Is This Real?: Engaging Reluctant Learners through the Storypath Approach Margit E. McGuire Seattle University

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  • Is This Real?:Engaging Reluctant Learners through the Storypath Approach

    Margit E. McGuire Seattle University

    Bronwyn ColeUniversity of Western Middle School Association Annual Conference Indianapolis, November 2009The CEU Code for this session is: YL2

  • Why teach social studies?

    To prepare students for living in a democratic society and interdependent world.To be informed and thoughtfulTo act politically To have moral and civic virtues such as concern for others, social responsibility and the belief in the capacity to make a difference.

  • A Powerful Narrative Structure for Curriculum Integration: The Storypath StrategyThe Storypath strategy uses the components of story--scene, character and plot--to organize curriculum into meaning and memorable learning experiences.

    It is more than reading a story, it is living the story guided by the teacher through an inquiry approach as learners create the scene, become the characters and solve the problems presented through the plot.

  • Creating the Setting

    Students create the setting by completinga frieze (mural) or other visualrepresentation of the place.

  • The TownHomesHotelsBanksNewspapersRestaurantsSchoolFlour millTannerySawmill

    Railroad stationFurniture manufacturerCarriage manufacturerGeneral storeChurchesCourthouseCollegeSeminary

  • (

    Episode 1

    Activity Guide 1B


    A well-written broadside can attract attention and encourage people to come to a place.

    Think about your message. Use the questions below as a guide.

    1. Imagine you are standing on the Baltimore Street. What do you see?



    2. What makes this a great place to live? Record two or three ideas that you can write about.




    3.Make a list of words that vividly describe this place. Look at the word bank for ideas.




    4.Draft the broadside.

    Write short phrases or sentences.

    Think about organization:

    What should be stated first?

    What size should the words be?

    Should the words be all the same size?

    5. Edit the broadside. Ask a classmate to help you edit using the questions below as a guide.

    Does the information make sense?

    Does it attract attention?

    Is it easy to read?

    Will it encourage people to come to your town?

    Are all the words spelled correctly?

    6. Make the final copy.

  • VocabularyIncrease comprehension

    Vocabulary taught in context with clear definitions and explicit instruction

    Vocabulary introduced and reinforced through multiple approaches

    Visual representationsFriezeCharactersWord banksStudent created artifactsTalking and Listening (substantive discussions)Role playing

  • Creating the Characters

    Students create characters for the story whose roles they will play during subsequent episodes.

  • Character BiographyCharacters NamePosition in family Jobs in family businessPersonality characteristicsLeisure activitiesInteresting life experienceDescribe an activity that you and a relative or close friend have done together.Assessment: The biography is appropriate to the family and time period. It includes a life experience that is imaginative and believable. Activity is realistic and reflects and understanding of the time period. The figure of the character matches the biography.

  • Building Context

    Students are involved in activities that stimulate them to think more deeply about the people and place they have created.

  • Building ContextHistorical Events of the TimeLearning aboutEvents of the timeTransportationPeopleLife at the timeScaffold the research and writing of reports to build knowledge base

  • Events of the time

    (Womens Rights Convention, 1848

    (Compromise of 1850

    (Uncle Toms Cabin, published 1852

    (Dred Scott Decision, 1857

    (Lincoln-Douglas debates, 1858

    (Attack on Harpers Ferry, 1859

    (Fugitive Slave Law



    (clipper ships

    (the Erie Canal

    (Pony Express


    (Eli Whitney

    (Cyrus Hall McCormick

    (Samuel Morse

    (Isaac Merrit Singer

    (Frederick Douglass

    (Harriet Tubman

    (Elizabeth Cady Stanton

    (Commodore Matthew Perry

    (Lucretia Mott

    (Stephen Foster

    Life at the time

    (Underground Railroad


    (factory life

    (plantation life

    (immigration, 18401860

    (Abolition movement

  • Organize social studies content by providing a meaningful context for learning the skills of literacy. (The logic of narrative, or story, is a powerful structure for organizing content when teaching for understanding.)

    Develop students literacy skills so they can apply them strategically to make sense of what they read and write. (Students use literacy skills in-depth through context building and critical incident episodes.)

    Students know the why, when, and how to apply such skills so that they become independent readers and writers. (The authentic application of skills within the logic of the storyline makes the learning meaningful.)

  • LiteracyThe Reading Process Focused direct instruction lessons within the Storypath to assist in reading. Primary documents, textbooks, Web-based and other resources are used to

    Read index, table of contents, etc.Evaluate primary sourcesDistinguish fact from opinionRecognize biased languageFind main idea and supporting detailsCompare and contrast informationRecognize and make inferencesConnect information to what you already knowScan to quickly find informationUnderstand visuals

  • Gettysburg TimesTennessean Runs for PresidentJOHN BELL REPRESENTS THE CONSTITUTIONAL PARTY John Bell, born in Nashville, Tennessee in 1797, is running for the presidency of the United States. Bell is patriotic and well qualified for the job. He is devoted to the Union and the United States Constitution and the enforcement of the its laws. Bell believes that the United States must remain one nation and not divide over the slavery problem. He supports slavery in the states but not the expansion of slavery into new states or territories. Bell served in the US House of Presentation from 1827 to 1841 and was Speaker of the House from 1834 to 1835. He was Secretary of War in 1841 from Tennessee. He was born in 1797 in Nashville, Tennessee, so he is known by the people of the state.Vice President Breckinridge Candidate for PresidentBRECKINRIDGE TO REPRESENT THE SOUTHERN DEMOCRATIC PARTY John C. Breckinridge was selected Vice President of the United States in 1857, and serves under President James Buchanan. Breckinridge was born near Lexington, Kentucky in 1821. After graduating from college, he became a lawyer. He fought in the Mexican War in 1847. In 1849, he was elected to the Kentucky state legislature. In 1851, he was elected to the US. House of Representatives from Kentucky. Breckinridge believes that the United State government must protect slavery. He believes that the US Constitution protects the rights of states to decide their own fate. This is the rationale for his support of slavery in the Southern states.

  • Critical Incidents

    Characters confront problems typical of those faced by people of that time and place.

  • Have students brainstorm a list of the kind of information they might include in a friendly letter related to the events surrounding the slave catcher.

    If you are using a six-trait writing program, voice and word choice are suitable topics of focus.

    Voice: Does the writer speak directly to the reader? Can the reader sense the person (character) writing the letter?

    Word choice: Are the words chosen specific and accurate to the event described? Do the words used vividly describe the event? Are verbs lively and good descriptions of the event?

    Focusing on these traits throughout the unit can help students develop depth of understanding and use of these traits.

    (Assessing the friendly letter Students should be able to

    write the letter from their characters point of view.

    include accurate information about the event.

    describe how their character felt about the event.

    effectively use voice and word choice to describe events.

    use a friendly letter format.

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    Episode 3

    Activity Guide 3-C


    A friendly letter is written to someone the writer knows well. The letter should reflect the personality of the writer and give the impression that the writer is talking to a friend or family member.

    Step 1(

    Think about your letter.

    Use the questions below to get ideas about what to include in your letters.

    1. Who are the people your character would be most likely to write to? Make a list and then choose one. You will write to this person throughout the remainder of the Storypath.

    _______________________________ _______________________________