Posts Tagged ‘unit opener’

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.

Bill Pinkney’s Back

Thursday, December 13th, 2007


The Incredible Voyage of Bill Pinkney is now available on DVD.


This is a fantastic film which brings the story to life. It’s long.  I would not play it in its entirety in one sitting but would play a piece every day as you read the story.

Some teachers find it objectionable that Bill Pinkney drinks alcohol in celebration on his journey and says the d word at a point in the story when his life is in danger. Use your best judgement and do preview the film ahead of time. Although I played only 5-10 minutes at a time, I did not edit any of it out in my classroom. Instead, we used the mild bad language as a an opportunity to talk about the dangers Bill Pinkney was facing (and the importance of not swearing).

I encourage you to acquire this movie as well as a DVD player if you do not yet have one in your classroom. They’re cheaper than you think these days.

City Wildlife and the Songwriting Process

Thursday, November 15th, 2007

Sandra Bacall, teacher and singer, created this film with her classroom about a song they wrote together for the City Wildlife Unit. At the end of the song, students talk about the songwriting process and compare it to the traditional writing process.

Using music appeals to students’ different learning modalities and increases engagement.