Capital ELA: Why One Language Arts Teacher Chose D.C. For Her Students
When you think about Middle School class trips to Washington D.C., you generally think of them being led by history or social studies teachers. Rebekah E., an English teacher from Texas leading a group of 35 students to D.C. in June, is here to dispel that myth. Rebekah shares with us through why she integrated this travel experience into her curriculum, how it supports her English Language education goals and how she’s been preparing her students for this trip in the classroom.
1. What made you decide to integrate a travel experience into your ELA curriculum?
Most of my career has been in elementary school, where I loved taking students on field trips. I have taken younger students to local museums and places of interest, as well as longer, local overnight trips with parent chaperones. These experiences really helped to bond students together and learn more about each other. In addition to that, students began to see their teacher as more than just an adult in the classroom. They saw us as a human being, out experiencing the real world together. Upon moving to middle school to begin the second stage in my teaching career, I realized that now I had access to the entire world to share with students. I feel that boarding a plane and going to a faraway place that they have only read about will truly make their understanding of the written word literally come to life around them. A deeper understanding is at the heart of all learning – and nothing could give more depth to a topic than experiencing it firsthand.
2. D.C. is sometimes associated as a destination for history or government courses: What about D.C. appealed to you to support an English curriculum?
In my district, English and Social Studies go hand-in-hand. In fact, we are collectively known as the humanities department. Many of the topics in social studies seep into our literature and non-fiction. For example, learning about the holocaust in Alan Gratz’s book Prisoner B-3087 or practicing comprehension skills by reading about the lives of famous people like Neil Armstrong or Abraham Lincoln. Reading and history just naturally go together. We recently completed a writing project called Changemakers in which we studied some of the writings and speeches of people like Martin Luther King, Jr. Having an opportunity to then go to Washington DC and stand in the presence of his majestic new statue…no words can compare to how that will make one feel. DC is full of Changemakers and getting to the heart of understanding how change is so vital to our democracy can conceivably change the course of these young students’ minds and lives.
3. What part of the itinerary are you most excited for your students to experience?
My students are very excited to stand before the commanding new Martin Luther King, Jr. statue. They have read his writing, listened to his speeches and written about him themselves. They are also extremely fascinated with WWII and the plight of the Jewish people in Nazi Germany, so they are anxious to see what they can further learn from visiting the Holocaust Museum. In addition, these kids have seen many of the famous sites and memorials around D.C. on television and in print, so now they are ready to experience them up close and in person.
4. How are you preparing your students for this trip? Have you leveraged any of ACIS’ lesson plans and classroom resources?
My 6th graders spend quite a bit of time reading books about WWII, in addition to stories about the lives of many of the historical figures that we will be illuminating on our trip. We have looked at some of the lives of these famous people through the lens of changemaking. We have also studied Chimamanda Adichie’s The Danger of a Single Story and written about our own struggles with identity. Almost every day we are reading or talking about something either current in the news or in history in our English classroom. The connections are seemingly endless.
5. Is this trip something you’d hope to make an annual school tradition?
This will be my “maiden voyage” with ACIS. After going on the ACIS-sponsored training trip to D.C., I am confident that my summer journey to our nation’s capital with students will become a part of my legacy at my new school. I expect to build and perfect my trip each year, not only through what I do in the classroom, but what we do on the summer trip as well…so the best is yet to come!
Are you ready to bring lessons to life for your students? We have three pre-planned D.C. itineraries for you to explore. If you like to think outside the box we are also happy to build something custom to bring your imagination to life.