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EDUC 5613 - Methods in Elementary Social Studies  

Personal Reflective Journal  


Image taken from Creative Commons 

Kelsey Rutter-Williamson 

October 17, 2017  


Table of Contents  
Section 1: Methods and Strategies  
Subsection 1: Methods 
Continuum Line … 3 

Round Table … 4 

Timer … 5 

Value Line … 6 

Subsection 2: Strategies  
Hook … 8  

Inquiry Strategy … 9  

Ice Breaker … 11 

Sponge Activity … 13 

Turn and Talk … 15 

Quotable Quote … 17 

Entrance Slip … 19 

Think/Pair/Share … 21 

KWL Chart … 22 

Section 2: Reading Reflections 

“Caring as Classroom Practice” by Chrystal S. Johnson and Adrian T. Thomas … 24 

“Effective Lesson Planning” by TEAL Center Staff … 26 

“The World in Spatial Terms: Mapmaking and Map Reading” by Gale Olp Ekiss, Barbara Trabido-Lurie, Judie Phillips and Elizabeth Hinde … 

“Working as Community: A Small-scale Barn Raising” by Angel M. Bestwick … 28 

“Writing Our Way to the Post Office: Exploring the Roles of Community Workers with Four-Year-Olds” by Linda D. Davey and Rosebud 
Elijah … 29 
“Expanding Local to Global through ESRI Story Maps” by Ann Marie Gleeson and Lisa Andries D’Souza … 31 

“Real-Word Problems: Engaging Young Learners in Critical Thinking” by Bronwyn Cole and Margit McGuire … 33 



Section 1: Methods and Strategies  

Subsection 1: Methods  

Continuum Line  

Purpose:​ The purpose of a continuum line is to give the students an opportunity to get up 
and move around by arranging themselves based on a variety of abilities and experiences. 
This allows students to visualize the different experiences of their peers based on a 
certain subject. It also allows for bonding within the classroom, as students must 
communicate to line themselves up.  

Materials:​ The space required to allow all of the students to be lined up beside each other.  

Time Required:​ 5-10 minutes.  

Steps:​ There are many different ways to use this method in a classroom, but one very 
popular way is for the teacher to ask the students to line up based on something personal, 
for example, their birthdays from January to December or their last names from A to Z. 
The line would begin with “A”, and the students would line up in order of the alphabet. The 
teacher can then group the students off based on the location in line.  

End Result: ​This method gives the students time to be independent and a way for teachers 
to equally separate them into groups or prepare them to line up and leave the classroom.  

Articles/ References:    





Round Table 

Purpose:​ The purpose of a round table is to have a structured and organized system for 
discussion. This method ensures all students have an equal opportunity to contribute 
their thoughts and opinions in a small group and encourages a positive and collaborative 
classroom environment. It is a way to bring forward different perspectives or opposing 
opinions on a topic while allowing others to ask questions, debate, and come to a 
conclusion as a whole. 

Materials:​ The most essential material for this method is sufficient space and seating for 
each member of the small group. All members should bring talking points and material to 
take notes while also sitting in a circle to motivate equal participation.  

Time Required:​ Depends on the topic or the subject being discussed, but probably 10-20 
minutes would be required.  

Steps:​ Break class up into groups, and have them sit around a table with a piece of paper. 
Each person must contribute to the activity by writing his or her thoughts about the 
chosen topic on the paper. After everyone is finished, a discussion can be had about what 
was written. This could also be done with one person selected to be the writer as 
everyone takes a turn to communicate his or her ideas.  

End Result: ​Students should feel that they have had an equal opportunity to express 
themselves at the end of this activity. Everyone should also feel a sense of community and 
unity as a group.  

Articles/ References:   







Purpose:​ The purpose of an online timer is to have a visual for students to be aware of the 
time they have to complete the given task. 

Materials​: An online timer can be found on a variety websites. You need a computer and a 
projecting device, so the students can see the timer. 

Time Required: ​The time required would be dependent upon the activity. However, it is 
best to set the online timer up prior to the class. 

Steps:​ Simply find an online timer, and use it when necessary. 

End Result:​ This a great online tool to help your students with time management. 

Articles/ References: 

1. Class Dojo is a great free online tool for teachers that can help track students’ 
progress, attendance, mindful activities, and it has many other tools for teachers to 
use. -​ ​​ , 

2. Timer Clock is a great free website that has many different themed timers. Some 
timers even have sound to go with it! -​ ​ 

3. Online Timers is a website with a variety of online timers. -  

4. TeachBytes blog has a variety of timers appropriate for school. - 



Value Line  

Purpose: ​ The purpose of the Value Line is to arrange or group students based on their 
opinions, commonalities, values, or the emphasis they place on specific topics or previous 

Materials: ​ For a value line, a ‘value’ or ‘topic’ upon which the organization of the line is 
based is needed. 

- Example: An assignment where students have to rank theories in order of personal 

significance or arrange themselves by the number of courses taken in a particular 

Time Required: ​Generally, students could be organized and grouped off within 5-15 
minutes. However, if the teacher wants to continually reorder the students based on 
other criteria, the method can require more time. 

Steps:​ Have students rank or ponder the criteria upon which the line will be based. The 
educator will then instruct the class on how to arrange themselves, ranging on the scale of 
value/knowledge/etc. (1-5, Highest-Lowest, etc.) From this organization, the educator can 
group the students based on common values or mix groups based on the results. 

- Example: The teacher can group students who have placed the same amount of 
value on the same topic, or they could group students that have taken a high 
number of a certain course with a low number. 

End Results:​ The class will be grouped based on common values/knowledge/etc. or will be 
diversely grouped to allow for a range of opinions, information, views, etc. to be discussed. 





3. hing-support/active-learning-adapting-techniques/value-line/ 





Subsection 2: Strategies 

Purpose:​ The purpose of a hook is to grab student attention and to intrigue them. A hook 
does not require content that students must write down. A hook is an introduction 
activity provided to the students to give them a sense of what is to come and to introduce 
the new topic or to start a class. 

Materials:​ For a hook, no material is necessary. Although, you do need a fun activity to 
grasp student attention and to create interest. 

Time Required:​ A hook can vary in its time frame. A good hook does not have to take a 
long time, although a 5-second hook may not be ideal. An average hook to start a lesson 
may fall somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes. 

Steps:​ A hook can have different steps. It can be a single step or it could have several. A 
question to the class could be a hook, which would be a one-step hook. Usually a hook will 
vary between one or two activities at most. 

- Example: You can do a smartboard activity to create student interest in the 

upcoming lesson. The first step would be to create the activity, and the next step 
would be to do the activity with the class, which could consist of one or two small 

End Results:​ Students are intrigued on the subject that is to come, and you have their 





Inquiry Strategy  
Purpose:​ The purpose of an inquiry strategy is to teach students how to learn and ask 
thoughtful questions to help them improve their research skills. Inquiry strategies are 
used to spark curiosity in students, and they allow them to take some control over their 
education, which helps to engage students as well. 

Materials:​ There is a large variety of inquiry strategies, so there are many materials that 
can be used. One inquiry strategy that can be used is 20 Questions, for which no materials 
are required except for a prompt provided by the teacher, which can be a word, event, 
concept, etc. that needs to be defined. 

Time Required:​ The required time for an inquiry strategy will vary depending upon the 
strategy used and the purpose for which the strategy is being used. For instance, a game of 
20 Questions, which can be used as a hook in one’s classroom, will only take about five to 
ten minutes as it is simply used to teach students to ask thoughtful questions and to spark 
interest in the upcoming lesson. If the teacher chooses to use a strategy like an Inquiry 
Chart, which is used to build upon prior knowledge and to improve critical thinking skills, 
the activity would probably take about 20-30 minutes. 

Steps:​ The steps in an inquiry strategy will vary depending upon the strategy used. 

- An example of an Inquiry Strategy: 20 Questions: 

o The teacher provides students with a prompt, and the students are 
required to ask yes-or-no questions in order to determine the definition 
of the teacher’s prompt. 

End Result: ​There are many end results to an inquiry strategy. For instance, after a game 
of 20 Questions, students’ curiosity in the upcoming lesson will have been sparked, and 
they will be engaged in the new topic with which they have been presented. 


Article/Web Reference: 


2. ​ 




Ice Breaker  
Purpose:​ The purpose of an Ice Breaker is to build relationships in the classroom. This is an 
excellent tool to use for the first two weeks of a new class. It removes the tension/nerves 
that come with the first day jitters. 

Materials:​ The materials vary for this activity. Some Ice Breakers require more 
preparation than others, so it is important to look at the Ice Breaker activity before you 
start the class to ensure you have all the materials if needed. 

Time Required:​ 10 to 15 minutes is an appropriate amount of time to give an Ice Breaker 

Activity. This can vary depending on the activity. 

Steps:​ The steps can vary with different activities and skill levels required. Below are a few 
examples of Ice Breaker games:  

- Candy Introductions 

- Interview Questions 

- 2 Truths, 1 Lie 

- Human Scavenger Hunt 

End Result:​ After the activity, the students will start to feel a bit more comfortable with 
their classmates. It creates a sense of togetherness and hopefully will create a positive 
learning environment. It is a fun and sometimes silly way for the students to bond with one 
another. Hopefully the students can make new friends, which creates connections in the 

Articles/ References:   

1. This website provides a variety of different Ice Breakers. Each one has a link that 
takes you to everything you need to know/need for the game. - 

2. This blog talks about the importance of Ice Breakers and gives ideas for Ice 
Breakers that rock. -​ ​ 

3. This is a website that provides more information behind the idea of Ice Breakers 
and how to choose the appropriate one. - 



Sponge Activity 
Purpose:​ Sponge activities are used to soak up time that would otherwise be considered 
wasted, such as during the beginning of class when the teacher is taking attendance or 
collecting homework or during periods of transition when students are waiting for the last 
of their classmates to finish their work. Sponge activities can be used to review knowledge 
that has already be taught, or they can be used as a prelude to future lessons. It is also 
suggested that sponge activities be posted somewhere in the classroom that is easily 
accessible to students for when they are ready to participate in the activity. Essentially, 
the goal of a sponge activity is to prevent the class from getting out of control during time 
periods that would otherwise be unoccupied. 

Materials:​ The materials for sponge activities vary as there is a wide variety of them, but 
some materials may include writing utensils and paper, an iPad, flash cards, books, etc. 
Generally, however, sponge activities involve discussion between the students. 

Time Required: ​The time required for these activities is dependent upon how much time 
the teacher or students may need to complete their work. 

Steps:​ The steps involved in these activities also vary as there is a wide variety of them. 

- An Example of a Sponge Activity: 5 x 5 

o Students are given a grid of 25 squares. Written in the top five squares 
are five categories, and in the remaining squares are letters. The 
students then write down words that relate to each category and start 
with those letters. Teachers can use a theme for these categories, and it 
can be used to help students review said theme. 

End Result:​ Ideally, once the students have completed their sponge activity, the whole 
class will have finished their work or the teacher will have finished doing what he/she 
needs to do without the classroom become chaotic. 

Article/Web Reference: 


2. ​ 


Turn and Talk  

Purpose​: Turn and Talk is an oral strategy that it allows for all students to be able to 
participate in a discussion rather than just allowing a few students to talk in a whole class 
discussion. Turn and Talk allows for students to turn and talk to other classmates and 
discuss important concepts taught in class. The Turn and Talk strategy allows for students 
to share their academic/personal thought in a setting that is low risk and may be less 
intimidating for some students in comparison to a whole classroom. Turn and Talks can 
also be used for many things in a class, including as a warm up activity, to process what 
they have learned, as a discussion, or as a closing activity. 

Materials​: The Turn and Talk strategy can be completed with little materials. The main 
thing that is needed are a question/concept that is used as a prompt that can easily be 
discussed and a classmate. 

Time Required​:​ The time that is required for the Turn and Talk strategy depends on what 
the strategy is being used for, such as as a warm up activity or a discussion about the 
question/concept that is being discussed. Generally, a time that I believe would be 
suitable for a Turn and Talk would be around 10-15 minutes, as it allows the students to 
really get into a meaningful discussion. 

Steps​: Decide what this strategy will be used for out of as a warm-up activity, after 
learning, during class discussion, or as a closing activity. The first step is to ask a prompting 
question for the class to discuss and then tell them the amount of time that is allotted. The 
second step is to pair the students with a partner and then tell them to get with that 
partner. The third and final step is to allow the students to discuss the assigned question. 

End Results​: The end result of the Turn and Talk strategy is that it should allow students 
to feel comfortable exploring and discussing topics in small groups, rather than having to 
discuss the concept in a large group setting. The Turn and Talk strategy lets the students 

discuss their findings which the class, which also allows for groups to be able to hear some 
things that they have not discussed. 


1. ​ 



Quotable Quote  
Purpose:​ This method can be used at all levels of education and can be adjusted to fit the 
needs of the students and the teacher. It will assess the students’ understanding of 
something they have read for homework or have recently learned in class. Depending on 
the class, the teacher could provide a quote that the students are not familiar with and 
assess their ability to understand, infer and think critically. If this was used in the primary 
grades, the quote should be general and possibly one they have heard before. The 
questions should be limited, potentially having the students focus on one question that 
influences critical thinking, such as “what does this quote mean?”, “why would the speaker 
say this?”. Using questions that promote critical thinking are the most effective. This 
method will help students understand how to think both generally and specifically 
focusing on answering questions with more than a one word response. In the older grades, 
it can be used to assess the students productively with the literature they are reading or if 
they are struggling and not completing the homework. This method can be used both as a 
graded activity or simply as a way to inform the teacher on their progress. 

Materials:​ The teacher can put the quote on the board for the students to look at or 
provide them with a sheet of paper with the quote written on it with the appropriate 
questions to engage them in thinking. 

Time: ​The time depends on the grade of the students and the level of depth the teacher 
wants the students to reach with their response. 

Steps:​ The teacher must explain what the quotable quote method is before providing the 
students with the quote. This explanation might need to be reiterated the first few times, 
so that the class understands what the task is and the reason for it. Once the students 
understand, they can work on the quotable quote for the allotted amount of time that the 
teacher has provided. If applicable, the students can share their quotable quote worksheet 
with the entire class. 

End Result:​ Students have learned how to be insightful and think critically instead of 
literally. They are able to examine the ‘why’ and the ‘how’. 





Entrance Slip  
Purpose: ​Using an exit/entrance slip allows the students to provide the teacher with 
information about how they understand and feel about the lesson they have learned in the 
class. It helps develop a respectful relationship between the student and the teacher 
because it shows the student that the teacher respects their opinions. It also provides the 
teacher with feedback from the students. An exit/entrance slip can be used to assess the 
students’ understanding of the material. If the lesson was to learn simple addition 
equations, have the students write the answers to a few of them and hand them in. It is not 
for marks, it is for the teacher to understand how the lesson was understood by the 
children, how the lesson can be improved, and who might be struggling with the material. 
An entrance/exit slip can also be used for situations other than academic. They can be 
used as a way for students to communicate with their teacher. If the teacher asks a 
question like ‘How was your weekend?” that might provide an opportunity for dialogue 
where the child can confide in the teacher about something personal, if they are having a 
hard day, etc. 

Materials: ​The students will need a sheet of paper and a writing utensil. 

Time: ​This is completely dependent on the teacher and the length of the response they are 
looking for from the students. 

Steps: ​The teacher will have to explain to the students what the purpose of the 
exit/entrance slip in the particular circumstance. It will depend on what the teacher is 
trying to accomplish with this strategy. This also applies to the amount of time allotted for 
the students to fill out the entrance/exit slip and pass them in. Normally, the entrance/exit 
slip is a response to what is being learned in the class; however, as mentioned above, it 
does not have be used for academic reasons nor does it need to be marked. If the teacher 
decides to assess their learning and mark the entrance/exit slip, they can adjust it 
accordingly. The entrance/exit slip method is versatile and can provide many outlets for 
discussion or response. 

Once the students fill out their designated entrance/exit slip, the teacher will 
collect them, read them, and/or mark them. The following day, the teacher can discuss the 
slips if it is needed and appropriate. If the teacher was not pleased with their 
understanding of the lesson, he/she can revisit the material from the day before and focus 
on what the students may have misunderstood. 

End Result: ​A quick and easy assessment of their learning or opinion on a lesson is 
received, or a message is delivered to the teacher. It can give the students the feeling of 
inclusion within the classroom as well. Some students might need to tell the teacher 
something that they want to be privately shared between them and the teacher. This 
method provides an outlet for the child to accomplish this. There are a variety of end 
results that can be accomplished because of the versatility of the entrance/exit slip. 





Purpose:​ It is a collaborative learning strategy where students have to work together to 
either solve a problem or answer a question. It then requires students to think and share 
with classmates. 

Materials:​ No materials are required for this strategy. You do need to have a question or 
something to question the students on. It could be a book they read, or a question to begin 
a lesson. 

Time Required:​ Generally, the “Think/Pair/Share” does not take too long. You might give 
the students a minute to think for themselves and then about another 2-5 minutes 
depending on the class or groups that you have. It is important to let the students 
communicate with each other as it allows them to work on their vocabulary and speaking 
ability. Therefore, keep an eye out and listen to see if they are still on task or not. 

Steps:​ Give the students a book they have to read, or a question they have to answer. 
Then let them think for themselves and discuss the matter in small groups. After they have 
discussed in small groups and you see that most groups are done, they can share with the 
whole class what they came up with. 

End Results:​ As a class, everyone will have had an equal opportunity to talk and share 
their thoughts. Everyone will have a better idea of the concept that was brought to their 
attention. The class as a whole will have come up with an answer collectively; which 
requires collaboration and teamwork. Also, when the students have the time to think, the 
answers they come up with are better and students are more apt to share with the class. 






KWL Chart 
Purpose:​ The purpose of a “KWL Chart” is to organize information. The KWL chart allows 
for organizing information during three critical points of a lesson: before the lesson, 
during the lesson, and at the end of the lesson. The “K” represents the reader’s prior 
knowledge regarding the activity/concept. The “W” represents what the reader wants to 
know/or wonders from the activity/concept. The “L” represents what the reader has 

Materials: ​ All that is needed for the KWL Chart strategy is the KWL Chart itself. The 
chart should consist of three columns: what you know, what you wonder, and what you 
have learned. The chart can be made on the computer, can be borrowed from the 
Internet, or could just be made with a writing utensil and some paper. 

Time Required: ​A KWL Chart can vary in time, depending on how much time is allotted to 
complete each column. Considering that the KWL Chart is completed at different times 
during the lesson, it is reasonable to provide five minutes per column, which ends up 
requiring 15 minutes in total. 

Steps:​ A KWL Chart can be completed in as little as three steps. The first step is to 
complete column one, which is “K” and the prompt is “what do you know?” In the column, 
the students would write any prior knowledge about the item that the teacher is 
discussing. For this part of the KWL Chart, it is important to emphasize the fact that the 
only things that should be written here is information that is known without any 
assumptions. The second step is to complete column two, which is “W” and the prompt is 
“what do you wonder?” In this column, the students would write anything that they 
wonder or what they would like to know about the item. The third and final step is to 
complete the third column, which is “L”, and the prompt is “what you learned”. This column 
would only be filled out after the lesson is completed. The students would write in this 
column any information or knowledge that they have gained from the lesson. 

End Results:​ The KWL Chart is beneficial for the students and the teachers. In the end, the 
students will have a completed chart that they can refer back too. The teachers will be 

able to be aware of their students’ knowledge, what they were curious about, as well as 
what they learned from that lesson. 






Section 2: Reading Reflections 

“Caring as Classroom Practice” by Chrystal S. Johnson and Adrian T. Thomas 
I chose this article because it seemed like an excellent resource to use to help 
implement the concept of caring into one’s classroom. The article discusses how 
implementing the concept of caring into the classroom can enhance the social studies 
experience for the students while also promoting student engagement and improving 
pro-social behaviours amongst them. Creating a caring environment in the classroom can 
help create a sense of community for the students, which is one of the values I would like 
to promote in my classroom as I believe that, when children feel like they belong, they feel 
safe, and when they feel safe, they can thrive. This article also promotes collaboration 
between students, which can help to improve social skills as well as leadership skills. It also 
encourages teachers to promote caring in the classroom by engaging in caring practices 
themselves. These practices often allow students to feel competent and make their own 
choices, which inspires in students a sense of responsibility, another value that I would like 
to instill in my students. To create a caring classroom, the article suggests that teachers 
provide their students with real-life opportunities to participate in activities that foster 
their cognitive, social-emotional, and moral development.  

This article suggests many activities that can help teachers integrate caring into 
their classroom practices. One of my favourite activities suggested is called The Caring 
Tree. This activity involves having students define the term “caring” themselves. The 
article also suggests that the teacher read a book that demonstrates a strong message of 
caring, and when that has been completed, the students can create a class caring tree. The 
teacher is to create a tree of poster board that will be posted somewhere in the classroom. 
The students then brainstorm ways that they can be caring, and they commit to 
participating in a caring act during a nine-week period, which they will post on their caring 
tree in the form of a card. This activity inspires children to actively participate in caring 
acts, and it also allows them to define “caring” as it means to them. I also appreciated the 

idea of giving out jobs that matter to one’s students. These jobs can include friend, 
listener, helper, mediator, and advisor. Not only are these jobs non-traditional in the 
classroom, but they also provide students with their first sense of responsibility. Some of 
the jobs that are appointed to students also require them to practice their 
problem-solving skills in social situations, which is extremely important during the 
students’ first few years in the classroom.  



“Effective Lesson Planning” by TEAL Center Staff 

This article is extremely effective in describing exactly what a lesson plan aims to 
do, and it provides an excellent framework that describes how to create a lesson plan, 
which is why I chose this article as I have not had many opportunities to create a lesson 
plan. It is a great additional resource with a different approach to creating lesson plans, 
and it explains the purpose of each step, which has provided me with a better 
understanding of how my lesson plans should be structured. The article provides a 
description of how to create a lesson plan that implements standards-based objectives.  

This article provided me with a deeper understanding of what I need to keep in 
mind when I am creating one. For instance, it argues that, when creating a lesson plan, the 
teacher needs to work in a backwards fashion by beginning the lesson plan with the end in 
mind. It is much easier to create activities that meet an objective if that objective is clearly 
defined. It also provides an excellent framework, called the WIPPEA Model, in addition to 
the 5E’s framework that we have previously been given, and the two models can really be 
used in conjunction with each other. The WIPPEA Model argues that lesson plans should 
follow a structure defined as warm-up, introduction, presentation, practice, evaluation, 
and application, which allows the teacher to first review previous material and then teach 
the necessary content. The students then engage in guided practice of the newly provided 
material, are assessed on the defined objectives of the lesson, and are given the 
opportunity to apply what they have learned to real-life situations. This model is laid out in 
a clear and concise manner and would be very easy to use in a classroom.  



“The World in Spatial Terms: Mapmaking and Map Reading” by Gale Olp Ekiss, 
Barbara Trabido-Lurie, Judy Phillips, and Elizabeth Hinde 
I chose this article because spatial awareness is a concept that I still struggle with 
to this day, and having grown up in an age where technology is rapidly advancing, I tend to 
rely heavily upon Google Maps to get me where I need to go. As a teacher, reading maps 
and creating maps that are accurate representations are skills that I need to improve 
upon, so that I may be able to effectively teach them to my students. This article provided 
excellent tools to teach students concepts that some may find difficult in very simple 
ways. It also provided me with the understanding that even very young children, including 
those in the first and second grade, can begin learning these complicated concepts related 
to making and reading maps, such as using scales and alphanumeric grids and reading 

From this article, I was given a few very effective methods for teaching mapmaking 
and map reading skills to younger students, including some that can be integrated into 
other subjects in the classroom. Firstly, it describes how map scales should be taught 
during the earlier years using non-traditional methods of measurement. The teacher can 
use a length of yarn that is equal to the proper distance, and the students can use paper 
clips to measure distance on the map. The length of one paper clip would be 
representative of the length of one piece of yarn. This activity would also provide the 
teacher with the opportunity to create cross-curricular connections as the students would 
receive a math lesson while measuring distance on their maps. The article also provides 
examples of how to use tactile methods to teach young children to use an alphanumeric 
grid. For instance, they suggest creating a grid in your classroom with desks and other 
furniture placed in squares. They also suggest placing string horizontally and vertically 
over maps so that students can trace the string to determine points. Providing students 
with the opportunity to physically experience these otherwise difficult concepts would be 
a much more effective way to teach them.  


“Work as Community Building: A Small-scale Barn Raising” by Angel M. 

This article is an effective source that provides ideas for how to create and 

promote the value of community in the classroom. As I mentioned before, I believe that 
the value of community is an important one to emphasize in a classroom, as a feeling of 
safety and belonging, which tend to go hand-in-hand with community, is necessary when 
creating a positive learning environment. The article promotes inquiry-based learning, 
which allows students to take some control over their learning as it encourages them to 
ask meaningful questions and apply their learning to everyday life.  
Throughout the process of reading this article, I was provided with several 
examples that a teacher can use to both demonstrate the concept of community and build 
it in the classroom as well. For instance, they describe teaching the students about Amish 
and Mennonite communities, and how they all come together to build a barn for a family 
whose barn has burnt down. After the explanation, the students are given the opportunity 
and the materials to work together in small groups to build their own miniature barns. 
They are then required to discuss why their group was successful or not successful, which 
is a great activity to provide students the opportunity to practice building community, but 
also to practice their problem-solving skills. This activity can also be modified to discuss 
other communities and to build other structures.  
The lesson discussed in the article also provides the teacher opportunities to read 
the students stories with strong community-building messages. During the process of the 
story-telling, the teacher is to ask the students to make inferences about how the text 
demonstrates community-building. This activity not only provides the teacher with the 
opportunity to make cross-curricular connections between social studies and English, but 
it is an activity that can be modified to discuss a variety of communities, such as First 
Nations communities or even settler communities, so this activity has the potential to 
work in a variety of grades.  


“Writing Our Way to the Post Office: Exploring the Roles of Community 

Workers with Four-Year-Olds”​ ​by Linda D. Davey and Rosebud Elijah  

I was intrigued by this article, because during my practicum, my mentor teacher 

and I set up a post office center in our classroom to motivate students to write. I was 

particularly interested by this article because it provided many strategies that I could use 

to adjust, and better, the way that we set up the post office in our classroom. I have 

enjoyed the idea of developing a center like this in the classroom, not only because I am a 

firm believer in the benefits of purposeful play, but also because it provides for so many 

cross-curricular activities, and it helps students to develop some critical social skills in a 

fun and engaging manner. During my practicum in a kindergarten classroom, I struggled to 

find ways to inspire independence in my students, but this article provided me with many 

strategies that I could use to help evoke independence from my students.  

I was particularly inspired by the idea of a Writing Center. We used the post office 

center as a way to motivate students to write; however, our word wall was not extensive 

enough, so we spent a great deal of time sitting with each child helping them sound out 

words. The Writing Center is a great solution to this issue, however, as the teacher is 

simply required to write key words and phrases on laminated sheets for student 

reference. Another suggestion for the Writing Center is to have the students’ names and 

pictures printed out and attached to a metal ring, so students can write letters to their 

classmates. The article also suggests providing students with an envelope template that 

demonstrates for students where to place the stamp, the name of the recipient, and the 

name of the sender. These strategies would have been so useful during our post office 

center, for they would have allowed students to be more independent.  

The article also suggests a unique method of mail delivery for the classroom. It 

proposes that teachers mark boundaries in the classroom where students can ride a 

tricycle, decorated like a postal vehicle, to deliver mail to their peers. The tricycle is only 

used during the use of the post office, and the students take turns using the tricycle and 

acting as the mail carrier. This strategy allows for movement in the classroom, and is an 

incentive to get students motivated to write. If they want to use the tricycle and be the 

mail carrier, they have to also be the letter writer at some point. The use of a tricycle 

makes the center exciting and new.  


“Expanding Local to Global through ESRI Story Maps” by Ann Marie Gleeson and 

Lisa Andries D’Souza 

This article provides teachers with a unique way to get students motivated to learn 

about what is happening in their community and to compare it with other communities on 

a global scale. The ideas presented in this article are particularly useful for our community, 

because we live in such a small province with a low population, and very little industry, 

that is, frankly, behind most of our other provinces and many other countries in a variety 

of ways. Our students should be inspired to build and develop our province, and their 

communities, by seeing what is out there beyond our small community, but they do need 

to be provided with the opportunity to explore where they live. This strategy allows 

students to look at, both their small community, as well as what exists beyond it.   

The great thing about ESRI Story Maps is that it is very flexible teaching strategy. It 

allows for differentiation as well as for the integration of many other subjects. The article 

suggests that the teacher either provide students with the information necessary for them 

to simply create the story map, or students could gather the information on their own. 

Having students complete the research on their own may be a differentiation activity for 

those students in the younger grades who may be ahead of their peers, or it may simply be 

a way to teach students in the later elementary grades how to research and select 

pertinent information. The story map method allows for whole class, small group, or 

individual work, and it can be used across a variety of subjects, such as literacy, history, 

geography, etc.  

Essentially, the story map strategy allows students to use text, maps, and other 

visuals to tell a story using geography as an organization method to present information. 

Because of the way that the information is organized, the creators can visually 

demonstrate how stories connect to place. If given the opportunity, students can also 

create multiple entries and compare, either different communities, or the differences 

between a community in the present as well as its past. I appreciate the idea of allowing 

students to compare communities as it is a way to begin developing students’ critical 

thinking skills at a young age. Providing them with the physical story map, as well, makes 

this easy for students in the younger grades as they would be given a visual representation 

that would not be difficult to decode.  

Environmental Systems Research Institute’s (ESRI) Story Maps makes the story 

map method of presenting information even more interactive. Students can input 

information into the online interactive tool, including different types of multimedia maps, 

such as political or physical, that students can zoom into or add place markers to. This 

method also allows students to publish their work, which can make it more meaningful for 

some students and allows them to take ownership of their work. ESRI Story Maps is a 

geographic information system (GIS) tool that is much more accessible to young learners, 

so this would be an easy way to integrate technology into an elementary school classroom.  


“Real-Word Problems: Engaging Young Learners in Critical Thinking” by 

Bronwyn Cole and Margit McGuire 

Throughout my very short education career, I have been very curious about 

strategies that one could use to engage younger students in critical thinking. This skill is 

such an important part of life, and the earlier that it is developed, the better students will 

be at it. I also believe that we often underestimate what elementary-aged children can do, 

and if given the opportunity, they would probably prove us wrong. This article provides a 

few strategies to help get younger students to start thinking more critically.  

Firstly, the article describes a strategy called HOTS, or Higher-Order Thinking 

Skills, which specifically targets students who are considered “educationally 

disadvantaged.” The article argues that we often ask less of these children, and that we 

actually tend to ask them easier questions. Those who use the HOTS program are trained 

to ask deeper questions that create a more conversational environment of the classroom, 

and the developer of this program, Stanley Pogrow, suggests using computer activities 

and dramatic techniques to engage students in lessons. For instance, the article suggests 

engaging students in a dramatic role-play of a town meeting, complete with props, where 

the community comes together to discuss street names. This strategy connects students 

more to what they are learning, allows for a more hands-on and interactive learning 

experience, and students tend to take ownership of the narrative making them more 

invested in what they are learning.  

Plus/Minus/Interesting (PMI) is another strategy that would help students develop 

critical thinking skills at a young age. The strategy requires students to make informed 

decisions after analyzing all potential consequences. They are to consider the positive 

aspects of a decision, the negative aspects, and any other issues involved that might have 

an effect on the decision. This strategy could be done as a whole class using a chart, or it 

could be done with an elbow partner. If students are provided with information to help 

inform them during their decision, this strategy would also support the development of 

students’ research skills as they would be required to select pertinent information from a