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Impact II: Projects & Lesson Plans: Ben and Us: Sparking the Standards

HOW IT WORKS
Benjamin Franklin said, “The doors of wisdom are never shut.” A mouse named Amos helps open those doors and adds some creativity to the fifth grade classroom. And a hundred-dollar bill helps, too. Ben and Us: Sparking the Standards uses an inter-disciplinary approach to develop research, writing, and word-processing skills while giving students a chance to explore, gain knowledge, and be  creative. Students complete a teacher-created graphic organizer in the style of an oversized hundred-dollar bill, and use various resources  to research the life of Benjamin Franklin and his accomplishments as a scientist,  inventor, statesman, and printer.

Becoming familiar with Ben’s accomplishments provides the background necessary to appreciate Ben and Me by Robert Lawson. In the novel, Amos the mouse takes full credit for Mr. Franklin’s work, including the Franklin stove and bifocals, experiments with electricity and lightning, and printing newspapers and Poor Richard’s Almanack.  As the novel is read in class, students respond by keeping journals, understanding point-of-view narrative, and relating to the maxims in Poor Richard’s Almanack. Since the children have investigated the life of Franklin, they are adept at separating fact from fiction and putting the novel into proper historical perspective. The humorous-but-accurate presentation of the scientific method helps the students plan their own projects for the Annual Science Fair in our school and district. Next, the students research the life of another scientist or inventor. They then become authors, modeled after Mr. Lawson, and create illustrated storybooks such as Tom (Edison) and Me to tell how the famous scientist or inventor was guided through his/her accomplishments by an Amos-like character. They use word-processing programs on the computer to generate the text, and do hand-drawn or computer-assisted illustrations. The stories are shared on Author’s Day in our classroom. 

THE STUDENTS
All 31 of the students in my fifth grade class participate in the learning experience. We use the classroom computers and our school’s computer lab, where each child can work on an individual computer for a limited time. The children have one computer period a week with our computer specialist, so by the time they get to fifth grade, they are familiar with basic computer operation and keyboarding.

THE STAFF
Gloria Block has been teaching fifth grade at P.S. 42 for ten years. She was a TeachNet Disseminator Grant recipient in 1998-1999 for How Does it Feel to Find a Fossil. Mrs. Block has given staff development and new teacher workshops in District 31.

WHAT YOU NEED
We use a computer with Internet access, encyclopedia CDs, reference books from the library, and word processing software. The novel Ben and Me by Robert Lawson is available in a softcover edition from Scholastic, and we use hardcover blank books for the children's storybooks. The hundred-dollar-bill graphic organizer, printed on green paper, provides the initial motivation for the children. 

OVERALL VALUE
Ben and Us addresses current standards in English/language arts, social studies, science, and technology, and provides opportunities to respond to literature by drawing upon historical knowledge and exercising reading and writing skills. The children view historic events through first-hand accounts and learn how people interact with their environment and use resources to meet their needs. The final product, an original storybook, serves as a keepsake and the culmination of their endeavor.

Gloria Block's
Dissemination Packet

(pdf file: requires Adobe Acrobat Reader).

 

CURRICULUM AREAS
Science
Language Arts
Social Studies
Technology

GRADES 4-8

MORE INFORMATION
Gloria Block
P.S. 42
380 Genesee Avenue
Staten Island, NY 10312
(718) 984-3800

gblock51@aol.com

IMPACT II Catalog 2000-2001
(pdf file: requires
Adobe Acrobat Reader).

 

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