how to add comments on each other’s blogs.
- Allow time for students to write comments on each other’s blogs and remind students to comment in character. Explain to the students that they will not be able to see each other’s comments until you approve them. If you reject a student’s comments, meet with the student and explain that the student needs to edit the comments.
- Remind students that writing thoughtful comments on each other’s blogs are part of the rubric and that since this is an online tool, students can comment from any Internet-connected device.
Sessions Seven and Eight: Reactions to Events (computer lab)
- Before each of these sessions, instruct the students about the facts of the events about which you have posted.
- After you have checked through questioning and class discussion that students understand the basic facts of the events, have students log into their accounts and together read the blog entry you have posted.
- Tell students they now will compose comments to your post. Remind them that just writing they agree or disagree is not acceptable. Project or hand out the printout Sample Comments for examples of good comments. Allow students time to write their comments. Remind them to respond in character.
- Once you have approved students’ comments, invite them to comment on each other’s comments to create more discussion.
- Again remind students that this is an online tool so they can add comments from any Internet-connected device.
Session Nine: Blogging about the American Revolution (computer lab)
- Explain to the students they will now become in charge of the blog. First, they will research an event of the American Revolution and then share the facts about the event with the class. Then they will take on the role of their people to create blog entries about the events. Classmates will respond in character to their entries.
- Hand out the printout Suggested Blog Events. Explain to students they are to find an event that their people would have experienced. Tell students they can choose to write their entries with a partner or alone. If they choose to work with a partner, they must choose an event that both would have experienced. For example, Abigail Adams lived in Boston during the Boston Tea Party and definitely could work with Sam Adams, a leader of the Sons of Liberty. Likewise, Phillis Wheatley supported the Patriot cause, so she could write about her disapproval of the Townshed Acts with another Patriot. Also, Benjamin Franklin and Roger Sherman could write an entry together about their experiences in the Continental Congress. Similarly, Molly Pitcher could write with Lt. General Clinton about the Battle of Monmouth to present both the Patriot and Loyalist points of view. For more examples of which students can work together, encourage students to examine each other’s introductory paragraphs.
- Allow students time to decide what event they will blog about and with whom they might like to work. Provide support to students who have trouble identifying what events they could write about based on their people and with whom they could work.
- Hand out the printout Event Notes. Explain to the students that they will introduce the event to the class, and their presentations will be just the facts about the event. They are not taking on the persona of their Revolutionary people in their reports. Give students time to research their events using websites and print materials.
- Assign students to complete the Event Notes prior to the next session.
Sessions Ten and Eleven
- Check that students have completed the printout Event Notes. Allow additional time if needed.
- Tell the students that now they have two tasks to complete. First, they will write a blog in character about the event. Next, they will share their event notes with the class.
- Instruct students to use a word processing program to write their research notes into blog entries and to add their people’s reactions to the event in the entries. Have students post their entries on their individual blogs.
- After all students have completed their blogs, invite students to share their Event Notes. Students can simply read from the printout about their event. Then project the related blog entry for the student(s) to read. After each presentation allow the others students to add comments in character. Additionally, allow time for students to read each other’s comments and reply.
- Monitor the students as they work, noting time on task, as that is a category in the rubric.
- At the end of the final session, invite students to reflect on their blogging experience by completing one or more of the following statements:
- From this project I learned ___________________________.
- I would suggest __________________________________ to improve this project.
- This project would have been more enjoyable if _______________________.
- The best part about this project was ________________________________.
- To have students explore different styles of writing, have the students use their research notes to write formal essays on their people and discuss how this type of writing varies from social media.
- While working on this project, have the class read Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes or Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson.
- Rather than having students select their people, assign each student a person and ask them to keep who they are portraying in the blog a secret. At the end of the project, have students reveal who they are. This works especially well if you have more than one class doing the project because you can set up more than one blog and mix class members.
- Try using this project with other time periods to learn about events and people of different eras, such as the World War II or the Great Depression.
- Instead of having the students just reading from their Event Notes printout, allow time for students to create presentations that include a technology tool like Prezi, PowerPoint, or Google Slides.