When it comes to teaching history, especially when my kids are young, I want it to be less about memorizing dates and names and more about interest, enthusiasm, and curiosity. Cultivating a love for learning.
My daughter LOVES biographies and learning about the lives of others. For history, for her 1st grade year, I wanted to introduce her to important people throughout history that she was curious and interested in learning about. People who she can refer back to when learning more about them in higher grades.
So this year we decided to read Who Was books for history. These are a series of illustrated biographies for young readers featuring significant historical figures. They are full of information and illustrations that are presented to young readers in a way they can better understand.
Included in each Who Was unit is a book list, Youtube video playlist, Pinterest board, Show/video list, game list, coloring page, biography page, map work, copy work (in 3 different levels), activity worksheet, compare & contrast worksheet, timeline, trivia card game, and timeline match game.
My favorite part of the units is no schedule and no timeline of activities for us to follow. We can do as much or as little as we like, for as long as we like, and in whatever order.
We usually take about 2 weeks to read and learn about one Who Was book/person. We just recently completed Who Was Martin Luther King Jr? Below I will share with you how we plan and complete our Who Was units, as well what we did for Martin Luther King Jr.
Planning a Who Was Book Unit Study:
-First thing, I have my daughter choose what book to read. I usually give her 3 different options and have her choose which she is most interested in. She recently choose Martin Luther King Jr. because his birthday/holiday was coming up.
-After she picks a book, I download and print the corresponding Who Was Unit HERE.
-Then I will search Pinterest (can use the link from the unit page or search yourself) for activities, crafts, or any extra free printables we can use. I usually try to have her do one project or craft to go with each Who Was book. For MLK we found THESE free coloring pages and THIS equality egg experiment printable.
-Then I will check my local library and put a few picture books on hold based on the person we are studying. There is a book list provided in the units also.
Completing the Who Was Book Unit Study:
-First we read the whole book before doing any projects or activities. We like to read it during our lunch throughout the week. Keeping their mouths full and hands busy usually is the best for our read aloud time. It usually takes us 4-5 days to read one book (reading 2-3 chapters at a time,) because we have other read alouds for other subjects we read some days also. Sometimes we read it faster, sometimes it takes a little longer. It all usually depends on if my kids ask me to read more each day or not.
-Sometimes when I am reading I will also have them do the color page or handwriting page from the unit pack.
**For this Who Was unit (MLK) we did do two different activities while we were still reading the book, so my children could better understand what Martin Luther King was fighting for. Here are two great activities to teach about race and equality to young kids:
*For this activity I gave them a piece of white, red, and black construction paper, as well as white, red, and black crayons. They had to sort the colors to match the correct paper. Then I told them to draw me a picture using the same color crayon on the same color paper. They tried, but started complaining it wasn’t working and that they couldn’t see their pictures they were drawing. I asked “How can we make a pretty picture then?” They thought about it and replied “Let’s switch the colors and mix them!” I then responded with “What? We can’t mix the colors! White has to stay with white! Red has to stay with red and black has to stay with black!” My daughter said “That’s not right! We have to mix them to make a pretty picture….OOH! I get it!” 😆 A great, easy way to teach them how there used to be segregation where everyone was separated by the color of their skin. But mixing together and letting all the colors have equal opportunities will lead to a beautiful picture.
-When we have finished reading the book, I have my daughter complete the biography page and map work.
-Then we will do a craft project together. For MLK we painted peace signs on paper plates for my younger kids and my daughter created this “I Have A Dream” cloud writing project. Both were super simple and quick to do.
– We might watch a show/movie/ or some videos on YouTube of our topic. We sometimes also like to do a step by step drawing from Art for Kids Hub. For MLK we watched his “I Have a Dream” speech.
-The last thing we do from the unit pack is the trivia card game and timeline match game. Since my daughter is only in 1st grade I do not require her to remember/memorize any dates, so for the timeline game we don’t use the date cards just the ones with information. She tests her memory by trying to put them in order of events. Her favorite is the trivia card game. We each take turns reading a question to each other. If you get the answer right you keep the card. Whoever has the most cards at the end wins. She thinks this is so fun and loves that I play (and sometimes get some wrong) with her!
-As we complete each activity I hang them up in our schoolroom and at the end of our unit she does a presentation for all of us (her brothers, Dad, and I.) She tells us who the person is and their significance/importance as well as shows and explains any projects or crafts we did together. This has been great in learning to narrate and speak in front of others, as well as hearing what she has really learned about each person.
-And the final thing we do is add a sticker dot to our world map. On each sticker we write the name of the person we learned about and stick it where they were born. We can’t wait to see our map full of stickers of all the people we have learned about at the end of the year. You can find this map HERE.
These units have been our favorite subject this school year so far! We have already learned about Amelia Earhart, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Betsy Ross, Steve Irwin, Leonardo Da Vinci, Charles Dickens, Claude Monet, and now Martin Luther King Jr.
Here are some photos of all the fun projects and activities she has completed this school year.
Be sure to enter your email below and follow as I will continue to share more of our completed Who Was units! Also, check out Jessica @thewaldockway as she releases new units!