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Adaptor Grants Home:
Teachers Network: Adaptor Grants: In Their Own Words: The Slave Narratives

Adapted By:
Dawn Panebianco

This is Ms. Panebianco's sixth year teaching. It is her second year at P.S. 124, Yung Wing Elementary School where she currently teaches 5th grade. Her prior teaching experience includes working with "the little ones" in Pre-K and kindergarten. She used that experience to remind her that learning should always be fun and that older students deserve to play while they learn too!

P.S. 124
New York, NY


In the original unit, students investigated the slave narratives and gave a human voice to the struggles and hardships the slaves faced in our country's history. I wanted to find a way to bring humanity to the pioneer experience through a simulated experience that combined research and facts with cooperation and understanding. I wanted to show that all history can be studied and understood by revisiting the voices of the past.

Instructional Objectives

For students to use nonfiction books, primary sources, and Internet resources to acquire content knowledge about Westward Expansion in the United States.

To take a simulated trip west as a member of a pioneer family to gain an understanding of the emigrant experience.

To learn and explore features of historical fiction.

To write historical fiction journals of their pioneer experience using the facts and information they have learned about the time period as well as their interactions with their fictional pioneer families.

Technology Integration

Technology was vital to the successful implementation of our unit because it allowed students to access varied information that broadened their understanding of Westward Expansion. Students used primary sources from the Internet including historical journals to learn about the time period and the emigrant experience. Mapquest, was used to calculate the distances between cities so that students could determine how long it would have taken when traveling along trails from different starting points. Several students expanded their vocabularies by searching images of items that the pioneers used that the students had never seen or heard of before. Students were able to add details to their wagons based on their Internet research. Overall, for every interest, their was an Internet site that students could access for information and resources. Web sites used included:



This unit is a collaborative endeavor as well as an individual project. Students were informally assessed on their ability to perform tasks collaboratively and problem-solve constructively with one another as their family faced obstacles or made decisions on their journey. Individually, students were assessed in reading and writing conferences. Students had many opportunities to read various leveled materials and work at their own pace and ability level while achieving a common goal. At the end of the project, a rubric was developed by the class as a way of evaluating student performance on individual journal books.

Tips for Teachers

There are so many possibilities for this unit! As I continue to expand on it, I find more and more ways to make it an interdisciplinary unit. There are various opportunities for mathematical problem-solving, learning computer skills, art, cooking, drama, and geography--just to name a few!

Student Work Samples

Click on each thumbnail to see a full-screen version.



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