So, you’ve been teaching since the 60’s and you’re tired of the same old units year after year. What? How can you possibly make George Washington interesting this year? Ah, you teacher-librarians…you forget that our students seem to have amnesia each year in February. You can tell them facts about George Washington in ways that make their eyes pop out. You could have helped them watch David McCullough’s Webcast February 13th(highlighted in SLJ February 12th) You can send them off on webquests to learn from someone other than you. You can even use a fictional book from 1969 to make Washington seem fresh.
Jean Fritz’s 1969 fictional story George Washington’s Breakfast remains one of my favorite titles to use with fourth graders although even second graders appreciate it. I use the 1969 version illustrated by Paul Galdone instead of the 1998 Tomie dePaola cover version because I want my students to realize people researched before the internet. It’s short enough you can read this aloud and still have a great discussion with students on how to research, how research tools have changed, what a card catalog is, what primary sources are, why George Allen took a field trip, and why George refused to give up.
With the fourth graders we then explored Grolier’s different databases, NetTrekker, and the Tennessee Electronic Library.
Links to check out
- Carol Hurst’s page on Jean Fritz.
- This student’s description of their George Washington meal.
- The America’s Library page on George Washington (follow the links to more stories)
- The story of Valley Forge from ushistory.org
- A biography of George Washington
- The WhiteHouse.gov’s presidential page on George Washington
- Washington Crossing State Park
Some of my other favorite read-alouds:
George Washington’s Teeth by Deborah Chandra and Madeleine Comora
George Washington: Farmer, Soldier, President by Pamela Hill Nettleton
and I adapt, skim, highlight these depending upon time, musical ability, and energy levels:
George Washington by Candice F. Ransom
When Washington Crossed the Delaware by Lynne Cheney
Row, Row, Row the Boats: A Fun Song About George Washington Crossing the Delaware by Michael Dahl
One kindergarten class went with me on a magical trip to their classroom as I led them across the Delaware (my library blue carpet), through Trenton and tiptoeing on to Princeton where they surprised their teacher victoriously.
Could teaching about Washington get boring? Not to this librarian. Nor to the kindergarten teacher who told her students this year that she no longer tells them the story of George Washington and the cherry tree because the real biographical information is MUCH MORE interesting.
Marc, we are making progress. The image at the right is one of The Day Books of Samuel Stearn mentioned in George Washington’s Breakfast. My students kept asking me if he existed and I promised to go find out. George Allen, you have nothing on the students of this librarian!