Love Fourth-Grade Students Discover Colonial Era Trades Through ELA

“Help Wanted” ads line the fourth-grade hallway in Love Elementary School, but they aren’t for jobs. They’re meant to illustrate trades that were popular during the Colonial American time period. Students created the ads and job applications in all fourth-grade classrooms as part of an English language arts module on Colonial America.

“Students became the experts in their trades including shoemaker, blacksmith and cooper,” said Chris Yocum, Love Elementary School teacher. “They used multiple sources such as nonfiction passages, Internet and podcasts to synthesize information, find the pertinent details and use their writing skills to create a job description. Students gained an understanding of the challenges colonists faced and their resourcefulness as they built a new life in America. They also gained a deeper understanding of how colonists depended on each other for survival, and begin to explore gender roles in colonies and colonial households. Students learned to support their inferences with examples and details from complex informational text.”

Love Elementary School fourth-grade teachers Joe Hall, Jill Smith, Tina Spontaneo and Yocum helped students to continue to build their research skills as they deepen their knowledge about colonial life, specifically the roles of various craftspeople in colonial settlements. First, they created a character profile of a wheelwright who might have lived during Colonial America and also worked as a class to write a practice narrative about the wheelwright.

“Printers had to be able to read, write and run a printing press,” said Jocef Laboy, Love Elementary School fourth-grader. “They also used leather-covered balls to print things like poems, newspapers and bibles.”

The latter part of the unit involves students writing multiple drafts, focusing on historically accurate information, a strong narrative arc, and effective use of dialogue by creating the “Help Wanted” ads and job descriptions. Using their background knowledge, they wrote the ads by using specific details from the text. Students also pretended to be a Colonial American who was applying for that same trade. They used academic vocabulary to produce writing that was appropriate for the purpose, a job application.

“I didn’t know that shoemakers had to make or find their own materials for the shoes,” said Toreion Leeper, Love Elementary School fourth-grader. “I also didn’t know how important shoes were to the people in Colonial America. Not everyone had carts or horses, only the rich, and everyone else had to walk everywhere on really hard and muddy roads. So, shoemakers were very important back then to not only make shoes but repair them too. I have never filled out a job application before, so I didn’t know you had to sign it in cursive so it would be legal.”