Quilt Unit Overview

This quilt unit is designed for a multi-level first and second grade at Wiley School in Urbana. There are twenty-four students in the class, fourteen second graders and ten first graders. The group of students is very diverse in terms of culture background, socio-economic groups, and skill levels. There are also several students with some special needs, one with ADHD, four receiving Title One services, four receiving Reading Recovery, three in speech, and one receiving occupational therapy. Some students are pulled out for periods of time to receive these services, while one of the Title One teachers works in our room for a half an hour in the morning.
The classroom reflects a true constructivist model, where learning is student directed, and often students choose the path which instruction follows. The room is set up in centers, and the teacher's role is one of a facilitator. There are several "meetings" during the day where new topics are introduced, instructions for centers are given, trade books are read and discussed, and author's chair is conducted. Besides those events, all other activities take place at the learning centers. At meetings we will be looking at quilts that are brought in by different students and teachers. While at the centers, students will have hands on opportunities to make patterns, investigate fibers, and construct their own family stories through the use of family artifacts.
"Teachable moments" are always taken advantage of in this class, in order to go off in directions where there is student interest. Unit planning is utilized in this classroom to provide a frame work for instruction and an opportunity for many extensions and directions. My cooperating teacher's philosophy is based on long term, in depth, integrated investigations.
For example, this year we are concentrating on time travel. We have traveled back to the early 1600's and come over from Europe to America on the Mayflower. From this we have studied many different aspects of colonial life and looked at the perspectives of the Native Americans as well. Looking at colonial America has provided a starting point for the study of quilts.
Quilts were one of the few personal items brought over from Europe, not only to serve as warm blankets, but also reminders of friends and family that remained behind. Our study of quilts branches out to look at quilts from many different time periods and cultural groups. From this perspective we will be concentrating on historical connections that quilts make between the everyday lives of individual people to what was important at that time in history. We will also be focused on the content areas of math (especially geometry), language arts, science, and art. The unit can be taught within a three to four week period. I have extended it into a semester long investigation, with many supplementary lessons and integration with other colonial activities that are ongoing within the room.
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