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American Cities

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Keywords: Social Studies, research, group work, project
Subject(s): Geography, Social Studies, Civics, History
Grades 7 through 8
School: Rowva Junior High School, Oneida, IL
Planned By: Christopher Johnson
Original Author: Christopher Johnson, Oneida

Main Ideas:
The growth of America is often tied to the growth of major cities. In the colonial era, Boston, Philadelphia, New York and Charleston dominated the nation. Today, the nation’s most prominent cities have changed greatly. Over the course of this lesson, students will examine the rise and, in some cases, fall of some of America’s great cities. They will also be able to look at the social and economic changes America had gone through over the years.

Connection with the Curriculum:
This project can be integrated in the Jr. High curriculum in many ways. However, the most useful place to use it would be as a sort of “final” project culminating the instruction on American History. To be most successful, students will need to have a good understanding of the different eras in American History as well as the socio-economic changes the nation has gone through from the Colonial Era to the Modern Era.
State Standards:
15.A.3d Describe the causes of unemploy¬ment (e.g., seasonal fluctuation in demand, changing jobs, changing skill requirements, national spending).
15.D.3a Explain the effects of increasing and declining imports and exports to an individual and to the nation’s economy as a whole.
16.A.3b Make inferences about historical events and eras using historical maps and other historical sources.
16.B.3d (US) Describe ways in which the United States developed as a world political power.
16.E.3b (US) Describe how the largely rural population of the United States adapted, used and changed the environment after 1818.
18.A.3 Explain how language, literature, the arts, architecture and traditions contribute to the development and transmission of culture.

Teaching Level:
For optimal success, this lesson should be taught to 8th grade students near the end of the school year. However, if a school teaches American History at the 7th grade level, this lesson should be taught at the conclusion of the 7th grade year rather than the 8th grade year. The lesson is designed for a 85/90 minute block class.

This lesson requires the use of computers and therefore a computer lab or classroom set of laptops are necessary. Students also need to be given copies of several handouts (all attached):
• Instructions,
• Student Handout
o This contains information related to the assignment (historical eras, cities, ect)
• Plan Sheet
• Information Sheet (the final assignment will be written on this)

Objectives for Each Student:
Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:
-Identify major cities in America
-List specific facts about a major American city
-Identify changes in an American city over time
-Compare and contrast the social and economic state of an American city over time
-Explain the possible causes for changes in an American city over time

Suggestions for Teaching the Lesson

Opening the Lesson:
Free-writing (5-10 minutes)
Ask students to write on paper or in a journal how their hometown has changed over the course of their lives. Suggest that the students think about stores, restaurants, or businesses that have come or gone in this time. Also suggest that they look at changes in housing over their life time. After allowing them several minutes to write, allow a few students to share their ideas.

Developing the Lesson:
Introduce activity (5-10 minutes)
Give each student a copy of the “American Cities Student Handout” and the “American Cities Instructions” (both attached). Explain the instructions to them and answer any questions about the assignment. If desired, create an example assignment to show the students. Once all the questions are answered, put students into groups of three and bring them to the computer lab.

Computer lab (60 minutes)
Once in the computer lab, hand out two copies of the “American Cities Plan Sheet” to each group of three students. They are to fill both of these out before beginning their research. One copy is to be handed in to the teacher and the other needs to be kept by the group. When these sheets are completed by the groups, students can begin using the computers.

Concluding the Lesson:
Review of expectations (5 minutes)
At the conclusion of class, students need to log off the computers. As they are doing this, remind them of the expectations for this assignment. At this time, answer any last questions/concerns students have. Also at this time, remind students of the due dates for the information sheets.

Extending the Lesson:
To maximize student learning, this lesson should be taught and presented in one class and students should be given additional time (at home or in class) to gather the information and complete the worksheets. Based on student work pace, other curricular needs, and computer availability, more time can be given for this assignment. Alternatively, a teacher may provide short periods (30-40 min) of time for students to work on this assignment over several days (4-6 classes). For more advanced writers, have students write an essay in which they explain the information contained in their information sheets. This essay would replace the information sheets as the major assessment tool. For special education students, this information can be read into a microphone and recorded via audio rather than written on paper. This would eliminate the grammatical concerns in low-ability writers.

Assessing the Lesson:
The two grades for this lesson come from the turned in work. The first grade is a completion grade for the plan sheet. The second grade comes from the information packet. Specific grading details are up to the individual teacher based on curricular needs but the two major considerations need to be the completeness of the information and the correctness of the information. In a more informal sense, the teacher should be moving from group to group in the lab assessing the progress of each group and monitoring their level of success with the technology.
Each group will be assigned one computer to research and write on. Students will collect their notes and references on a Google Document shared with each group member and the teacher. The touch-screen laptop will be given to the teacher to monitor student work and provide digital assistance.
Cross-Curriculum Ideas
This project could be used as a research paper done in collaboration with the English department. Students would turn the data into a paper under the supervision of their English teachers.
Student presentations can be made to the class regarding this information. These presentations can be made using the Google Presentation tool and shown on the classroom SmartBoard.
Materials: Digital Voice Recorders
Other Items: 4 Asus EEE-PC Netbook 1001PXB, $279.99 each, total of $1119.96
1 Asus EEE-PC Touchscreen Netbook T101MT-EU17, $489.99 each, total of $489.99