I. Topic and Rationale

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I. Topic and Rationale

The main topic of this unit is the city of Chicago. The overall goal for the unit is for students to understand how Chicago has grown over the years and how that development has been shaped by the people and landscapes of Chicago. The sub topics included in this unit will include: the environment and society of Chicago and the human systems that have effected the growth of the city of Chicago. The curriculum for this unit came from the third grade social studies curriculum for the Wilmette Public Schools in Wilmette, Illinois. The main objectives that we will be using from this unit include: The student will be able to: “Identify cultural institutions, places, and events that help(ed) to make Chicago special” and “Compare modern life in different eras of Chicago history” (p.7 Wilmette Public Schools).

The key perspectives of this unit help students understand how the city has changed over time and how they fit into its continued change in the future. One of the key perspectives covered is imagining and constructing the future. By studying how Chicago has changed and seeing how it exists currently, students will be able to construct ideas about how the city may change in the course of their lifetime. By understanding the people that have effected the changes in the city, they will understand how they can, in turn influence the future of Chicago. Another key perspective addressed is diversity and difference. In studying the city and its’ regions, students will begin to see how it is divided into different groups of people and how these groups work together to form on unified city. Finally, this unit addresses the idea of time, place, and space. In studying the change that has occurred in Chicago, students will also see how much has stayed the same. They will see how drastically things can change, but how many things stay the same.

This curriculum is intended for the third grade level and came from a suburb that is very close to Chicago. Children in this area are exposed to the culture and sights of Chicago throughout their whole lives. As a result of this, it is important that students understand their place in the time and space of the world. They need to understand their immediate surroundings and how it has changed so that they can in turn understand how they can influence that change. We think that it is important for students at this age level to understand their surroundings because they are just starting to see beyond their immediate world and construct an understanding of other people and places. We think that in third grade, students should be able to understand that there are other perspectives other than their own that have influenced the way that their world and they should be able to see how they can fit into that. This unit contributes to the field of social studies in that it integrates history and an understanding of the social world. It helps students to construct an understanding of their surroundings.

Background Information

To gain a better understanding of what exactly some schools teach in a unit about Chicago, we visited [School Name] Elementary, a local elementary school in one of our hometowns. The student’s mother is the technology coordinator at this school, so she was very familiar with the staff and structure of their school. When we arrived at the school, we ventured to the third grade pod, and spoke with the third grade teachers. Here they gave us an entire binder and portfolio full of resources for their Chicago unit. In [School District], teachers are given resources and objectives for each unit but are allowed to develop their units in any way they choose. This is why the third grade teachers had so many resources to use. We took it back down the LRC and began reading through the material. There were many ideas and activities from their resources that became helpful for our unit.

We began by looking at the objectives and outlines of both theirs and the Chicago Public School’s units. These gave us a better understanding of how our unit could be structured and the goals that we should be striving for through our unit. We found that in the local unit, the students were really focusing on the sense of community and the components that work together to create a community. The students compare and contrast Chicago in the 1830’s to the present day Chicago. This gave us the idea to have the students study the changes that occur in a city and what causes these changes. The students also looked at the differences of communities and cities in the United States (Chicago) to those of Japan.

There were also many great tools and activities found in their units that may be helpful in creating our own unit. We found one organizer that the students are to use to compare and contrast Chicago from the 1830’s to the present. It would be a great tool for our students to use while they are working on their research projects about the development of a particular aspect in the city of Chicago. There were also several good readings that the students are to use to gain a better understanding of several events in Chicago’s history. There was one reading, titled “What and Where,” that discussed the Chicago Fire but also related it back to the people in the local town. It would be a great tool to show just how the fire affected everyone in the Chicago area. There was another reading called “Chicago Burns” that went into a little fore depth of the story of the fire. Another reading, created by The Chicago Historical Society, discussed several events in Chicago’s history in a short paragraph for each. The last tool we found was “The Gallery Walk.” In this activity, students are to use their resources of Chicago answering multiple questions of the city’s history.

Throughout their resources, we found many worksheets and small activities. First, we found a true/false quiz that can be used to test the student’s findings and knowledge of the Chicago Fire. It would be great to use as a pre-test and post-test to show the students how much they can learn through reading non-fiction. We also found a crossword puzzle that tests the students on their knowledge of the history of Chicago. Lastly, we found a matching game for particular landmarks in Chicago. This tests the students on their knowledge of the present day Chicago.

While doing more research on the topic of Chicago, we found a great website that provides many ideas for activities to include in our unit. This website was found at Education World and was titled “Great Chicago Fire Web Site Rich in Language Arts.” [http://www.education-world.com/a_lesson/lesson080.shtml] It was from this website that we came up with our idea for students to do a mock interview using the story of the Chicago Fire.

II. Instructional Strategies

A. Description of Instructional Strategies

The main instructional strategy that we decided to use in this unit was interviewing. This strategy is used in the unit as a way for students to gather information from a first person perspective. Throughout the unit, the students will perform two interviews. The first will be a practice interview which will be done with classmates. The second interview will be done on someone older than them who has lived in Chicago for a long time.

B. Explanation of why these strategies were chosen

This strategy was chosen because it is a different and interesting way for students to gather information about at topic. Instead of just reading from a textbook to find this information, the students are learning through this process that they can also gather information by using people in their community as resources.

This strategy was also used in this unit because of the nature of the topic. Because the unit is focusing on the change that has occurred in Chicago throughout the years, it is important that besides just learning from textbooks, that students get a first hand perspective on how it has changed in order to really grasp the evolution of the city. This strategy relates to this topic in that it contributes to the multiple perspectives that one should use when discovering new information about a topic. No one is better able to portray information than those who have experienced it first hand which is why it is important for students to get that perspective in this unit.

C. Background information on interviewing from teachers, community members, etc.

From the information that I gathered from teachers, students, and community members about interviewing, I learned that it is mostly used as a way for students to gather information in another way that they can relate to the real world. We talked to a teacher from [local] Elementary School about this and she said that she uses interviewing in their classroom as a way for students to get to know each other and as a way for students to use community resources to find information. It gives students a real life application of the content that they are learning about. Having a real life application is important to the learning process because it makes new information accessible to students.

Role playing was also used in our interviewing lesson. This strategy, according to [the teacher], is a great way for students to understand another person’s perspective. This is especially helpful when students are younger and are unable to see other’s viewpoint.

D. Background Information from academic readings

According to Stanford University, when using interviewing as an instructional strategy, there are many factors to consider when planning to use interviewing in the classroom. The most important things to consider is how well the students will handle performing an interview, how well the students are prepared for the interview based upon the content of the assignment, and the likely subjects for the assignment.

Before conducting an interview, a class should always discuss their experience with a topic and also research that topic a little bit so that they have some background information. The teacher should also prepare the students by setting some basic guidelines for interviewing. It is also a good idea to involve students role playing and interview simulations to get an understanding of how an interview is conducted. This will prepare the students to formulate their interview questions. Once students have written their interview questions, they should practice their interview on either peers or a teacher.

In case students are unable to find a subject for their interview, it is a good idea to have people from the community prepared to answer questions for students. This can be done by talking to other teachers and community members to seek out people that would be good resources for this topic.

It is important that students have an opportunity to debrief after their interview. This can be done through a guided whole class discussion. Students can also write a reaction paper that summarizes the information that they gathered in the interview. This would help in the assessment of student learning.

Interviewing and role playing are forms of interactive instruction. According to Instructional Strategies Online, interactive instruction relies heavily on whole class and group discussions. Because of the freedom that students have in this type of instruction, it is important for students to have guidelines for the range of discussion topics. “Interactive instruction requires the refinement of observation, listening, interpersonal, and intervention skills and abilities by both teacher and students”.

III. Literacy Link

A. Descriptions of Literacy Connections used in the unit

The literacy link we have chosen for our focused lesson plan is the use of nonfiction literature in the classroom. In this literacy link, students will be reading non- fiction or informational literature to gain knowledge to their desired topics.

B. Explanation of why this strategy was chosen

Our chosen lesson plan focuses on the concept of modeling the interviewing process and having the students practice their interviewing skills. To connect this activity more deeply into our Chicago unit, we are basing our mock interviews around the story of the Great Chicago Fire. We have chosen to use selected excerpts from nonfiction and informational books for the students to read to build their opinions on for their mock interviews. The Great Chicago Fire happened many years ago so it sometimes becomes difficult to find primary sources. Informational literature will provide in depth and accurate information pertaining to our topic that will help the students understand the events and the feelings that surrounded the Great Chicago Fire.

C. Critical perspective on this method

Using nonfiction material within the classroom can be a very beneficial experience. Gail E. Tompkins, author of the book Literacy for the 21st Century, speaks wonderful things about its uses for students. She describes six reasons as to why children enjoy reading these types of books: 1) to acquire information 2) to understand the world more fully 3) to understand new concepts and expand vocabulary 4) to make connections to our lives and learning 5) to write good nonfiction 6) to have fun. Nonfiction resources also differ from other forms of literature in three ways. Tompkins says these ways include organizational patterns, vocabulary, and special features. Informational books use the expository text structure. They also include strong vocabulary for each of the concepts, which help build the student’s vocabulary. Lastly, informational books have tables of contents, indexes, photo illustrations, charts, graphs, maps, and other diagrams that guide a student’s reading. Nonfiction provides a lot of guidance and in depth information on almost any topic one can imagine and help students build a better understanding of the world.

[Name], a 4th grade teacher at [local] Elementary School, has been using nonfiction books in her class for years. She says, “When it comes to certain topics in science and social studies, nonfiction literature is one of the only means to gain an in depth understanding of the content. There seems to be a book on any topic you need.” She also likes how the students and she can use them as reference materials by searching for the desired topic in the index and then turning to the chosen pages. “These books make the research process much easier for beginning students.” She also commented that, “Informational books help connect the student to the real world by bringing facts and information to their lives.”

IV. Unit Sketch

A. Unit Essential Questions and Enduring Understandings

Essential Questions

1. How do cities change over time?

2. How is change influenced by people and places?

Enduring Understandings

1. Students will be able to connect their life to Chicago

2. Students will be able to perform an interview

3. Students will be able to sum up the information that they gathered in an interview.

4. Students will be able to compare the past Chicago to present day Chicago

5. Students will become experts in a specific area concerning how Chicago has

changed over time.

6. Students will experience Chicago in real life.

7. Students will connect what they have learned about Chicago in school to their

to their real life experience.

B. Unit Standards Alignment

Illinois Learning Standards

  • 16. A. Apply the skills of historical analysis and interpretation.

  • 16. D. Understand Illinois, United States and world social history.

  • 16. E. Understand Illinois, United States and world environmental history.

  • 18. A. Compare characteristics of culture as reflected in language, literature, the arts, traditions and institutions.

  • 18. B. Understand the roles and interactions of individuals and groups in society.

  • 18. C. Understand how social systems form and develop over time.

National Council on Social Studies

  • Time, Continuity, and Change

  • People, Places, and Environment

C. Description of each major lesson

1. Tuning In

For this lesson, the class will discuss their experience in Chicago. The main purpose in this lesson is for students to make the connections between their lives and the city of Chicago. This will be done by creating a web that includes all of the things that students have done in the city or can relate to it. The students will be brought into the topic by reading an introductory book about Chicago; they will then do the web.

2. Preparing to find out

The goal of this lesson is for students to get ready to interview someone who lives in Chicago. To practice, the students are going to do a mock interview of one of their classmates. The students will be given informational articles about the Chicago fire. The students will get into pairs for the interview. One student will be a news reporter and one will be a survivor of the fire and they will both get an opportunity to play both roles. After talking about how to write questions and how to act in an interview, the students will get their articles and write questions that they would ask a survivor.

3. Finding Out

In this lesson, students will perform an interview by asking questions about how Chicago has changed over the years to someone who has lived in Chicago for a long time. One of the goals of this activity is for students to get an understanding from a real person’s perspective, as opposed to a text book, how Chicago has changed over time. Also, another goal is for students to get experience interviewing. Students will formulate questions that they have about the change that has occurred in Chicago in class. They will then interview someone they know who has lived in the city for a long time and report back to the class.

4. Sorting Out

The purpose of this lesson is for students to learn, from their peers, how Chicago has changed over time. This will be done by having students work in groups to go over the information that they discovered in their interviews. They will talk about how it has changed and what it was like in the past. The whole class will then come together and write, on chart paper, how Chicago has changed in different categories like landmarks, people, transportation, traditions, and buildings. Each category will be represented on a different piece of chart paper divided into two halves, one representing the past and one representing the future. The students will contribute what they have learned by participating in a discussion as a whole class.

5. Going Further

For this lesson, students will be given the opportunity to research a topic that interests them about the change in Chicago. The purpose of this is for students to become an expert in an area that interests them. By becoming an expert, they can teach their peers what they have learned. Their topic should ideally be something that they learned about from their interviews that sparked their interest. However, they can research other areas as well. Students can work in groups depending on their interest. The students will come up with their own question about something new they want to find out. They will research and report their findings to the class in a presentation. For the presentation, the students need to have a visual aid that compares the past to the present.

6. Making Connections

For this activity, the class will take a field trip to Chicago. They will visit the Chicago Historical Society and take a tour of some of Chicago’s landmarks. The main goal of the field trip is for students to experience Chicago in real life. This will help students to actually see the things that they have been learning about. They will be able to draw conclusions as they make the connection between what they have learned in class to actually seeing what they have learned.

7. Taking Action

The goal of this activity is for students to make connections between what they learned in the classroom about Chicago to what they learned on the field trip. This will be done by having a class connection. The teacher will help students see the connections that they experienced by asking them questions to guide them in the right direction. The posters that the students created for their presentations will be used as a way to help jog their memory.

D. Instructional strategies for each major lesson/assignment

1. Tuning in – Relating students lives to content

2. Preparing to Find Out – Using interviews, using role play/debate/simulation

3. Finding Out – Using oral history, using interviews

4. Sorting Out – Group Discussion

5. Going Further - Student research

6. Making Connections – Field Experience

7. Taking Action – Class discussion

E. Unit Bibliography


Bales, R.F. (2002) The Great Chicago Fire and the Myth of Mrs. O'Leary's Cow.

McFarland & Company.
Chicago Tribune. (1996). Chicago Days: 150 Defining Moments in the Life of a Great City.

Chicago: McGraw-Hill

McNulty, E. (2000). Chicago Then and Now. London: PRC Publishing Ltd.

Murphy, J. (1995). The Great Fire. New York, NY: Scholastic Inc.

Sawislak, K. (1995). Smoldering City: Chicagoans and the Great Fire, 1871-1874 (Historical

Studies of Urban America). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Smith, C. (1996). Urban Disorder and the Shape of Belief: The Great Chicago Fire, the

Haymarket Bomb, and the Model Town of Pullman. Chicago: The University of Chicago


Learn Chicago: http://cpl.lib.uic.edu/004chicago/004chicago.html

By the Chicago Public Library
The Great Chicago Fire and The Web of Memory: http://www.chicagohs.org/fire/intro/

By the Chicago Historical Society and Northwestern University

Teacher Resources

Instructional Strategies for interviewing: http://www.stanford.edu/dept/medfm/ebooks/AppC.pdf by Stanford University

Interactive Instruction: http://olc.spsd.sk.ca/DE/PD/instr/intera.html by Saskatoon Public School Division
Interviews: http://www.educ.state.ak.us/tls/frameworks/mathsci/ms5_2as1.htm#interviews

By the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development

Rogovin, P. (1998). Classroom Interviews: A World of Learning (Teacher to Teacher Series.). Heinemann.
F. Unit Assessment Plan

There are a few types of assessment that will be done throughout this unit. The students will be informally assessed through discussions during the unit and at the end about what they have learned about Chicago and the connections that they have made to their lives. The students will also be assessed on the quality of the questions that they formulate for their interviews and how they are able to bring that information together to share with the class. Finally, the students will be assessed in the culminating project on the quality of their presentations about the topic that they choose to research.

V. Lesson/Activity Plan

A. Practice Interviews: The Great Chicago Fire

B. Purpose

i. Essential Questions

a. How do cities change over time?

b. How is change influenced by people and places?

ii. Enduring Understandings

a. Students will be able to perform an interview

b. Students will be able to sum up the information that they gathered in an


iii. Key Concepts

The key concept for this lesson is the interviewing process. Students will gain an understanding of how interviewing can be used to understand different points of view.

C. Standards Alignment

i. Illinois Learning Standards

16. A. Apply the skills of historical analysis and interpretation.
ii. NCSS Standards

Time, Continuity, and Change

People, Places, and Environment

D. Adaptations for individual or group differences

i. For learning disabilities, have a graphic organizer created before the lesson so

the students know exactly what questions they are to ask in the interview and they

have a place to write the answers.

ii. For students that have a hard time writing/remember what people say, they can

use a tape recorder to record their interview and they can listen to it later to

analyze their interview.
iii. For students that cannot speak very well, they can have their questions written down for their subject. Their interviewee can answer the questions by writing their response.
E. Materials

i. Teacher literature

a. Instructional Strategies for interviewing: http://www.stanford.edu/dept/medfm/ebooks/AppC.pdf by Stanford University
b. Interviews: http://www.educ.state.ak.us/tls/frameworks/mathsci/ms5_2as1.htm#interviews

by Alaska Department of Education and Early Development

c. Rogovin, P. (1998). Classroom Interviews: A World of Learning (Teacher to Teacher Series.). Heinemann.
ii. Children’s Literature

a. Bales, R.F. (2002) The Great Chicago Fire and the Myth of Mrs. O'Leary's Cow. McFarland & Company.

b. Murphy, J. (1995). The Great Fire. New York, NY: Scholastic Inc.

c. Sawislak, K. (1995). Smoldering City: Chicagoans and the Great Fire, 1871- 1874 (Historical Studies of Urban America). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

d. Smith, C. (1996). Urban Disorder and the Shape of Belief: The Great Chicago Fire, the Haymarket Bomb, and the Model Town of Pullman. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

iii. Other materials

Copies of reading selections from the books listed above for each student

F. Procedure

1. Introduction: Tell students that we want to find out about what it was like a long time ago in Chicago. Tell them that to find out this information, they are going to interview someone they know that has lived in Chicago for a very long time like their parents or grandparents. Before they do that though, the students need to practice performing an actual interview. Tell the students that to practice they are going to learn about the Chicago fire and the people that experienced it. We do not have a time machine to talk to people that lived back then, so we are going to do some research on the Chicago fire, pretend that we are living in the time of the people who experienced the fire, and do our own interviews. With the information that they find about the Chicago fire, they are going to take on two different roles. One of the roles is an interviewer who will ask questions about the Chicago fire to someone that has experienced it. The other role will be to act as someone who survived the fire.

2. Before the students start their research, they are going to learn how to interview someone. This will be done by showing them a mock interview of someone in the class. Have one student come up to the front of the classroom and ask them questions pertaining to their life. It would be a good idea to have that student tell you something that interests them like one of their hobbies. For example, if a student tells you that they really love to play soccer, you can ask questions like:

1. How long have you been playing soccer?

2. What position do you play?

3. What is your favorite thing about the game?

4. Are you on a soccer team?

As you are interviewing, tell the students why you are doing what you are doing. Ask four or five questions to help students understand what type of questions they should be asking. While you are interviewing the student, write their answers on an overhead in shorthand so the students understand that they do not need to write down everything that their subject says. After the interview, give the students a summary of the information that you gathered. This example should help the students understand how an interview is conducted.

3. Next ask the students to come up with questions that they might ask someone who experienced the Chicago fire. Also, give them examples like:

1. What did the fire look like?

2. How big was it?

3. What did the city look like after the fire was over?

This should help them come up with some idea of how to formulate questions for their interviews.
4. Next, each student will be given a different reading selection from the books listed above. They will also be assigned a different role. Each student will be assigned one of these roles: a firefighter, Mrs. O’Leary, the cow, a female survivor, a male survivor. Students will write their interviews individually. Their questions will be checked by the teacher after they are completed. Once they have been checked, the students will pair up with someone who has the same role as them. They will take turns asking each other their questions and acting as their role.
5. When the students have completed their interviews, they are each going to write a news story summing up the information that they gathered in their interview. This will be turned in along with their interview for a grade.
G. Assessments

i. Formative

The interview questions act as the formative assessment as they are a

stepping stone to completing the interview process.

ii. Summative

The final interview/notes and the news story act as the summative assessment because they sum up the goal of the assignment which was to do and interview and describe the results.

II. Reflections

For the most part, this unit was fairly painless and the process went extremely smoothly. It really helped that we were able to work in a group because it allowed us to divvy up the amount of work. Each of us would go find information then bring it back to the group. Another great thing about working in our group was that when one person would think of an idea, the other two would think of a better way to do the activity, or think of something else that could be added. We would all feed off of each others’ ideas to come up with better ideas.

One thing that we found more difficult in planning a unit than a lesson was trying to connect all of the different ideas and activities. In a single lesson, you can find an activity that sounds fun and interesting and have the students do it. As long as the activity sort of fits in with the theme, it seems to be all right. In a unit, all of the activities have to be connected somehow. At times we would think of a really neat activity, but could not think of a way to tie it into the unit.

Gathering the information for our unit was fairly easy because all three of us are from the Chicago area, so we were close to many resources. [One student]’s mother works in a Chicago-area school district, so she was able to get a social studies curriculum to us. [Another student]’s mother and [another]’s Grandmother both grew up in Chicago, so they provided some useful first-hand information during interviews. This project would not have been nearly as easy had we chosen a different major city, such as New York. We would not have been able to get information as easily from people who actually grew up there. We also would have had to gather much more information had we been doing a unit on a different city since we would have had a much more limited amount of background knowledge.

Since all three of us are from the Chicago area, it was rare that we came across a piece of new information about Chicago. However, we did come across a few random facts that interested us. The World Columbian Exposition, which was held in Chicago from May of 1893-October of 1893, attracted 27 million visitors, which was half of the entire country’s population at the time! At this fair, many products that we still use today were introduced for the first time, including, Aunt Jemima Syrup, the first picture postcard from the US Postal Service, and most importantly, diet carbonated soda! Another interesting fact that we discovered was that the nickname, “The Windy City,” was originally intended to be an insult by the editor of the New York Sun editor who was sick of Chicagoans bragging about the World Columbian Exposition. Aside from trivia, we learned from our interviews that neighborhoods used to be very segregated according to ethnicity and that the popular places to go around the city were dance ballrooms.

We are all very focused on making our lessons fun when we become teachers. Social Studies has always been thought of as the “reading” subject because so much of our country's history is only documented in books. But by creating this unit, we showed ourselves that we can come up with interesting and fun, yet educational activities for social studies topics. Also, by creating the adaptations for our lesson, we realized that no matter what the lesson is, it can always be modified to enable all of the students to participate. When we get into our teaching jobs, we will force ourselves to not fall into the trap of assigning textbook pages to read about a certain topic just because it might be easier for us. This unit has shown us that there are better ways to teach social studies and we can think of great activities.

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