Saturday, February 7, 2015

Shifting Instruction to Meet the Common Core Standards

Shifting Instruction to Meet Common Core Standards

Pharaoh's:  Gotta Catch 'Em All

In past years I had used the old trading card activity during the Egypt unit in History.  The kids enjoyed researching information about the pharaohs and drawing and coloring, but I had to really look at this project from a standards perspective and although it was fun, I couldn't see the value in it.  Thanks to the autistic student in my class that I have to get so creative to engage, and her interest in Pokemon, I have figured out a way to keep this activity in the plans!

In the past the cards had an image of the pharaoh, what unit we were studying, a symbol for the unit, two important details about the pharaoh, an interest rating, and a historical importance rating (all unsupported-just the students opinion)

When the project was completed the cards were put up on a bulletin board for display.
New and improved card project!
 In the updated lesson I changed the following elements:
Historical Importance/Interest Rating is now "Attack"/'Energy".  Instead of putting two facts in the boxes above the ratings meter, those boxes are now for justification of the ratings.  In the top box students were to list as many accomplishments as possible (up to ten) to coincide with the "attack" level.  For example, Ramses II signed the first known peace treaty color in one box for that accomplishment.  This keeps the students from giving all of their cards/pharaohs a 10 "attack" and if they do get a ten, they really had to work for it (doing the research).

For the "Energy" the students had to use the second box to come up with valid reasoning for the "energy" level based on how long the pharaoh lived and how long his or her reign lasted.  Some used math problems to justify their reasoning, others used comparative reasoning when they were lacking information in one category or the other.  For example, one student gave Hatshepsut a 3.5 for "health" because she divided 50 (yrs of life) with 15 (yrs of reign) and it was less than 4 but she decided to round up to the nearest half box for coloring in.  She then said that King Tut had many diseases and didn't live to be 20, so his "energy" should be less than Hatshepsut and she gave him a two.

The final improvement on the cards was the element on the front of the card where they had previously filled in the unit of study (Ancient Egypt) with a symbol of their choosing for the unit.  In my revised project those boxes are now used for "What will this pharaoh evolve into in their afterlife?"  Since a connection to the afterlife was so important to the Ancient Egyptians, and since Pokemon characters evolve it just made sense.  The box that was once a place for a symbol of the unit, usually a triangle for a pyramid, now is a box for a symbol of the pharaoh's evolved character.  Some of the examples the students came up with were:
Akhenaton evolves into the sun because he worshiped the sun god Aten.
Akhenaton evolves into the "Sun Disk" because he worshiped the sun god and he had himself called "The Sun Disk".
And my favorite example:
Hatshepsut evolves into "ManShepsut" and her symbol is a beard.
Skip the bulletin board-Let's play!
For the final day I got a lesson in how to play Pokemon, which the kids have dubbed "Pharaoh-mon:  Gotta Catch 'Em All!"  This was also interesting for me to observe how the kids would adapt the Pokemon style game play to make it work for the elements on our Pharaoh cards.  There were a couple of things that they made note of on the exit slips when they left that day for me to add to the cards to make the game play work better.  

The autistic student that I mentioned earlier, raised her hand (for the first time this school year) and volunteered to lead a group as the "Pokemon Master".  Since she rarely engages in social interaction, this was THE big success of this project.

For information on key shifts in English Language Arts go to: 

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