Studying Chicago

The Chicago Skyline, Looking South

This is one of our most fun units, one that gets our students families involved as much as the students.  After all, many of us are experts in some way on Chicago.  You know the neighborhoods better, know some great story or legend that few others know, and share with your kids the perspective you have on the city.  While I’ll try to do similiar things in 3 short weeks, I encourage you all to get as involved as you’d like.

This unit is largely based on 3 components:

  1. The Chicago Project (student driven).
  2. Mini-Lessons on Chicago (teacher lead).
  3. Chicago Essay Test (climatic!).

The Chicago Project is easily the most famous of our projects in 7th grade, for better or worse.  It includes 2 great options – building a skyscraper or making a scrapbook of a visit to Chicago.  In addition, I’m adding a few new options that students should love: a 3D poster/map and creating a story in poem/song/rap/story/pop-up book/skit/video form.  This project may be done alone, with a partner, or in a group of 3 or 4 students.

My mini-lessons will be school as usual, but in 15-20 minute doses.  This allows us to use 10 days or so to cover each topic (partially listed below), then gives the remaining time to students to work on their projects.  This will also be the basis of the Essay Test.

The Essay Test is a simple way to assess what we’ve learned through our lessons, our own projects, and other projects.  Students will need to construct a basic “social studies essay” that is 5 paragraphs – an introduction, 3 body paragraphs, and a conclusion.  We’ll do some prep work for this; watch for more info to come.  In summary, though, the 3 body paragraphs will be on any of the topics we cover in class (1 paragraph each) to support a main them.  The topics we’ll cover:

  1. History
  2. People
  3. Neighborhoods
  4. Government
  5. Architecture
  6. Culture (Music, Art, Literature, Theater, Movies, Sports)
  7. Inventions & Ideas
  8. Historic Events
  9. Future of Chicago
  10. Unique oddities of Chicago (tri-level streets, street number system, the great Flag of Chicago, etc.)

And a big question (or theme) that students will have to answer (these are the basic instructional goals of our unit):

  1. Is Chicago a great city?
  2. How has Chicago grown so quickly?
  3. Should Chicago host the 2016 Olympic Games?
  4. Is Chicago a diverse city?
  5. Has anything important ever come from Chicago?

I think that’s enough for an introduction to Chicago.  Hopefully you can “feel” my excitement for this unit of study.  It gets all of us involved and brings out the experts in all of us, as we all are experts in some way on Chicago.

UPDATE: Here is today’s (Mon, 12/1) homework assignment, the Navigating Chicago WS.

4 thoughts on “Studying Chicago

  1. marker88

    i <3 chicago and hope this is a fun unit or atleast better then the constitustion <—- is that right spelling?

  2. Pingback: 2010 in review « Mr. Little's Social Studies Blog

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