Monday, July 20, 2015

Comparing First- and Second-Hand Accounts in Grade 4

Iconic image of Buzz Aldrin on the moon. 
Yesterday morning Rob read a small article to me about the what Americans believe.  According to the article, 7% of Americans believe that the July 1969 moon landing was a hoax.  Yes, a hoax. I was thinking about that a bit and was pleased at the new unit of study fourth graders will be engaged with this coming year as it focuses on the first moon landing.  In this unit, students spend some time reading and viewing first-hand accounts of the July1969 moon landing, and playing a simulation game. They also read a few second-hand accounts. (bibliography at end of post)

One of the culminating tasks students undertake is to compare and contrast a first-hand and second-hand accounts.  The task initially is:
  1. Reread the text (Moonshot) again. 
  2. Ask students to compare this second-hand account with the first-hand accounts by Collins and Aldrin they have read and the video-based first-hand account by Neil Armstrong. 
  3. Ask them to write responses to these questions. Provide copies of Aldrin’s book so students can review it and the Collins’ chapter they already have, as well as access to the video:

  • How are these accounts similar?  
  • In what ways are the first-hand accounts different from Moonshot
  • How does the author's participation in an event shape the focus and information presented in an account? 
  • What is the value of reading both firsthand and secondhand accounts of the same event? (RI. 4.6)
After students have had sometime to gather and record some thoughts, it's time to talk. Using the Snowball Technique students discuss their views.


  1. After students have completed their responses invite them to partner with a student and discuss the first two question:
How are the accounts similar? In what ways are the first-hand accounts different from Moonshot
  1. After about 3 to 5 minutes of conversation, ask students to make groups of four (partners should remain together) and discuss the question.
  2. Then provide the group of four with a third question:
How does the author's participation in an event shape the focus and information presented in an account?
  1. Have the groups of four discuss this question for about 5 minutes and then have them join with another group of four and discuss both questions.
  2. Have the groups of eight discuss the question for about 5 minutes.
  3. Then invite the entire class to discuss the last question for about 6 to 8 minutes.

What is the value of reading both firsthand and secondhand accounts of the same event?

I've used Snowball frequently and have found that it really does help to open conversations at the whole class level.  If you try it, let me know what you find:)


Bibliography

  1. Aldrin, Buzz. (2008). Reaching for the Moon. Paintings by Wendell Minor. New York: HarperCollins. (860L)
  2. Armstrong, Neil.  (1969). Video: First Steps on the Moon. Retrieved 6.24.15 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RMINSD7MmT4.
  3. 60 Minutes Interview. (2002). Interview with Neil Armstrong. Retrieved 6.27.15 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O3h1V3nzn0A . 
  4. Collins, Michael. (1994). Flying to the Moon: An Astronaut’s Story.  New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. (1170L)
  5. Floca, Brian. (2009). Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11. New York: Richard Jackson Books. (990L)
  6. Granath, Bob. (2015). “Former Astronauts Recall Historic First Moon Landing. ” NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Florida. Retrieved 6.24.15 from http://www.nasa.gov/content/former-astronauts-recall-historic-first-moon-landing . 
  7. Kennedy, John F. (1962). We Chose to Go to the Moon. Video. “Retrieved 7.1.15 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g25G1M4EXrQ .
  8. We Chose the Moon Interactive Site. John F. Kennedy Library. 
  9. Walliman, Dominic. (2013). Professor Astro Cat's Frontiers of Space. Illustrated by Ben Newman. London UK: Flying Eye Books.


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