Our Land Publications – History Lessons for Upper Elementary and Middle School

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Assessed by Ellen Meade

One of the major problems with history textbooks is the presentation. Most books cover identical content by having students memorize important dates and key figures, with an occasional glimpse of primary sources. The result is an often bland recitation of history that ignores the most vital parts of what these events can teach us – bravery, heroism, morality, persistence, and honor are just a few. When history is presented as inevitable, simply a series of events that unfolded long ago, we lose the deeply divisive questions and decisions that people made when faced with unprecedented issues. How can we ever learn from them without truly understanding why they chose to act as they did?

Our Land Publications presents history in an innovative and engaging format that students enjoy. Each issue uses a newspaper-like format to make history interesting and relevant to any student. The unique formatting allows students to experience historical events through the eyes of the people living at the time. Students are encouraged to view history both objectively and without judgment. The ultimate goal of learning history is to understand our glorious achievements, in addition to the many mistakes that were made. Without this knowledge, we are doomed to repeat the mistakes and to forget how our ancestors achieved greatness.

The newspaper format allows information to be presented in a less intimidating manner than traditional textbooks, which are often dense and formal. The content is written using a 5th grade vocabulary, but includes all the vocabulary necessary for student understanding. The issues contain several lessons covering a specific time interval, and every single one can be taught independently or out of sequence. Parents can use the issues as a primary source for content, but many prefer to use them as a supplement to a traditional textbook. You can differentiate every lesson according to your student’s interests and skill-level by choosing to cover only “vital” content or utilizing “extra” content for more advanced students and there is plenty of flexibility built into the program.

The chronological arrangement of the lessons is fundamental to the Our Land series. Students learn the cause- and-effect of historical events, rather than focusing on the facts. The issues also help students to understand concurrent events that may not be directly related, but are an important part of the context surrounding key incidents. By combining all of these factors, the issues are able to present history in a novel way that resonates with students. They shed their modern perspective and are transported back in time; a time before the outcome was known. Every lesson challenges students to ask, “What would I have done” and “What should I have done,” instead of simply learning the events that transpired.

The teachers’ manual is essential to student success for the series. Not only will it help prepare you for teaching the material, every lesson is full of comments and suggestions to guide you through the entire process. The manual also includes everything you need for activities and assessment. It contains a midterm and final, but teachers can use the many activities for additional assessment needs. Students can complete maps, quizzes, or independent writing activities to ensure learning and comprehension throughout the series. Also, a section titled “Reaction Time” ends each lesson, offering the perfect opportunity for further classroom discussion, as well as additional assessment resources.

For more information, including pricing and additional series for individual states, visit their website at www.ourlandpublications.com. EM

Author: Michael Leppert

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