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Emily Bennett

VI. Communication and Technology

I. | II. | III. | IV. | V. | VI. | VII. | Resume

       Communication is the key to success in any relationship.  I put good communication skills into place with my students, parents, colleagues, and administration.  Also, in this age of constant technological improment, it is wise to be fluent in the means of technology available to you in your school and use this to communicate information.
       I included a materials review for my first artifact.  These materials are of varying types, including books, video clips from the internet, and websites.  I believe that when I use multimedia forms of communication  with my students, they are much more engaged, and get excited about learning.  Technology is something that our kids will be using in almost all aspects of their future, and therefore, it is extremely important to teach them to feel comfortable using these tools.
       To communicate with parents and students, one platform I use is something called Family Dialogue Journals.  Students write a weekly letter to someone at home detailing the books they have been reading during the week, and thier thoughts on these books.  Parents are invited to respond to their children.  Once each week, I check thier letter to assess writing and reading progress.  In this way, the parents, students, and teacher all communicate on a weekly basis about the child's reading for the week.  I find it very helpful, parents love to know what thier child is thinking each week, and students get the weekly excitement of reading a new letter from their family.  For those families who are not able to respond, I write back to the child and ask the parents to look at the notebook and discuss it with their child.
       Using technology and communicating well are two aspects of being a teacher that are completely necessary.   




Materials Review:

A Fourth Grade Civil War Unit

Emily Bennett

George Mason University


  1. Picture book set – The Civil War


Hirsch, E.D., Jr. (2002). The Civil War.  Parsippany, NJ:  Pearson Education, Inc.


I use this with a group of kids during a guided reading lesson, because there are 12 books in the set.  It is great for this because it supplements social studies content so well.

+These books have great pictures and text that is below fourth grade level, boldfaced words, and headings to organize the information.  Also, a table of contents is included, as well as an index.


  1. County-made paperback supplement to textbook - Virginia’s Great History


James, Etta (2000). Virginia’s Great History for Students.


This text was created in 2000 by an ESOL teacher from Arlington, Etta Johnson.  She wrote it to put the Virginia studies curriculum into “plain English” so that ESOL students would have a text written that is more appropriate to their reading level.

+ In addition to the concisely written and consolidated historical information, it has music lyrics (ex. Confederate and Union songs, “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad, etc.).

- It does not catch student interest as well as picture books because it is in black and white.


  1. Social Studies Textbook – Virginia


Scott Foresman (2003). Virginia. USA: Pearson Education, Inc.


This is our county’s adopted textbook for social studies by Scott Foresman. 

+ It has good pictures, headings, it has harder words highlighted, and it has all of the basic and “necessary” information the students must know for SOLs.  I like a few sections that appear in each chapter, like a biography section called “Meet the People,” and “You Are There,” which is the way each chapter begins, putting a fictitious scenario in place for the student to imagine he/she is there in that time in history. 

- It does not tell enough about the horrors of slavery.  Slavery is presented more as a solution to the need for agricultural workers in the south.  Also, the stories are not told in a very captivating way (as is common in most textbooks.)  The text is written at a fourth grade level, which is too high for many ELLs in the class. 


  1. Binder of Transparencies – National Geographic: The Civil War 


National Geographic Society. (1996). NGS Picture Pack

Transparencies: The Civil War.  Washington, DC:  National

Geographic Society.


+These are really good pictures, done by National Geographic.  I use these by projecting them onto a big screen and doing class activities, like “talking statues” where the kids pose in front of the life-sized picture and then talk as if they were in the scene.  Also, I sometimes have the image projected while students have a copy in their interactive notebooks, and they must write speech bubbles to imagine what the people are saying at the time of the photograph.  Another activity I use is the “magic paper,” where I can highlight certain interesting parts of the picture, or parts that students particularly notice, by putting a white piece of paper in front of a section of the slide and pulling it outward to increase the size of that part.  The binder comes with explanations about each picture, so I am able to have that information easily accessible.


  1. United Streaming video – “Civil War”


Civil War. 100% Educational Videos. 2003. Unitedstreaming. 20 March 2007


I really like United Streaming videos because they are very short (segments are often 1-5 minutes long,) and they are also very informative.  There is a search engine that leads you to exactly the information you need, with descriptions of videos and the grade level it is appropriate for.  In this video, there are six video segments.  The segment titles are:  Introduction, State Secession, The Civil War Starts, Emancipation Proclamation, Gettysburg, and Ending the War. 

+ The videos are excellent, in that they provide historical photographs with a narration to explain them.  I love the pictures used, and the straightforward way that the events of the Civil War are explained.  I like the fact that when a famous person is introduced in the video, that person’s name is shown on the screen.  Also, I like the maps used to illustrate the points the narrator is making.

- Slavery (a key issue in this historical time period) is not discussed enough.  Also, I would like more text to show up on the screen to make it more comprehensible to ELL students. 


  1. United Streaming video – “Abraham Lincoln”


American Heroes and Heroines: Abraham Lincoln. United Learning. 2004. Unitedstreaming. 20 March 2007


I would show my students “Part 3:  Civil War President” because it details the president’s life, while integrating historical events. 

+ Does a good job of discussing his life as it pertains to the Civil War, and shows what a large role he played in history.

- In the last minute of the video (out of 4:26 minutes) it starts making generalizations that are a bit too broad, like “he could be called the greatest hero of all time” and “he was always honest”, etc.  I like to try to avoid statements as overreaching as these are and paint the picture in a more realistic way.  All people are complex and have many sides to them. 


  1. United Streaming video – “Abolishing Slavery in America: Part 1:  Life on Southern Plantations”


American History: Abolishing Slavery in America. “Part 1:  Life on Southern Plantations” Discovery Channel School. 2005.
Unitedstreaming. 20 March 2007

I chose this video clip to illustrate one of the major disagreements between the Union and the Confederacy during the Civil War time.  

+Slavery is portrayed in a realistic way, explaining the hardships that slaves lived every day and detailing some horrific acts, while also explaining the history behind how slavery came about and how depending on the area of the south, slaves were treated differently. 

-This video is intended for grades 6-12, so the narration is at too high of a level for most of my fourth graders, especially for the more limited English vocabulary of ELL learners.


  1. United Streaming video – “Abolishing Slavery in America: Part 2:  Riding the Underground Railroad”


American History: Abolishing Slavery in America. “Part 2:  Riding the Underground Railroad” Discovery Channel School. 2005.
unitedstreaming. 20 March 2007


In our art class for fourth grade, the art teacher focuses a majority of the year on a study of the Underground Railroad.  The students listen to music to get inspired about a theme for a quilt square they design and sew by the end of the unit.  This video would add to the study they already do in art, because it explains the concept in more detail than you might get from looking at a photograph.

+ Excellent video!  Even though it is meant for grades 6-12, the language used is appropriate for fourth graders, and the dramatizations of escaping slaves really bring the concepts to life.  Uncle Tom’s Cabin is explained, and important historical heroes are highlighted, while it is all brought into context of the Civil War. 

-They could have added text to the video for greater understanding by ELL students.


  1. Website – “American Civil War”

American Civil War.  Retrieved March 20, 2007 from

This is a great website that is well organized and easily navigable by kids.  It is organized into sections, such as “Battles,” “People,” “Stats and Maps,” and others that kids will find interesting while informative. 

+ I also really like the section that is included that contains historical fiction novels set in the Civil War period.  There are pictures of the books, as well as book reviews.  These types of books, more than any textbook, are what spark my students’ interest most in a historical topic.  Music is also included, recipes, as well as a place to click for one of the weapons to fire, Civil War recipes, and many other interesting tidbits to draw kids into the subject.

- The site could highlight important vocabulary words and give definitions.  This would make it more user friendly for ELL students.

10. Website – “Behind the Stonewall”


Treadwell, Tom. (2001). Behind the Stonewall.  Retrieved March 20,

2007 from


This website was made by a man who is photographing modern day images of the locations where important events took place during the Civil War.  The photographs are panoramic, and they turn in a full circle so that while watching the short video, you get a real sense of what the area is like.  This adds so much more to the kids’ knowledge and understanding than looking at a still image that was taken a long time ago, because they can connect better with this type of media 

+ Included is a collection on the Battle of Gettysburg, Raid at Harpers Ferry, Antietam Battlefield, Manassas Battlefield, and others.  Also, the photographer worked with the National Park Service to get many of the pictures, so you get a sense that you can trust these photographs to be authentic representations of the place they claim to be.

- The site is still under construction, so there are some sections that are not ready yet, but it seems that he will have more photographs up soon.

11. Website – “The Underground Railroad”


National Geographic Society. (1996-2007).  The  Underground

Railroad.  Retrieved March 20, 2007 from


I plan to use this website with the whole class, projecting it up onto a big screen.  It is written like one of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, in that kids have to make the decisions along the way to the next stopping point.  Each student would have a notecard, and would write down their personal response, hold it up, and I would take a consensus as to what our class decision was.  Each question takes you through the scenario of possibly escaping from slavery using the Underground Railroad.  It includes pictures, and wonderful background music of slaves singing.  I especially liked the “Free at Last” song sung at the end.  With each decision made, there is text that helps kids understand what a difficult time this was for slaves and how these decisions to attempt seeking freedom could not be made easily. 

+ Music, information, pictures, choices make it very interactive and get kids completely involved in it as if it is their own personal story.  This also creates a lot of empathy when students learn to put themselves in the place of another person.  Also on the page is a map that shows the routes frequently taken, timelines, and other information.

- A lot of text on each page would make it hard for some ELL students to understand each page, but at least with the pictures, music, and some captions or boldface words, it could be differentiated for them.


12.Picture book – Daring Women of the Civil War


Ford, Carin T. (2004). Daring Women of the Civil War. Berkeley

Heights, NJ : Enslow.


I like using books that talk about other parts of society that we don’t hear about as frequently, such as the women of the Civil War times.


+ This type of book can captivate the interest of girls more in studying the history of the Civil War because they will connect more with the heroines mentioned.  The book discusses traditional women’s roles during the time, and also talks about the brave women who were abolitionists. 

- The women discussed are not part of the “need to know” famous people for the SOL test, but I still feel that it is important to represent women and share this book with students. 


13.Picture book – Minty


Schroeder, Alan (1996). Minty. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers.


My students love this book.  It tells the story of the young Harriet Tubman, and the hardships she faced when trying to confront her fears and escape from slavery for the first time. 

+ This book is one with excellent pictures and a captivating story that makes students understand how hard it was to be a slave, and how unfair life was for many people during that time. 


14.Picture book – Pink y Say (English version: Pink and Say)


Polocco, Patricia, (1997). Pink y Say. (Alejandra Lopez Varela, trans.). New York: Lectorum.


This book tells the story of a white soldier who meets a black soldier and befriends him during the Civil War, and tells of their friendship and fate.  It is based on a true story.

+ I have this copy in Spanish for the native Spanish speakers in my class to follow along as I read it aloud in English to the class.  The pictures and text are very moving, which always stirs up a lot of emotion and discussion among students. 


15.Virginia Studies Weekly newspaper – “Virginia Studies Weekly”


Studies Weekly, Inc. (2006, Third Quarter). Virginia and the Civil

War.  Virginia Studies Weekly, pp. 2, 3.


The fourth grade orders a subscription to this newspaper for each student each year.  It connects with the Virginia studies curriculum, and adds many more interesting stories that students might never find without this newspaper.

+ I use the newspapers to discuss how newspapers are formatted, and the text features you can use to help read a newspaper.  It always has a lead article, as well as other “personal interest-type” stories.  The vocabulary is boldfaced, it is closely aligned with the SOLs, and students can write on their copy, complete crosswords and other activities on the back, and eventually keep it as a reference. 

- The text is sometimes fairly challenging for fourth graders (it is written at more of a late fourth, early fifth grade level.)  I pair ELL students up with native English speakers to “buddy read” when we use these newspapers. 





Family Dialogue Journals

                                                                                           February 5, 2007

Dear Families,

            Each week, your children will be writing a letter in their Family Dialogue Journals.  (This used to be called the Reading Response Journal, and will take the place of it.)  Each child’s letter is due in class on a certain day.  Your child’s journal must be shown to me on___________________ of every week. 

We are asking for your participation.  We ask that you (parents, grandparents, babysitter, older sister, brother, other family member, guardian, …) please write a response back to your child every week.  Try to keep a dialogue going with the children about the books they are currently reading.  For example, ask their opinions, give your opinions, make comparisons between the books and real life, movies, other books, etc.  Please try to get children to support their ideas.  For example, if they say, “I really liked that book,” you could respond by asking them to tell you why they liked the book, so they learn to think critically about the books they are reading.  Also, it would be helpful to students if you would please follow the format of this letter (date in upper right corner, salutation, closing, indented paragraphs) as closely as possible to give them a good model to follow.  Make sure your response is finished and given back to your child so that he/she has enough time to complete his/her weekly letter by the day it is due.

            Family Dialogue Journals are a proven method of helping children develop a deeper appreciation and understanding of reading.  Most students will really enjoy the weekly communication with you about what they are reading.  We will always be reading the letters, and grading children’s letters based on the checklist glued on the opposite page.  We will never grade or judge a family member’s response in any way.  If, on any given week, you do not ask questions for children to answer, or do not complete a response, your child is still expected to write a thoughtful letter that discusses what they have read during the week.

            We hope that you will all participate in this program with us, and we ask that you sign below to indicate your intent to do so. 

            Thank you very much for your support in this endeavor, and we hope that you enjoy learning all about your child’s reading this year!





                                                                                           Mrs. Bennett

                                                                                          and Mrs. Myer


Yes, I plan to write a weekly response to my child’s letters this quarter.





No, I will not be able to participate.