Fourth Grade Unit 4

Revolutionaries from the Past

Enduring Understanding:  Reading about America’s past allows us to learn life lessons from revolutionaries and the American Revolution.

Focus Standards:

Questioning Stems: Narrative (literature) and informational texts questioning stems based on questions  WITHIN, BEYOND, and ABOUT  the texts, to be used throughout the unit.

Student “I Can” Statements:

  1. “I Can” read and discuss a variety of narrative and informational texts about revolutionaries from America’s past.
  1. As a class, keep a chart with the questions and categories of historical fiction (title/author, text structure, type of narration, characters, what do you learn from the major characters, what information was changed that shows you this is historical fiction) stories and poems you read in shared reading for this unit.  As the chart is filled in, use the information to discuss what students learn from literature and informational texts. The websites and books listed below are suggested for this unit.  (Reading Literature A1) (Reading informational B 1)
  2. After adequate reading and shared writing experiences, students will choose an event from history and construct their own “historical fiction” piece.  This will be an extended writing experience that will be taken to publication.  Provide adequate time for students to research, write, revise, edit and publish with support.
  3. Looking for the History in Historical Fiction: An Epidemic for Reading (ReadWriteThink) Students are introduced to historical fiction and select a historical fiction novel to read from a booklist. They use a set of guiding questions to prompt critical thinking as they read. After they finish the novel, students use informational texts and Websites to gather facts. They will compare and contrast the information provided in the literature text and the informational text. (Note: This idea could be used for         any topic).
  4. Compare and contrast the points of view from which the above stories and poems are narrated.  Use graphic organizers to record information.
  5. As an individual and as a class, keep an index card file of new words learned in this unit (i.e., revolution, revolutionary, revolt, etc.).  Attach pictures or illustrations for words to assist students (especially ELL students) in understanding.  Students may sort words by spelling feature, root words, prefixes and suffixes, to support word study.  This is an on-going class activity.

  1. “I Can” describe the differences between firsthand and secondhand accounts in informational text.
  1. As a class, keep a chart using categories  (person/event, where it took place, when it took place, what is the historical significance of this event, from whose point of view is this account written, and text structure) and answers to questions about historical events from the American Revolution.  Questions can be formulated before reading, during reading, and after reading.  Make this a running chart where questions and answers may be added throughout the unit when different texts are read.
  2. This is a good teacher website that points out the differences and the purposes for primary and secondary. sources.  Explicitly teach what primary and secondary are.  Provide as many primary source examples as you can, and then show secondary sources.  Compare and contrast these. Then, have students find examples of primary secondary sources in texts.  Add them to the chart.
  3. Slave Narratives: Constructing U.S. History Through Analyzing Primary Sources (National         Endowment for the Humanities)
  4. Read I Walked to Zion: Stories of Young Pioneers by Susan Madsen This book is filled with journal entries           from those who were  on the pioneer trail (first hand accounts-primary sources).  Pick and choose those without religious content that are appropriate for school. Compare and contrast how life has changed between pioneer days and now using a graphic organizer.  Write a description of characteristics of a Utah Pioneer child.  (Informative/Explanatory)
  5. In shared reading read first hand account texts: Bach’s Big Adventure by Sallie Ketcham, Loud Emily by Alexis O’Neil, or Mailing May by Michael O. Tunnell.   Though these are literature texts, they are written from a first person, primary source, point of view.  They are not connected to the thematics of Revolutionaries of the Past, but can be used to teach the first person perspective.  
  6. In shared reading read first hand account texts: Bach’s Big Adventure by Sallie Ketcham, Loud Emily by Alexis O’Neil, or Mailing May by Michael O. Tunnell.   Though these are literature texts, they are written from a first person, primary source, point of view.  They are not connected to the thematics of Revolutionaries of the Past, but can be used to teach the first person perspective.  In shared writing, model and provide teacher talk to explicitly teach students how to research about a famous American.  Use the R.A.F.T. questioning format to each students to  summarize important information.   Next, have students research a famous American. Have students use R.A.F.T. and write a paragraph in the first person format, never stating their person’s name.  Play “Guess Who” as a class by having each child read their biographical paragraphs.

  1. “I Can” compare and contrast “first” and “third” person narrations.
  1. Explicitly teach what a third-person point of view looks like and sounds like.
  2. Choose a poem or story and change the point of view from which it is written.  This activity will be done in both shared reading and writing.  Read the poem or story together.  As a group, determine whether the author wrote it from a first person or third person perspective.  As a class, re-write the poem or story by changing the point of view.  

  1. Use the Houghton/Mifflin (2001) Theme 1 pg 58-59, 59A-59D Writing a Personal Narrative-includes a student sample.
  2. Use the Houghton/Mifflin (2001) Theme 2 (pg 249) A Very Important Day by Maggie Rugg Herold. Students can read a third person narration and then do a first person “quick write” about their own very important day.
  3. In Their Own Words Series (Scholastic) These biographies explain and show the difference between primary and secondary sources.

  1. “I Can” describe the chronology of events from early American history.
  1. Read a variety of literature and informational texts about early American history and revolutionaries.  Explicitly teach how to create a timeline from texts.  Record people who made noteworthy accomplishments, historical events, and dates as you read the texts.  Discuss the information you have gathered, and create timeline of historical events, that shows the chronology and cause/effect relationship between them.  
  2. Play the game “Chronology Jr.” (commercial product) to introduce events from history. Or make your own game by writing events and dates on cards and having the students try to put them in a timeline.
  3. This is a good site to explore  American History for additional information for research.
  4. Use Houghton/Mifflin (2001) Theme 2 (pg 218) Boss of the Plains by Laurie Carlson Focus on cause and effect of the events in the story.

  1. “I Can” discuss and interpret the literal and figurative meaning of idioms.
  1. Ben Franklin coined a number of phrases still used today, and they are found in Poor Richard's Almanac. Record some of these saying on a class chart. Students may add other phrases that are popular today. These will also be added to the chart.

Resource #1

Resource #2

Resource #3

  1. In Shared Reading, read There is a Frog In My Throat by Loreen Leedy.  This is a book with 440 animal figurative sayings (idioms). Have students choose an idiom to illustrate and write the implied and real meaning of the idiom.  This is a good Idiom Graphic Organizer #2 for literal and figurative meanings of idioms.  Lesson on “What Are Idioms?”
  2. Paint By Idioms  or  are good websites.  In step one, pick your choice of idioms to work with.  During the exercise, you can make them easier or harder by clicking on the button underneath the correct/incorrect score box.  In step 2, choose the top choice (You see an idiom and an example.  Click on the meaning.)   Students have to use context clues to help determine the meaning.  
  3. Have students create an alphabet book of idioms.  Each person in the class must contribute one page to this book.   Brainstorm and fill out an Alphabox graphic organizer as a class, listing all of the idioms that begin with the letters.  Students will draw a picture of their chosen idiom, write the idiom and a definition of meaning under the picture.  Compile the class book and title “Better Said Than Done!  A Book of Idioms”  List of Idioms A to Z and their meanings.  


  1. “I Can” identify the reasons Patrick Henry and Sojourner Truth support their positions in various speeches.
  1. In Shared Reading read Sojourner Truth’s  “Ain’t I a Woman?” to the class.  Ask students to listen for the position Sojourner Truth was speaking about.  Discuss and analyze her message. Other speeches by Sojourner Truth.  Have students practice reading this speech as a reader’s theater.  
  2. In shared writing, model the process of summarizing the message in “Ain’t I A Woman?”   Write an explanation of the message in the speech.  (Informative/Explanatory)
  3. Read Patrick Henry's speech “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” in shared reading.  Have students discuss  the message of Patrick Henry's speech “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” with a partner.  With a partner, have the students summarize the message from the speech and write an  (Informative/Explanatory) explanation of the speech.   Resource #1 Resource #2  (March 23, 1775) Ask students “Can you feel the passion in his words?”  Talk about what passion about a subject is.  
  4. Susan B. Anthony speaks out  “On a Women’s Right to Vote” (1873) Discuss the message, and have student individually write a summary of the message of this speech. Have them share their summaries in small groups. (Informative/Explanatory)
  5. Ask students to find a current event article that could affect the course of the United States.  Students will share their articles with the class.  Each student will write an (Opinion) piece about how they believe the event will affect their personal lives and the course of the United States.  Include quotes from the text to support their opinion.  Provide a concluding statement.
  6. Read some of these funny laws  (Utah) and do a “quick write” about why you think these became laws, and how they think the laws may have adversely affected people’s lives.  
  7. Additional Speeches (Reading Literature A2)
  8. Make a chart of the various speeches used in this objective, list the name o the speaker, explain the central message, list what was happening in the United States at the time of the speech, and the impact it had on society.  Have students choose the speech they believe had the greatest impact on society, giving reasons for their choice, and providing a concluding statement.

  1.  “I Can” write a variety of responses to stories and poems. 
  1. During Shared Reading, students and teacher will read The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere (poetry), and discuss the importance of this ride.  Students may write a short (Opinion) piece expressing their thoughts about the importance of Paul Revere’s Ride, explaining what was happening  in America when his ride took place, answer: “Did this ride help to change the course of history?”, and provide a concluding statement.  
  2. Additional poetry: (Poetry G 1)
  3. Write an (Opinion) piece about American revolutionaries, supporting a point of view with reasons and information. Ask students to think about:  “Were these revolutionaries correct in their words and actions?”  Include reasons from texts for their opinion about this question.
  4. Additional websites and books are listed below

Poets of the American Revolution

American Revolutions

“Concord Hymn” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

“George Washington” (Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benet)

“A Tragic Story” (William Makepeace Thackeray)

“A Nation’s Strength” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Reading Rainbow: My America (parts 1-6)

My America: A Poetry Atlas of the United States, poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Stephen Alcorn. This geographical collection includes poets' descriptions of every part of the United States.

  1. “I Can” recite poetry and plays for classmates.
  1. After explicitly teaching the drama structural elements (e.g., casts of characters, settings, descriptions, dialogue, stage directions, etc.) work together as a class to add these elements to a Reader’s Theater script of a historical story. Assign parts and jobs, provide time for practice, and then perform in a dramatic manner to other classes.  An example to use:  Historical Play
  2. Read and discuss the meaning of The Flag” by an unknown author.  This is a good time to revisit the idea of a first person point of view (primary source).  How does the first-person point of view influence your appreciation of the poem? Perform the poem with a classmate.
  3. Design and create a flag that simultaneously represents your family, your classroom, or your school. Write an explanation of how your flag includes these representations. (Opinion)
  4. As a class, make a list of the different view points from the revolutionary war.  (i.e., British, Revolutionaries, and Neutrals).  Assign students to a specific small group and have them research, discuss, and then defend to the class their view point.  Quote text to support their (Opinions).  Follow up with each student deciding their own view point and defending that view point in a short paragraph. (Opinion)
  5. Use Houghton/Mifflin (2001) Theme 2 (pg 242-245) Boss of the Plains by Laurie Carlson, to learn and recite cowboy songs and poetry.  Identify the message being represented in this genre of poetry.  Chart the titles, authors, and themes of the poetry.  Write a summary explaining the purpose of cowboy poetry.
  6. Readers Theatre for American History by Anthony D. Fredericks.

Resource #1

Resource #2

  1. “I Can” write opinion pieces about American revolutionaries, supporting a point of view with reasons and information.
  1. Explicitly teach students that revolutionaries aren’t always popular during the time that they live, but they believe in something so passionately that they are willing to “go out on a limb” (or put themselves at risk) to express their beliefs. Ask students to think about a current event that they believe strongly in and which they believe everyone should understand. Have students will write a speech about their belief and ideas, supporting their point of view with reasons and facts. from texts (e.g., news articles).  Students may work with a partner to revise, edit, and strengthen their speech so it is ready for publishing. Students may audio record these speeches or present them to the class.  This is an extended writing project that should be taken to publishing and recording and presentation.

  1. “I Can” participate in group discussions about revolutionaries from America’s past.
  1. As a class, summarize what was learned in this unit as it relates to the essential question (“What life lessons can we learn from revolutionaries in fiction and non-fiction?”). Following the class discussion, students will write a summary of the unit, listing revolutionaries, their contributions, how they changed American history.  They will use facts from texts to add authenticity to their writing. They may work with a partner to edit and strengthen their writing.  This piece could be one taken through the compete writing process to publishing.
  2. Voices of the American Revolution
  3. Meet Amazing Americans

Additional Resources