Fifth Grade Unit 4 

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America in Conflict

Enduring Understanding:  Write about how conflict of fictional or real people change through conflict including authentic facts, photos and artwork.

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 write poetry about America.
  1. Begin studying the Declaration of Independence and the subsequent Revolutionary War time period.  Create a timeline upon which you will record notable people on the top of the line and significant events below the line.  Place dates on the line.  As you read literature and informational texts, extract the dates, events, and people of this time period.  Timeline of events and people to consider.
  2. Create two other charts, one for notable people and one for significant events.  List people/events on the left side, topics across the top (e.g., time period, description, accomplishment, etc.).  Record information in each box as you read.
  3. Continue the “Poetic Devices Chart” (started in unit 1) that includes examples of similes, metaphors, alliteration, and onomatopoeia in poems from this unit. Provide opportunities for students, in whole group small group, and individually, to explore information about America.  Use information collected on the Revolutionary War period charts to inform student poetry creations.  Review the poetry types so students are prepared to write!

Similes - Wartime Poetry: Working with Similes





  1. Suggested literature texts for this unit:  
  2. Begin studying the discontent within the country during the 1860’s and the subsequent Civil War time period.  Create a timeline upon which you will record notable people on the top of the line and significant events below the line.  Place dates on the line.  As you read literature and informational texts, extract the dates, events, and people of this time period.  Timeline of events and people to consider.  Additional resources    MultiMedia Site
  3. Create two other charts, one for notable people and one for significant events.  List people/events on the left side, topics across the top (e.g., time period, description, accomplishment, etc.).  Record information in each box as you read.
  4. Use information collecting on the Civil War period charts to inform student poetry creations.  
  5. Read the book My America: A Poetry Atlas of the United States by Lee Bennett Hopkins. Identify the states that sided with the South and the states that sided with the North during  the Civil War.   This website will assist you in this study.  Primary source map.  Split the students into groups and have them each study a different state. Then have students talk about how their specific state was affected by the Civil War and write poems about the effects.  Analyze primary sources with different accounts of the Civil War
  6. Revolutionary War period:  George Washington   John Adams   Thomas Jefferson   Benjamin Franklin 
  7. Civil War period:  Abraham Lincoln   Robert E. Lee    Ulyssys S. Grant    John Wilkes Booth
  8. Read the poem “Skyscrapers” by Carl Sandburg. This poem was written early in the 20th century about Chicago.  Explicitly teach about American Symbols.  Have students choose an American Symbol and write a poem about it like Carl Sandburg did.
  9. Read the book I, Too, Sing America: Three Centuries of African American Poetry by Catherine Clinton.  Examine American history through the African American perspective. Discuss how this perspective is different than the perspective in poetry previously read.  Compare and contrast the two different perspectives on a T-Chart.  Use the information to write an (Informative/Explanatory) piece about the two perspectives.
  10. Read the book Hand in Hand: An American History Through Poetry by Lee Bennett Hopkins. Compare and contrast poems about different time periods of American history.  Do a three-circle venn diagram to compare them on a more complex level.  
  11. Additional poems mentioned  during this unit are:

                        The New Colossus (Emma Lazarus)

The Eagle (Alfred Lord Tennyson) 

                        I Hear America Singing  (Walt Whitman)

                                  I, Too, Sing America(Langston Hughes)

                        The Star Spangled Banner (Francis Scott Key)

  1. Study songs about America.  Harvest vocabulary words, extract the meanings, and discuss the time periods in which they were written.  After studying these, determine the main message of each.

Star Spangled Banner

America the Beautiful

My Country ‘Tis of Thee

This Land is Your Land

Yankee Doodle

God Bless America

When Johnny Comes Marching Home

Battle Hymn of the Republic


  1. Read books from the Discover America State By State series, especially A is for America by Devin Scillian.  Brainstorm all of the things in American that could be used in an American Alphabet books.  Have students continue the process by adding more words in AlphaBoxes .  Assign an alphabet page to each student and have them draw the pictures and write a poem to go with the picture for the letter. Create a class alphabet book of poems about America.

  1. “I Can” compare narrative and informational books about the Civil War and slavery.
  1. Read You Wouldn't Want to Be a Worker on the Statue of Liberty!: A Monument You'd Rather Not Build (You Wouldn’t Want To…Series) by John Malam and David Antram.  Compare and contrast several books from this series.  Using a multi-columned chart (to match the number of texts you are reading) record information you gain.  Put the book titles at the top of the columns.  Record the differences and determine descriptions of the Civil War and Slavery.    Write a summary of the similarities and differences.  Save this summary to revise as more information is gathered.
  2. Civil War Literature 
  3. Historical Fiction 
  4. Engaging Students in a Collaborative Study of the Gettysburg Address (ReadWriteThink) This lesson plan invites students to learn more about the historical significance of President Abraham Lincoln's famous speech, the Gettysburg Address, as well as the time period and people involved.  In shared writing, write a summary of the message from the Gettysburg Address.  Talk about what was happening in the country at that time.  Read texts that portray life at that time from various perspectives.  Compare and contrast perspectives.  After adequate discussion, have students choose a perspective from which to write a summary of life.  Use colorful descriptive words.
  5. Using Historical Fiction to Learn About the Civil War (ReadWriteThink) This lesson uses the book Meet Addy by Connie Porter to teach the characteristics of historical fiction, the making of inferences, the use of visualization, and Civil War history.  
  6. Critical Perspectives: Reading and Writing About Slavery (ReadWriteThink) In this lesson, students critically examine the perspectives of slaves and slave owners.  While discussing the two different perspectives, record on a two-sided chart, the way of life, freedoms, homes, slaves and owners.  Have students write an (Opinion) piece about an aspect of a slave’s or slave owner’s life that they think would be particularly difficult.  State their reasons, quote from texts to support their reasons, and write a conclusion.  
  7. Resource for guided reading books from the Jordan School District website, that are integrated with Social Studies Core.
  8. Teach a unit on maps, which includes focus on which states were Union, Confederate, and neutral.   Study the state and territories boundary maps of the Civil war time.  Compare and contrast the current state boundary maps.  After reading different pairs of texts from the suggested lists on the maps, Ask student to write an answer to this question: “How does knowing the historical information enhance your understanding of the narrative story?”  Have them use examples from texts to support their writing.
  9. Read excerpts from Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis, Charlie Skedaddle by Patricia Beatty, Read excerpts from Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson.  What did all the books have in common, was there a common theme?
  10. Complete a class chart of information about conflicts in the Civil War period that we learn from a variety of informational and narrative texts.

  1. “I Can” analyze two accounts of the same event and describe important similarities and differences in the details they provide.
  1. As a class, keep a chart of information about the Civil War period learn from a variety of  narrative and informational texts; the chart will have the following categories:

What is the conflict?

Why does this conflict occur?

Who is involved on each side of the conflict?

How is the conflict resolved?

How does this conflict have an effect on our lives today?   Students should keep a list of responses to these questions in their journals. Partner student who have read the same books so they can collaboratively contribute to the class chart.

  1. At the end of the unit, compare the lives of different characters, real and fictional, during the Civil War and write about how they grew because of the conflict they experienced. State your opinion, give your reasons citing text quotations, and provide a strong conclusion.  (Opinion)
  2. Examining Plot Conflict Through a Comparison/Contrast Essay (ReadWriteThink) In this lesson, students explore picture books to identify the characteristics of four types of conflict: character vs. character, character vs. self, character vs. nature, and character vs. society.
  3. Read What Lincoln Said by Sarah L. Thomson for an introduction to what “the actual words from a person” mean, as a Primary Source.  Compare and contrast other versions of things Lincoln said, that are not primary, but secondary sources.  Identify the similarities and differences between the primary sources account and the secondary source account.  Do one comparison as shared reading, then one in small group, and then have students complete this process individually.  Convert the sorted information into an (Informative/Explanatory) piece, explain similarities and differences, cite from texts to support your thinking, and provide a summarized conclusion.
  4. Resource for Civil War to add to the information for analyzing different accounts from the same event. 
  5. *** This unit could also be extended to a study of other conflict, such as World War I, World War II, the Korean Conflict, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, comparing and contrasting the similarities and differences between them all or one-to-one, and brainstorming ways to avoid future conflicts. If you extend your study in this way, take the comparisons throughout all of the objectives.

       IV. “I Can” conduct research on a person or event from the Civil War time period.

  1. Write a research essay about an event from the Civil War, highlighting the causes and effects of the conflict. Part of your essay should explain the relationship or interaction between individuals or events. (Alternately, students may choose a person to write about, noting how that person contributed to the cause or to the resolution of this historical conflict.) Present this report in a multimedia format to the class.
  2. Order the Civil War traveling trunk - reservation form available for 2011-2012 school year on June 1, 2011.  The traveling trunk is free to teachers
  3. Graphic organizer for writing a research report:

List of Civil War Battles 

List of Civil War People

  1. Extension: have students come dressed as their Civil War Person and share what they have learned.
  2. Create an expository list and report.  Using information from number III, choose a person or event to research. From this research, compose a list of different ways to see your subject.  For example, if you were writing about  Abraham Lincoln, your list might include a father to 3 boys, taught himself to read, etc.
  3. Use “Civil War Leaders” from Leveled Texts for Social Studies: Expanding & Preserving the Union, (all schools should have this resource. Ask your literacy coach) to have students practice fluency and expression. Students then choose one leader to do further research on and explain why they were the most important leader of the time period.  

         V. “I Can” create a multimedia presentation on a person or event of choice from the Civil War period.

  1. Using your information from this unit, write a script for a podcast that narrates the story of your person or event.  In shared reading explicitly teach how to write a “script”, with dialogue and narration, and how to create a podcast.  Continue working on these scripts in whole group and small groups to ensure a depth of student understanding necessary for them to do this in pairs or individually.  For this objective, have students work with a partner to choose a person, review information already researched, research more as needed, write a script, and record a podcast.  
  2. Participate in History Fair, a district program that showcases historical people and events.  
  3. Teachers need to be skilled in creating a podcast in order to teach students to do so.  Here are some online resources to help you build capacity.  Step-by-Step Instructions   iTunes Source   How Stuff Works
  4. If you have this resource available to you, it could assist you in teaching podcast creation. Multimedia Presentations: Write Source Grade 5 pages 363-367.

        VI.  “I Can” define relationships between words (e.g., civil, civilization, and civilian).

  1. As an individual and as a class, keep an index card file of words studied (e.g., secession, rebellion, abolition, confederate, rebel, etc.). Keeping the words on index cards will help you when sorting words by prefix, suffix, root words, meaning, etc. How do word relationships (e.g., civil, civilization, and civilian) help us understand the meaning of the words, while the prefixes and suffixes affect the part of speech and spelling? (Note: This will be an ongoing activity all year long.)  Words can also be added to the Word Wall.
  2. As a class and individually, continue to  identify words that need to be included in Word Study!!  Use a variety of these graphic organizers to study and analyze words.  Teach/review base words and affixes as part of this objective.
  3. Use the Word Box to define relationships between base words and derivatives.

       VII. “I Can” write a historical narrative, based in the Civil War time period.

  1. Read and compare what you learn about slavery in America from narrative and informational text (e.g., Dear Austin: Letters from the Underground Railroad by Elvira Woodruff and Nancy Carpenter and If You Lived When There was Slavery in America by Anne Kamma and Pamela Johnson). How does knowing the historical information enhance your understanding of the narrative story? Have students talk with a partner to discuss these ideas prior to large group discussion so they will be prepared to contribute and know questions they need to ask to clarify their understanding.
  2. Write historical narrative set during the Civil War; include a fictional character with a conflict to resolve and incorporate authentic facts, photos, or artwork. This must be explicitly taught in shared writing prior to student interacting with it.  After whole group, have students work with a partner to gather ideas and begin a first draft. this will be an extended writing project.  There will be opportunity for revising and editing  prior to publishing the final product.  Publish this (Narrative) writing on a class webpage to encourage “virtual” conversation after the unit is over.
  3. Strategic Reading and Writing: Summarizing Antislavery Biographies (ReadWriteThink) In this lesson, students practice writing effective summaries using biographies.
  4. How to write a historical narrative:
  5. If you have this resource in your school it could be helpful in teaching this objective.  Write Source Grade 5 Pages 125-129. Teaches how to integrate narrative writing into social studies.

  1. “I Can” participate in group discussions.
  1. Use all the information gained throughout this unit to determine topics for group discussion that will deepen student understanding of America in Conflict.
  2. Divide class into small groups. Give students this graphic organizer, which they will complete with information about what you learned about the causes and effects of the Civil War, to activate their background knowledge so they are prepared to discuss and ask questions about the topic.
  3. Topics that could be discussed are: