In third grade in St. Charles, Illinois the curriculum is integrated around the theme of community. The children study the local community, Native American communites, and the world community as they learn research skills. Every classroom has direct Internet access, many print resources, and a number of CD-Rom titles including several world atlases.
Key Pals. Using one of the Internet sites suggested, teachers locate four or five key pals in different areas of the world. Students work in cooperative groups to maintain a correspondence with one of the key pals. They are especially interested in asking questions about the schools, foods, homes, and recreational activities that take place in the key pals' countries.
Introduction. Children begin the unit by receiving a letter written by the Sons of Charlemagne the Fox, who live on the Main Street bridge. This letter may be printed, viewed online, or received as an e-mail message. In order to find out the information requested, students begin to do basic research on the different continents. One way to accomplish this is to set up a station for each continent, with each station containing two or three books about that continent. The students are in six groups. As the groups rotate stations, they must write down two facts about that continent. The next group must write two different facts, and the next two more. Students must really work together as facts get more difficult to find. This activity may take two or three days to complete.
Stamps. When this basic research is finished, students are then introduced to stamps of the world. They may visit the Internet sites about stamps and discuss different stamps with the class. Each child is given his/her own stamp, discovers what country it represents, locates the country on a world map, and attaches the stamp to the map with velcro or tape. (Laminating stamps makes them sturdier.)
Twelve or fifteen stamps are placed on six tables. Working in groups of three or four, students participate in a "walk about" and/or "sort." At each table they must decide how they would group the stamps into four catagories. Results are recorded. Comparing different groups' categories encourages students to think in new ways.
Now that students are familiar with many different stamps, working in groups of two or three, they will design a stamp for a continent. Groups will need to discuss information they have learned from their research and come to consensus about what picture/symbol they will put on their stamps. The design must must be "approved by a postal inspector" before proceeding. Students must be able to verbalize the thinking involved in choosing their design/symbol. This requires very creative thinking, as the symbol/design must represent the whole continent, not just one country. When the design has been approved, students use HyperStudio to create their stamp electronically. Shrink and save stamps for later use on postcards.
Postcards. Students continue doing research. As they decide on a particular country to study in depth, they will use the books, the Internet, and the CD's and videos to locate information and become an "expert" on that country. The student chooses a major city in the country from which to send a postcard to the sons of Charlemagne. Students must be familiar with the postcard rubric before they begin. The paragraph should be written, edited and revised before it is published. On a HyperStudio template the student creates an electronic picture, types his/her paragraph, and records himself/herself reading the paragraph. The postcard is addressed to The Sons of Charlemagne, Main Street Bridge, St. Charles, IL 60174. A stamp is chosen from those designed by the students, and cut and pasted in the appropriate spot on the postcard. Postcard collections can be put together into one HyperStudio stack and recorded on videotape for sharing with parents.