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Digging Into the Past

An earlier Teaching American History grant in this Michigan district supported teachers in Grades 5, 8 and 10. Fifth grade teachers noticed that students were arriving with insufficient background knowledge and historical inquiry skills. Digging Into the Past activities are designed to help teachers prepare students in earlier grades. Content and instructional specialists will lead half and full-day seminars, afterschool workshops, book study groups, lectures, teacher projects with graduate credit available, and sessions on developing grade-level lesson plans. Six grade-level history teams will be formed to involve all elementary teachers in the district. Using a two-track system—one more intensive than the other—will make appropriate amounts of professional development available to every teacher. Track 1, the more intensive, will consist of teachers in Grades 2 through 5; Track 2 will consist of kindergarten and Grade 1 teachers. The theme of Digging Into the Past is examining patterns of movement and settlement in American history and how the archeological record helps us understand these patterns. An archeology team will oversee excavations and bring specialized content knowledge into the activities, and each grade-level team will have historians assigned as mentors. K-4 teachers will learn to integrate history and literacy by using history-related books to bring history alive. Grade 5 teachers will synthesize and connect earlier history experiences for students when they begin to study history as a separate subject. The principal academies will help principals learn to evaluate history instruction in the classroom. Throughout the project, teachers will collaborate to develop engaging lessons that integrate literacy and align with state standards.