Friday, February 21, 2014


After everyone in class shared their Family Immigration Interviews and we began researching items of interest that emerged from those stories, Anna gave the children the genius assignment of setting out to make a scrapbook for a character based loosely on an ancestor. The scrapbook will include things from their life in their homeland, their decision to leave, their journey to America and a bit of what life was like once they got to America. The children can make up some details but need to be as historically accurate as possible.
The children are busily gathering research about a variety of things in order to help their character come to life. They are looking up Swedish girl names or German middle class men's clothing. They are trying to figure out about how much money one would need to have to purchase a ticket aboard a steam ship headed for America, which port their ancestors might have landed at and if those ports were even open during the time their character sailed. Of course this group's research isn't complete without knowing about the fashions of the times and what make-up was like during the times of their characters.
The children are very interested in how to make their scrapbooks look old. How will they make the paper look old? They have ideas about dying the paper with tea or burning the edges. We've often had to put those ideas on hold to make room for the hard work of research. Anna also gave us some old fashioned pens and ink to use. And, of course, most of them are excited to employ their newly acquired cursive skills in order to make their documents seem more authentic.
What scraps will they put in their books in order to help tell the story of their character? The children brainstorm lists of items: passports, ship tickets, scraps of cloth, letters home, stories, family photos, anything that can be a clue to their journey both physical and emotional.
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The children are working to expand their ideas of where one can look to research. They are often looking at artwork or photographs of the times to find out about the clothing. Just because there isn't a chapter in the book about the topics of interest, doesn't mean there isn't any information about that contained within the pages. The children are getting used to looking harder for clues about the sophisticated questions they are asking.

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We are refining our research skills by refining our understanding of tools like the index to find what we want in a giant resource. The children are also practicing recording their findings in their own words rather than just regurgitating what the resource says. It is tricky, but with more practice the children are getting better and better.

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We practice using a pen and ink.
 It is harder than we anticipated.

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"The quill is actually easier than the pen. That surprises me."
"Now I know why they all wrote in cursive! When you have to keep dipping your pen it is hard to
 make your letter all blocky. It is easier to just keep flowing."
"Writing was a lot messier back then!"