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Schools Long Ago

Lesson Plan Item

General Information
Grade 1st Grade Class N/A Length of Lesson 30-45 Min
Lesson Title Schools Long Ago
Unit Title Schools Long Ago
Unit Compelling Question How much do schools in the past and in other places around the world differ from ones today in America?
Historical Context:

-Schools are constantly changing and it’s important for children to recognize how much schools have changed. Many artifacts are used in this lesson. The artifacts are helpful for the students because they get to see pictures from time periods long ago and compare them to their schools today.


Iowa's one-room school system saw the establishment of between 12,000 and 14,000 one room schools across Iowa - more one-room school houses than any other state.  The first was built in 1830 in Lee County in southeastern Iowa - before Iowa was a territory, let alone a state.   Students in one-room schools typically ranged from age 5 to 14 years (eighth grade).  One teacher taught all students reading, writing, and arithmetic.  Memorization was a key aspect of learning in the one-room school.  School consolidation began around 1900 and became more widespread as the automobile became more prevelant and the rural road system developed.  Many one-room schools were used until 1967, when the Iowa legislature removed them from service, encouraging districts to share programs, buildings, and staff.




-This artifact is a picture of a Kerosene heater that could be found in one-room schoolhouses. This heater could be moved around the room and was very useful during the cold, winter months. Students could compare their heating systems in their school to this portable heater used in the past.



-This artifact is a picture of a wooden pointer that would be seen in old one-room schoolhouses. The use of the pointer could vary. It was mainly used for pointing to information on the chalk board so students could easily follow along, but it would sometimes be used as a “discipline” tool by smacking the knuckles of students who misbehaved. Students can use this artifact to discuss if pointers are still used in classrooms today, and if so, how have they changed. Also a discussion about how discipline has changed in schools. 



-This artifact is a picture of a writing slate. These chalk writing slates would be used in school houses during the late 1800s. A discussion with students about this artifact could take place, talking about if they have used chalk on a chalkboard before, what has seemed to take place of the slate and chalk? (paper and pencil, whiteboards and markers) Students could also use a writing slate if the teacher has some available. 



-This artifact is a photo of the first school in Kanawha, Iowa in 1900. This photo shows how the oxen are moving the school building into town. This artifact can be used for showing students' schools from long ago, discussing the looks of the outside of the school, and discuss why there are oxen around the school. 



-This artifact is a picture of Eureka School, which was located in Rice Township, Ringgold County, Iowa. The building only cost $500 to build and was only 26 feet x 27 feet. Students could discuss how this school from the past looks and how it compares to schools today. Comparisons to the cost of the students' school and how big their school is could be made to the Eureka School.

Lesson Supporting Question What did schools in America look like in the past?
Lesson Overview

This lesson will look at pictures of American schools and items found in one-room schoolhouses from the past and allow students to compare them to their school today. This lesson will help students think like an historian by allowing them to ponder questions that historians may ask.

Primary Sources Used
Resources Needed

Video clip (1:24-1:58) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4sZ_9hkeDic


Long Ago vs Today worksheet https://drive.google.com/file/d/1PJewjXEU3nj52iQ8WVH7yPdXZaJVsyam/view?u...

Lesson Target
  • The students will discuss each photo and how it differs/relates to schools today.
  • The students will fill out a Long Ago vs Today worksheet, by gluing the correct pictures to the correct column with 100% accuracy.
  • The students will fill out a 3-2-1 using their learned knowledge from the lesson about schools long ago.
Lesson Themes No themes are assigned for this lesson.
Lesson Procedure
Step Procedure Time Differentiation plan / Additional Information
Bell Ringer 

-Without telling the students that you are showing them schools, hand out pictures to each student of the Eureka School and the school in Kanawha, Iowa. 

-Have the students discuss at the tables what they think the buildings in the photos are.

-After a minute of the table discussions, ask the class for their thoughts of what they think the buildings are.

-After hearing students answer, explain that the buildings in the photos are pictures of old schools in Iowa. 

-Tell the students that today we will look at other pictures of aspects of schools from long ago and compare them to schools today. 

3 Minutes   
Teacher Tell the students to put the photos of the old schools into their Social Studies/History folder. 1 Min  

-“After looking at the outside of the old schools, it’s time to look at objects that may have been found in old schools”.

-Ask the students to move up to the carpet.

-Project the photo of the heater, pointer, and the slate.

-Describe each photo.

-Ask questions about each photo:

Have you seen these items before?

What would these items look like today? Or would you still see these items in schools today?

Why do you think they used these items in schools long ago?
7 Min  If there are students in the class that are not able to sit on the carpet due to reasons such as behavioral issues, injury, or special needs, then  they can sit around the carpet in a chair.
Students  Students will answer these questions and discuss each photo as a whole class. 3 Min  Students who are struggling can be paired with students who need more of a challenge. They can discuss the questions together before answering in front of the class.

Watch a short, 30-second clip of a one-room schoolhouse and discuss questions such as… 

What did you see in that video?

What are some key characteristics of a one-room schoolhouse? What stood out to you the most about the one-room schoolhouse?

How have schools changed? 
2 Min   
Students Students will answer these questions and discuss the video as a whole class. 3 Min  Students who are struggling can be paired with students who need more of a challenge. They can discuss the questions together before answering in front of the class.
Transition  -The students will walk back to their desks and take a seat. Have them clear off any stray items on their desk that may distract them. 1 Min   

Explain the Long Ago vs Today worksheet to the students.

The students are to cut the pictures out, sort them and glue them into the proper category (either long ago or today).
2 Min   
Student The students will complete the worksheet and turn it into the teacher. 7 Min 

For students who need more help, they can work with a partner to complete the worksheet.

For students who need more of a challenge, they can write sentences about each item, describing how it was used in schools long ago.
Closure  Students will fill out a 3-2-1 about schools from long ago. (3 facts/things they learned, 2 things they found interesting, 1 question they still have about schools from long ago) 10 Min  If there are students who struggle with writing, they can instead tell the teacher their 3-2-1 information before the end of the lesson. The teacher can make a note on if the students understood the materials and look at what questions students still have.
Formative Assessment
(How will you use the formative assessments to monitor and inform instruction?)
  • The worksheet where the students must put the items into the correct category can help the teacher to see if they are understanding the difference between long ago and today. -The 3-2-1 will serve as a formative assessment to see what the students have learned and see what questions they still have regarding this lesson topic.
Summative Assessment
(How does the lesson connect to planned summative assessment(s)?)
  • This lesson ties into the summative assessment because at the end of the unit, Schools: Comparing Long Ago, Today, and Other Cultures, the students will be able to choose which topic they want to present about. Some students can choose to present about schools today, schools from long ago, or schools in other places around the world.
Author Information
Author Savannah Shilling Reviewer Dr. Chad Timm, Simpson College Created 05/11/2020 Last Edited 07/15/2020
Lesson Plan Development Notes:

Objects Large for Lesson Plans

No objects were found.