Americans Who Made a Difference: Popplets, Paper People, and Videos!

In my previous post, I referred to our first Guided Inquiry unit with 2nd grade, Americans Who Made a Difference. For this post, I will describe the unit in more depth.

In our 2nd grade Social Studies curriculum, students were learning about such people as Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Jackie Robinson, George Washington, Ruby Bridges, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Cesar Chávez. For Open experiences, I really like to use tangible artifacts or some other type of real object if possible. I was able to gather an object to represent most of the above people, and set them out on a table. They were only numbered, and the students tried to guess the important person that each object represented. This was a fun hands-on way for them to start interacting with the people from history, and it also gave them an opportunity to interact with each other and discuss the meaning of some of the objects.

For Immerse and Explore, each student had a basic Inquiry Journal on which to write down some information. Their journals included a place to write down the names of 2-3 people they had browsed, and the sources where they read about each. Most students were able to get some good ideas about who they wanted their units to focus on through this process, and then were were ready for Identify.

After students had identified the person they wanted to learn about, we proceeded on to Gather. Students had a four square research page to use as an organizer for their thoughts and information. Many of the 2nd graders needed a lot of scaffolding for this process. Thankfully our extended inquiry teaching team included our resource teacher and assistant who did an excellent job of helping some of the students find the information they needed and get it recorded. Students worked in small groups, using books and online resources for their information. Most students’ subjects were readily available in books and PebbleGo, but there were a few that required a little advance research on my part so that we would have appropriate information for them. Once we had gathered information, we were ready for the real fun!

For Create, we gave the students four choices of projects to make to share their learning: life size cutout paper people on which to write their information, Popplets, Wordles/Tagxedos, or dress up as your person and create a video. There was a fairly even split among the projects the students chose, with the exception of the paper people. Many of the students chose this project. We laughed because when they had their paper people spread out on the tables working, it looked like we were having mass surgeries in the library!

Share was then fairly easy to do with the computer based projects: we printed out the Tagxedos/Wordles, shared the Popplets, and I sent home instructions so that parents could view their child’s project at home. The classes were able to watch the videos that were made, and they all really enjoyed this. We shared the paper people by hanging them on the walls in the hallway outside the library and their classrooms. This raised a buzz among the younger students, who look forward to the year when they get to do this project. Here is one of the projects in which the student chose to share her information through a video:

At the current time we are in the Gather phase of Americans Who Made a Difference, and the students are so engaged. I am very excited to see what lies ahead when they start pulling everything together to Create and Share their information!


Trisha Hutcherson, M.L.I.S.

Monroe Elementary

Norman, Oklahoma

1 Comment

  1. Wondering what was the concept for this unit? What are you hoping students will understand about these famous people?

    Also did students ask a question or choose a person? Do you think second graders are capable of opening up to a question? Was there a rationale about why they chose a person. And what are your thoughts now that the unit is coming to a close.

    Guided Inquiry is mostly about getting kids to ask and answer their own questions. So, I just need to push your thinking there. I’m curious about your reflections!
    Leslie Maniotes

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