Created by : Michele Filosa, Kathryn Gunter, Sandra Minder and Gaby Teixeira

This unit is an interdisciplinary unit that focuses on social studies, reading, writing and technology. There are several different forms of new literacies that are utilized and effectively combined throughout this unit. The unit is designed for a fourth grade class, but can be adapted to higher grade levels as well. The new literacy activities that the students will be participating in are blogging, creating digital stories, electronic field trips and using web cams to communicate with their peer buddies. We chose to incorporate these technologies into our lessons because studies have found that the more the students are exposed to different technologies, the higher their achievement in school becomes (Dawson, 2007).

This unit will meet the needs of all learners and can be adapted and modified as need. It is extremely differentiated because there are many instances in which students are able to choose their product, content and process. Each assignment has a variety of topics for the students to choose from. “Choice opens up opportunities and provides students with varied experiences...their intrinsic motivation is linked to their interests. Students are simply more motivated....if they are able to act on their interest through choice.”(Marzano, 2007). New literacies that students are exposed to and involved with each day, allow them to make meaning, interact with their learning environment, use their own interests to guide their learning, answer their own questions and become experts in the areas that interest them most.

Peer buddies will be paired up from two separate schools on the east coast. The students will be from two different socio-economic areas. One school is in a suburban district and the other is an urban school district. The students will be able to use their varied experiences to participate in and contribute to discussions about their novels and other literary experiences they will be engaged in throughout this unit. The students will also use their varied background knowledge to offer differing and/or similar viewpoints on issues that will be addressed in the novels. The students will be paired based on their teachers collaborative input prior to the beginning of the unit. The students will have several opportunities to interact with not only their buddies, but students in both classes. The students will be pair based on their reading level and personalities. There will be a variety of levels of literature available for the students to choose from and they will be guided, by thier teachers, towards a novel that is appropriate to their reading level.

This unit is focused on bringing history to life for the students in these two classes. It is also focused on allowing students from different parts of the country and backgrounds to experience the same materials, spaces and information. It will give them a chance to interact with each other about how they understand or think about these things differently. They will be given several opportunities to make meaning out of what they are learning, together. Using web cams will allow students to communicate with each other easily and immediately in real time. One of the things that makes new literacies new is that they allow people using them to do things that they were not able to do before. In this case, by using Skype and a web cam, students are able to communicate with one another much more effectively then they could have with the use of email or as pen pals. They can share their thoughts and have a discussion just as they could if they were in a classroom together. Oftentimes, when simply using email, texting or even an old fashioned letter, things can be ‘lost in translation’ and can often be misinterpreted by the reader. By using a webcam, it will allow students to see each other and read each other’s body language and non verbal cues. It will also allow them to get to know each other, as if they were physically in the same space, which is something that can not be done through a letter or email. This will be especially beneficial for students who struggle with social or writing skills. It will allow students who struggle with social skills to practice interacting with a peer, in a way that may be less threatening to them, since there is a computer screen between them. Similarly, it will allow students who struggle with writing to verbally communicate their thoughts and ideas before writing about them in their blogs. This will give them the opportunity to gather ideas and piggy-back off of thoughts that their peers had.

Using blogging throughout this unit will allow the students to have a broader conversation about their readings with their peers in their class and in the cooperating classroom. The students will be able to respond to the questions that other students are posting or post their own questions. Even though they will not all be reading the same novel, the topic will all be focused around the Revolutionary War, so they will be able to relate to one another. The characters in the novels may encounter similar challenges, have similar internal struggles and share some character traits. The events and settings of the novels will also relate to what they had learned previously in social studies. As students write and read blogs they may be gathering information, analyzing that information, evaluating the information, and synthesizing the information. Students can then read what other students thought about the same book and possible connect to their thoughts or consider the story from a different vantage point. This type of interactive environment or participatory culture (Jenkins, 2009) allows students to continuously change and expand the way they are thinking about their reading. It may also encourage them to question their own thoughts, the intentions of the author or the thoughts of others. Blogging, as a new literacy, is highlighting on the higher order thinking skills of analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating. By using those higher order thinking skills, blogging is promoting literacy through reading comprehension (Zawilinski, 2009)

Using digital stories with students is also another effective way to teach a concept or to allow students to demonstrate their understanding. Digital storytelling allows learners to become creative in telling a story. The students will begin with the traditional writing process of choosing a topic, doing research, writing a script, and developing the story they wish to tell. Once they have their storyboard complete they combine their story with different modalities on the computer. Digital stories can include images, video clips, text, and music (Robin, 2008). Digital stories help to keep the student interested in the topic. Researchers have found that using different modalities in a digital story enhances students’ comprehension skills of the topic that is being introduced (Robin, 2008). Additional benefits of digital stories are that students have shown increased achievement in higher-order thinking skills-synthesizing, analyzing, evaluating, and presenting information (Robin, 2008).

Throughout this curriculum unit, students will participate in two virtual field trips. They will be visiting sites of Revolutionary War battles and other places that had significance during this time in order to gain a better understanding of the life their characters lead. They will witness a reenactment of a battle and ‘meet’ some of the important women that lived during this time. They will also be given the opportunity to pose questions to a panel of historians and experts. These field trips will keep the students engaged and help make history come to life for them. It will be highly effective for students that are visual and auditory learners. A study done by Tally & Goldenberg (2005) reveals that 87% of students thought that they learned more by using technology in their history class and as a result 72% said that they had more favorable attitudes about the subject. Digital field trips are a great way to get kids interested in history. They would be able to see the places where historical events occur and perhaps be able to relate to these events a bit more. Learning is not about remembering dates and events, it about making meaning out of the information that you are given and this would help students experience the places that they are learning about without ever leaving the classroom.

Journell (2007) stated: “ Technology creates endless possibilities to enhance instruction to the point that students become enamored with learning….The use of technology in classrooms seems to help raise the self-esteem of low socioeconomic students by creating environments that foster student participation…Technology may prove invaluable in low socioeconomic, urban areas where students often exhibit disconcerting attitudes towards education.” When students are able to use technology to work on assignments they are not only learning about the assigned topic, but also learning problem-solving and synthesizing skills. The learner needs to be able to synthesize the information found through technology and determine its importance for their assignment at hand (Dawson, 2007). The benefits of these assignments are even greater when the students are able to collaborate with their peers to create new meaning together. In order to ensure that students can reap all of the benefits of utilizing this technology that is available, lessons may take more then one day to complete. The length of this unit can vary between 2-4 weeks depending on the size of the classes, the speed of Internet access and the technological literacies of the teacher and the students. How-to days can be inserted as needed, where the teacher can allow students who are literate in the particular technology to be the expert and teach the class how to use the technology effectively.


English-Language Arts Standards-Reading: Literature-Grade 4

R.4.1 Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.

R.4.2 Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text; summarize the text.

R.4.3 Describe in depth a character, setting, or event in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., a character’s thoughts, words, or actions).

R.4.7 Make connections between the text of a story or drama and a visual or oral presentation of the text, identifying where each version reflects specific descriptions and directions in the text.

English-Language Arts Standards-Reading: Writing-Grade 4

W.4.6 With some guidance and support from adults, use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing skills as well as to interact and collaborate with others; demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of one page in a single setting.

National Educational Technology Standards for Students

1. Creativity and Innovation – Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology.

2. Communication and Collaboration – Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others.

2a. Interact, collaborate, and publish with peers, experts, or others employing a variety of digital environments and media.

2d. Contribute to project teams to produce original works or solve problems.

3. Research and Information Fluency – Students apply digital tools to gather, evaluate, and use information.

3a. Plan strategies to guide inquiry.

3b. Locate, organize, analyze, evaluate, synthesize, and ethically use information from a variety of sources and media.

3c. Evaluate and select information sources and digital tools based on the appropriateness to specific tasks.

4. Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making – Students use critical thinking skills to plan and conduct research, manage projects, solve problems, and make informed decisions using appropriate digital tools and resources.

6. Technology Operations and Concepts – Students demonstrate a sound understanding of technology concepts, systems, and operations.


blogs, independent reading, historical fiction, novels, digital story, Revolutionary War, Loyalist, Patriot, locative media.


By the end of the Unit, students will be able to:
  • Develop a clear understanding of how to appropriately interact with peers online and communicate their thoughts using various new literacies.
  • Use their historical fiction novels, including The Young American Series by Susan Olasky , The My America Series by Kristiana Gregory, Early Thunders by Jean Fritz, My Brother Sam is Dead by James and Chris Collier, to interact with their peer reading buddies.
  • Build an understanding of text and apply that understanding by interacting with their peers to respond to and write blog posts related to character, setting, problem, solution, theme;
  • Build background knowledge about the setting and lifestyle of which their characters lived, by participating in an electronic field trip.
  • Synthesize and analyze information they have learned in their novel and electronic field trip to prepare questions for panel of history experts.
  • identify a specific area of interest, related to the topic being taught and understand how to independently and collaboratively investigate this idea further.
  • Develop new and traditional literacy skills, using various forms of technology, and understand the process used to create a final product.
  • Locate and annotate one important location from their historical fiction novel to the Google Map.
  • Apply their understanding of locative media by incorporating various forms of media into their Google Map project to reflect how they experienced the space.
  • Practice their public speaking skills by delivering an oral presentation to the class that focuses on the blogging project, digital story, and locative media activity.



computers with Internet access

Video-sharing Web sites

Digital Storytelling Software

GarageBand (Apple)

iPhoto (Apple)

Photo Story (Microsoft)

MovieMaker (Microsoft)

iMovie (Apple)

Google Docs

Word processing

Blogging software


Historical fiction novel

Digital Story Rubric

Blogging Rules and Netiquette Handout

Blogging Rubric

Peer-Buddy Contract

Peer-Buddy Log

Locative Media Rubric



Resources for Teachers and Students

A resource for teachers to learn more about digital storytelling. The site provides examples of digital stories as well as ideas to create new digital stories.

A resource for teachers and students. The site provides access to images and materials that can be used to create a digital story.

A resource for teachers and students. This site provides examples of digital story storyboards. There are storyboard templates available on the site.

A resource for teachers and students. The students will use Google Docs to create their storyboard and digital story with their peer buddy. The teachers will be able to view the progress of the digital story by following the group’s Google Doc.

A resource for students to gather information about the Revolutionary War. The site provides information, pictures, and facts about the Revolutionary War.

A resource for teachers and students. The site provides video clips and pictures about the Revolutionary War.

An education blogging service where students and teachers can create and manage blogs.

The Cool Cat Teacher Blog:
A blog post that provides students with advice for how to make meaningful comments on blogs.

Locative Media Resources:
You can view basic or custom maps and local business information. View satellite images of your desired location that you can zoom and pan.

Google Maps API – use this website to put Google Maps on your own web site.

This websitelets you “fly” to any place on Earth. You can view satellite imagery, maps, terrain, 3D buildings – from galaxies in outer space to the canyons of the ocean.

This website is a Center for Locative Media. It includes projects, workshops, resources, and a blog about Locative Media.

Virtual Field Trip Resources:
This is a resource that allows teachers to create an account and choose from a variety of Electronic Field Trips. They are all related to the Revolutionary and Civil War.

This site provides students and teachers with Revolutionary War information. There are various timelines, videos, pictures and artifacts that students can browse through, just like they could in a museum.

This website includes a list of various virtual field trip websites for teachers to explore. There are field trips that will match many different units of study in Social Studies.

Works Cited
Dawson, K. (2007). The role of teacher inquiry in helping prospective teachers untangle the complexities of technology use in classrooms. Journal of Computing in Teacher Education, 24 (1), 5-11.

Jenkins, H. (2006). Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Available from: __

Journell, W. (2007). The Inequities of the Digital Divide: is e-learning a solution?. E-Learning, 4 (2), 138-149

Marzano, R. (2007). The art and science of teaching. Alexandria, VA: Association for supervision and Curriculum Development.

Robin, B. (2008). Digital storytelling: a powerful technology tool for the 21st century classroom. Theory Into Practice, 47, 220-228.

Shamburg, C. (2008). English language arts units for grades 9-12. Washington, DC: International Society for Technology in Education.

Tally, B. & Goldenberg, L.B. (2005) Fostering Historical Thinking with Digitalized Primary Sources, Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 38, 1-21

Wilber, D. (2010). iWrite: Using blogs, wikis, and digital stories in the English classroom. Portsmouth, NH: Heineman.

Zawilinski, L. (2009). HOT blogging: a framework for blogging to promote higher order thinking. The Reading Teacher, 62 (8), 650-661.

Common Core State Standards Initiative:


The students will be assigned a peer buddy from another school. Through the use of web cams and Skype, the students will introduce themselves to their buddy. Prior to introducing themselves, the students will understand how to effectively peer buddy read. Students will review and sign a peer buddy contract (see handout titled Best Buddies Contract). Then, after meeting their peer buddy, the students will discuss and plan out a reading calendar for the historical fiction novel they will be reading (see handout titled Reading Buddy Planning Sheet).

The students will be introduced to blogging today in response to the historical fiction novels they are reading. Throughout the course of the novel they are reading, students will become members of a class blog, in which they will post questions and comments in response to what they are reading with reading buddy.

Prior to blogging, students will set up their blogs and understand how to stay safe when online, such as not revealing last names, the name of their school, or any personal information (ie, phone numbers, address, email, birthday, etc.). Students will receive and review blogging rules and netiquette (see handout titled Blogging Rules and Netiquette). They will also review some advice for how to write meaningful comments (see The Cool Cat Teacher Blog at __ for tips on comment).

Students will be required to write at least six blogs over the course of the two week period. They must also comment on each blog that their buddies write each week. Students are encouraged to comment on other classmates’ blogs as well, but their main focus should be on their buddy’s and their own blogs. Blog entries should be related to their reading for the night, and may include questions related to characters, setting, problems, solutions, theme, connections the students may have to the reading. In their blogs, they should ask their buddies thought provoking questions that encourage their buddy to refer to the text for support. As they progress through the book, blogs should to as well; students should focus on what they are currently reading and make predictions about future events in the novel.

Students will be required to write a wrap-up blog in which they discuss their thoughts on the novel, events that have happened, favorite parts, and a rating and explanation. They should also include a review of the buddy reading project and what they enjoyed the most and least about it.

Today the students will be taking an Electronic Field Trip, to Williamsburg Virginia. They will be able to experience what life was like for people that lived there during the time of the Revolutionary War. Students will be able to see what life may have been like for the characters in their novels, as well as type of environment in which they lived. Each class will go on the Virtual trip and then they will meet on Skype and discuss what they thought about it. The students had a list of questions to respond to while they were on the ‘trip’ and there is also a section for ‘Questions I still’ have, which the student will discuss with his peer buddy and together they will investigate to find the answer. This type of investigation will allow the students to learn more based on a specific area of interest. Allowing them to further research the particular aspect of the trip or of the Revolutionary War that interests them, will keep them engaged in the topic.

The teachers will show students an example of a digital story that they have collaboratively created. The students will discuss how to create digital stories, using the model as a reference. The students will understand that digital stories are created by using still images, video, text, audio, music, and narrative. The students will be given models of digital stories created by other elementary students. The students will create their digital story with their peer buddy that they are paired with. They will be given three options for their digital story. The three options include:

1 – Create a digital story based on the book that you and your peer buddy read (The Young American Series by Susan Olasky , The My America Series by Kristiana Gregory, Early Thunders by Jean Fritz, My Brother Sam is Dead by James and Chris Collier). Retell the story using still images, video, text, audio, music, and narrative.

2 - Create a digital story based on your (you and your peer buddy) favorite scene from your historical novel.

3 – Create a digital story explaining how the virtual field trip helped you understand the setting of the America Revolution. Explain by using still images, video, text, audio, music, and narrative.

After the students/peer buddies choose their topic, they will review and discuss the digital story rubric. By reviewing the rubric before working on the digital story, students will know what is expected of their digital stories.

The learner will begin the process of creating a digital story by working on a storyboard for their chosen digital story. Storyboards lay out ideas in sequential order to create the digital story. The students will work on their storyboards with their peer buddies. They will create a draft of their storyboard on Google Docs and revise/edit the storyboard with their peer buddy. Once their storyboard is complete, the students will begin creating their digital story. The students will incorporate still images, video, text, audio, and music into their digital story based on the option that they chose to use. They will use programs such as iMovie, GarageBand, iPhoto, MovieMaker, and Photo Story to create their digital stories.

The students will be introduced to locative media in response to the historical fiction novels they are reading. The students will understand that locative media involves a social interaction with a place and with technology. They will join a class Google Map, in which they will locate and annotate one important location from the historical fiction novels they are reading. The students will plan out their locative media project with their peer buddy that they are paired with and decide what other forms of media they would like to include in their project.

After the students/peer buddies choose their location, they will review and discuss the locative media rubric. By reviewing the rubric before working on the locative media project, students will know what is expected of their Google Map.

The students will begin the process of creating a locative media project with their peer buddies by working on the class Google Map for their chosen location. They will decide on what other forms of media they would like to include in their locative media project and begin incorporating them.

During lesson 7, the students will continue working on their locative media project with their peer buddy. They will be using Google Map and incorporating the other forms of media they chose to include in their locative media project. The students need to continue working on editing and finishing their locative media projects, which will be presented to the class on the last day of this unit.

In lesson 8 students will be participating in another electronic field trip. This one will be about Women of the Revolution. Many of their books speak mainly of the male characters and figures that were important in the Revolutionary War. This electronic field trip will show them what kinds of roles women had during this time. they will be able to see a re-enactment of what life was like at that time and then they can pose questions to a panel of historians and actors, in real-time, using a web cam. This will allow them to receive immediate feedback to their questions from a panel of experts. It will also keep them engaged in the ‘trip’, since their questions will be played over the television on which they will be watching this field trip.

During lesson 9, the students will continue working on their digital story with their peer buddy. The students will be using iMovie, GarageBand, iPhoto, MovieMaker, and Photo Story to incorporate all necessary parts into their digital story. The students need to make sure that they are using still images, video, text, audio, and music in their digital stories. If the students chose the virtual field trip option for their digital story, they may wish to include more information from the second virtual field trip that was part of lesson 8. The students need to continue working on editing their digital story by using iMovie or MovieMaker.

When students have completed their novels, blogging activity, digital story, and locative media project, they will be required to do a presentation with their buddy that will take approximately five minutes. During this presentation, students will reflect on their blogging activity, present their digital story to the rest of the class, and explain their locative media project. They will present the locative media project to their class and explain what they did for it. At the end of the presentation, there should be a question and answer session to further inquire about the projects. The purpose of this presentation day, is to have the students reflect on the processes they followed to reach the final product, the learning that happened along the way and how the overall experience helped them better understand the novel. They will also be able to further their understanding of the Revolutionary War by viewing the work that their classmates have created.

Digital Story Rubric
3 points
2 points
1 point
0 points

Complete and detailed evidence of planning throughout entire storyboard including sketches, sequencing, pacing, and consistent storytelling.
Evidence of planning through most of storyboard. Includes sketches, sequencing, pacing, and storytelling.
Evidence of planning through less than half of storyboard including sketches, sequencing, pacing, and storytelling.
Little to no evidence of planning.
Content and Theme
Content is clearly relevant to story and theme, message is clear.
Content has some relevance to story and theme, message is clear with some confusing parts.
Content has little relevance to story and theme, message is not clear.
Content has no relevance to story and theme. There is no message.
Components of Digital Story
All components of a digital story are included – still images, video, text, audio, and music (5 total).
4 out of the 5 components are used in the digital story.
3 out of the 5 components are used in the digital story.
Less than 3 components are used in the digital story.
Transitions, effects, audio, and edits are appropriate to the subject matter, add to the flow of the video, and do not distract from the video.
Most transitions, effects, audio, and edits are appropriate to the subject matter, add to the flow of the video, and do not distract from the video.
Some transitions, effects, audio, and edits are appropriate to the subject matter, add to the flow of the video, and do not distract from the video.
Little to no transitions, effects, audio, and edits are appropriate to the subject matter.
Project turned in on the due date.
Project turned in one day late.
Project turned in 2 days late.
Project turned in more than 2 days late.
*Adapted from:

Blogging RubricAs you read your historical fiction novels and as you are meeting with your peer buddy, record some of the thoughts you have. During guided reading time, post a blog using these thoughts to write a clear and insightful paragraph. Be sure that your blog post:
*Includes a connection, prediction, inference, visualization, question and/or a synthesis. (4 pts.)
*3-5 Sentences (2 pts.)
*Focuses on main idea or highlights character traits for a special character (3pts)
*Poses a question or comments on other posts (4 pts.)
*Shows quality work with lots of thoughtfulness and focus. (2pts)
* No spelling, grammar or capitalization mistakes. (1 pt.)

It is important to remember that because blogging is a public activity, anything that is written is posted on the Internet for all to see, even though it may be listed as private. This should be kept in mind when commenting and posting to your blog.

When using your blog, you must remember that whatever you post, will be seen by your classmates therefore, do not post anything you do not want classmates to see or comment on. Before submitting each blog, please read the following set of rules so that your blog post and comments can be meaningful ones that you are comfortable sharing. You should be proud of your work!

  • Try to spell everything correctly and remember proper grammar. Proofread your work before submitting.
  • So not post pictures of yourself or others. It is important to stay safe online.
  • All work submitted on your blog should be your own, therefore, do not plagiarize or use someone else’s work unless you give that person credit.
  • Keep all information related to your novel; avoid socializing with your reading buddy.
  • Be respectful to all bloggers. Do not criticize your reading buddy when commenting.
  • Share your point of view, but remember that not all reading buddies have to agree on everything. Remain positive.
  • When commenting, it is good to ask one question, so that you can hopefully keep the conversation flowing.

(Adapted from Shamburg’s English Language Arts Units for Grades 9-12)

Best Buddies Contract
This is an agreement between _ (insert name of student) and
_ (insert name of Book Buddy). We agree to become Book Buddies. We know that reading with someone is a good way to become a better reader. We promise to read together every day. We will read out loud to each other or silently to ourselves. We also promise to talk about what we have read together.
Student’s signature_ Date
Book Buddy’s signature_ Date_
1. Write in the dates for any given month.
2. Put a check mark also in a box for each day you and your Book Buddy read together for at least 15 minutes.
3. Return the completed calendar to your teacher within three days of completion.

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

*Adopted %20Contract.doc
Reader’s Name: _ Partner’s Name:
Reading Buddy Planning Sheet
Title of Chosen Book: _
Genre: ___
“Meet the Book” Meeting: Date: / /
Ÿ What do you think the book will be about?
Ÿ Have you read other books in the series or by the same author?
Ÿ Complete a Prediction Story Web
Ÿ Set-up First Discussion Meeting: Read to Page # _
First Discussion Meeting: Date: / /
Ÿ What is happening in the book so far? (Retell the story together)
Ÿ Share “thick” questions and discuss your answers.
Ÿ Discuss and record predictions about what will happen next in the story.
Ÿ Set-up Second Discussion Meeting: Read to Page # _
Second Discussion Meeting: Date: / /
Ÿ What is happening in the book so far? (Retell the story together)
Ÿ Share “thick” questions and discuss your answers.
Ÿ Discuss and record predictions about what will happen next in the story.
Ÿ Set-up next meeting: Page # _
Final Discussion Meeting: Date: / /
Ÿ What happened at the end? (Retell the ending together)
Ÿ Were you surprised by the way the story ended? Did you like the ending?
Ÿ Prepare for your book talk.
*Adopted from:__

Locative Media Rubric
Name: _
Date: _
Class: _
Presentation Title:

Presentation Score:

Entry- 1
Emergent- 2
Proficient- 3
1. Organization of Map
-location is plotted incorrectly

-includes irrelevant information
-location is plotted near actual location

- includes important information
-location is plotted correctly

- includes unique information about the location
2. Annotation
-several typo errors

-does not engage audience
-a few typo errors

-engages audience
-no typo errors

-creative use of ideas
3. Other forms of media
-no images, sound, or video clips
-uses at least one image, sound, or video clip
-uses several images, sounds, or video clips
4. Credits for materials used
-includes no credits
-includes at least one credit
-includes credits for all images, sounds, video clips, and copyrighted text used

* Adopted from Utah Education Network: __