Are you getting ready to start your U.S. Citizenship Unit with your students? Check out this post with ideas and resources for helping your students to understand the symbols, ideals, and landmarks of the United States.
No matter which social studies standards you follow, it is likely they have a set of citizenship standards for your students to master.
These standards usually include items such as:
- Explaining patriotic symbols
- Reciting the national anthem and pledge
- Explaining landmarks
- Describing national holidays
- Knowing their civic duties
- Knowing their government representatives
- Describing American ideals
- Explaining the rights laid out in the Constitution and amendments
This is A LOT for our 5th graders to wrap their minds around, and often they just get a taste of each of these items which are then further elaborated upon in 8th and 10th grades.
Before You Begin Your U.S. Citizenship Unit
Before you even begin the unit with your students, have a conversation about what they think American Citizenship is. Ask guiding questions like:
- What are the rights of a U.S. citizen?
- What are the responsibilities of a U.S. citizen?
- How can a person be a good citizen?
As you have this conversation, and throughout the unit, remain cognizant that not every student in your classroom may be a citizen and use affirming language with a path towards citizenship.
Ground Your Unit with an Interactive Notebooks
In order to give students a place to record their learning, and hopefully save it to refer back to later, I used this Interactive Notebook Kit with activities for our flag, the Pledge of Allegiance, the national anthem, American ideals, patriotic symbols, and national landmarks to ground the unit. Each activity comes in three formats to allow for easy differentiation and is followed by several suggested writing prompts to extend learning.
Middle school social studies teachers LOVE when students bring in their interactive notebooks from fourth and fifth grade to show them what they already learned!
We would get the information to complete the interactive notebook from this PowerPoint I created with all the pertinent information. If we needed more information, this is a great time to allow for a bit of research. We were a drive your own device campus, so students loved any opportunity to pull out their phones and search for information.
Get Interactive With Your U.S. Citizenship Unit
While you are discussing various parts of your citizenship unit be sure to allow students time to explore the different elements.
One way to explore and engage in civic learning is through the website iCivics. This site has multiple learning games that allow students to explore the government and their civic duties.
The site also has lesson plans to help you with the unit, but most of these plans are intended for middle and high school classrooms, so modifications will be necessary.
You can also encourage students to get creative after learning about patriotic symbols and have them create their own symbols using this activity. Students love to create and explain their symbol and what it represents about them. By creating their own symbols, students are better able to understand the symbolism patriotic items have taken on.
Use Cooperative Learning
If you have spent any time here on the Teaching in the Fast Lane blog, you already know I am a huge cooperative learning fan and this unit is no different.
The multitude of symbols and landmarks students are required to know in this unit lend themselves extremely well to cooperative learning activities such as Who Am I? and I Have Who Has?
You can download a free version of Who Am I? for Patriotic Symbols here.
Then check out this wrap around game, I Have Who Has? for landmarks.
Both of these activities are great for having a bit of fun and reviewing learning.
If you want to make an even bigger impact with cooperative learning, I would recommend checking out this Jigsaw Method activity on American Landmarks. This activity puts students in the driver’s seat and turns them into the teacher for the information.
Don’t know how to use the Jigsaw Method? Check out this post with a full description of how to use it and what it is best for.
Literature to Support Your U.S. Citizenship Unit
All of the links below are Amazon affiliate links. If you click and choose to buy I will receive a small commission with no additional cost to you. I use this commission to keep the blog running and host giveaways.
The U.S. Constitution and You
The Bill of Rights: Protecting Our Freedom Then and Now
I Know My Rights
F is for Flag
American Symbols: What You Need to Know
O Say Can You See?
Our Flag was Still There
Wrapping Up Your Unit
When it is time to end the unit I use these task cards to bring it all back together and review the information before assessing students.
Now, it is easy for task cards to turn into a glorified worksheet, but to avoid that we use one of these activities to make it more interactive and include movement.
After we have reviewed, I go back to the discussion we had at the beginning of the unit and see if any of their answers have changed.
Of course, we also assess learning. If you have extra time available ( I know, what’s that?) I have students research a national park of their choosing and use this activity to create a trading card.
If you would like all the activities I explained during the unit check out my American Citizenship Unit Bundle with lesson plans. This bundle has all the goodness in this post, plus daily lesson plans, vocabulary cards, and an end of unit assessment.
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