Archive for the ‘Unit Openers’ Category

Back to School Week: Unit Openers

Saturday, August 23rd, 2008

Alice Mercer has her unit opener plans completed do you?

Do you know how to plan a unit opener?

Here’s a few ideas to get you started for Unit 1:

Submit your own ideas here.

The Concept Question Board of the Future

Wednesday, March 5th, 2008

I’ve mentioned elsewhere teachers who have used blogging as a modern day platform for their Concept/Question Board.

Alice Mercer has now re-imagined the Concept/Question Board using VoiceThread, an online digital storytelling platform. Here, students record their voices asking questions and telling what they know about the coming unit.

See VoiceThread Online Concept/Question Boards:

Also related:

Making A New Nation: Five Ideas for a Unit Opener

Saturday, February 23rd, 2008


The American Revolution Unit contains several wordy stories of American History. The goal of the unit opener should be to assess prior knowledge and plant the seeds of recognition of a few key characters and motivations so that the following stories are comprehensible and relevant.

Unit Opener Objective

Students will be able to explain the reasons behind the Revolutionary War and tell at least one significant fact about two key figures of the Revolution.

Advanced Tip:

Give students index cards to keep track of new learning and questions to place on concept/question board throughout the unit opener. Teachers may wish to chart new knowledge and questions on a KWL chart at the front of the room as well so that non-writers can at least copy from the chart.

Anticipatory Set:

Using the key figures of the revolution picture file, spark students’ interest in some of the characters they will be reading about throughout the unit.


Use any combination of these. I tried to use every one and it was a bit much.

  1. Using Google Earth, map the journey of the British from England to the New World or view a pre-made film here.
  2. Causes of the Revolution Role Play: Shawn Gibson presents an idea where students play the roles of king, tax collector, and citizen. As students pay taxes they understand the reasons why Americans wanted war.
  3. Yertle the Turlte. This tale by Dr. Seuss cleverly illustrates the abuse of power and the feeling of taxation without representation.
  4. John, Paul, George, and Ben is an amusing story by Lane Smith which provides just a little information about several of the key revolutionary figures students will be reading about. The book is also available on DVD.

Also see:

Available free revolutionary war movies to use as unit openers.

Online Concept/Question Board created using VoiceThread by teacher, Alice Mercer

American Revolution Webquest submitted by Obi Okediashi who suggests setting up a digital projector and working through it with students.

Ideas for follow-up activities using Comic Life and Kidpix.

Unit Opener Planning Week is Back

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

Back in October, I hosted a Unit Opener planning week for Open Court units #2.

It resulted in some terrific ideas being posted by web site visitors and fellow bloggers and those ideas are now linked to from the unit opener pages of those units.

As teachers at different schools have different pacing, editions, and schedules, this might never come at the exact perfect time for you. However, it’s never too late to reinvigorate your unit and by the end of the planning time we’ll have another collection of great ideas for next time…but only if you contribute your own thoughts.

Options for Contributing

Start sending in your ideas now.

Heritage Unit Project Ideas

Monday, January 7th, 2008

submitted by Francie Kugelman

1. The students can research a family recipe that is handed down from generation to generation. They must cook it, and write step by step what they did in order to make it. They must also include the history from the recipe.

2. The students can create a fictional story about their families. They must illustrate pictures to go with this story, in the end it will be a book.

3. The student can research the meaning of his/her name. Look up the meaning in a baby book, plus ask parents where the name came from. Also, learn about middle name and last name too.

4. The student can find out when the family first arrived in America. How did they come, from what country? Did they have a different first name and last name from the prior country? When was it? Why did they come to America? Where did they stay? What was the first job the adults had?

5. Make a family tree. Michaels craft center has a cute family tree made of bears. I just copy this and have the students fill it in with illustrations or photos. They try and get all the names of their parents, grandparents, and great grandparents.

6. Make a drawing of their favorite home they have lived in. Do a guided walk as they close their eyes. You have them walk through every part of their home, remembering details.

Cumulating project: a story about a favorite memory.
You can teach the genre of memoir writing. I like to use Sandra Cisneros – House on Mango Street. We read the story, “Hairs”. The students draw portraits of their family members and then do an imitative Hairs poem. We give it to the moms on Mother’s Day.

Memoir Writing

Memoirs are focused on the significance of a relationship and are supported by memories of specific experiences. They may focus on any individual person, place, animal, or thing. The success of the memoir lies in the writer’s ability to provide the reader with an understanding of the importance of the relationship.

Examples to Use with Students Examples of Memoir Writing

More Heritage Unit Opener Ideas