Lesson Plan: Making a Diseno (early Californian map)

This lesson plan is part of a program done at the San Leandro History Museum to teach students about the early California days.  I have changed the lesson so it will work in a classroom setting.

Teacher: Loryn Aman

Subject Area:  History and Social Sciences

Grade Level: Fifth

Lesson Title:  Making a Diseno (early Californian map)

Objectives: Students will gain understanding into how land was given out in the early days of California, how the maps were made, and just how incorrect they often are.

Materials/Resources Needed:  Images of actual disenos to show class.  Some can be found here: http://content.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/hb2h4nb1ph/?order=73 A blank map template for students to fill in (create a 8 by 11.5 paper filled with squares.  Have a compass rose in the corner for students to use).  A rope for students to use to show they measure the land.  About four or five different colored crayons for each student.

Anticipatory Set: Explain to students why disenos were made.  How soldiers applied for land grants and the various aspects that were necessary to get a land grant (Soldier, Mexican Citizen, Catholic, and need to make a diseno).  Show students the various slides of actual disenos.  Explain to students how various landmarks (like trees or rivers) helped to make the various maps.

Objective/Purpose: Students will gain understanding as to why and how disenos were made as well as information about California history.


  • Have students go outside.  Explain to them that they are soldiers and it is now time to make their diseno so they are able to receive their land grant.  Show them the plot of land that they are hoping to make their own.
  • Explain to students how to use the compass, explaining how it works in relation to where they are.
  • Have students draw a star in the bottom corner of their map.  Explain that each square on their map is 50 feet of land (you can change this measurement if you’d like).
  • Have one student stand at one end, and the other farther away.  Have the student at the starting point throw their rope to the other student.  This simulates how the vaqueros would measure their land.  Explain to the students to start at their star and count up a certain amount of squares to simulate the land they are measuring.  “Please go 21 squares north.”  You may get asked by students, “Do I count the star, or not?”  Tell the students it is up to them.  This often allows for them to see how inaccurate this measuring system is.
  • Continue measuring out your plot of land until the students make a square of some kind.  You can even add in directions like southwest to give the students a better understanding of direction.
  • After all the students have drawn their maps, hand out a blue crayon.  Ask the students what they think this represents.  Water!  Show students how small the rivers look on the actual diseno maps.  Have the students draw a river or lake on their map.  Ask them, “What happens if you draw all your water outside your plot of land?”  “What happens if you draw a lot of water in your land, and it rains a lot one year?”
  • Next, hand out a red crayon.  Tell students that this will represent their house.  Tell them that three squares is what we think of today as a mansion.  Have them draw their homes on their maps.  Ask them questions like, “What happens if you draw your house too close to the water and it floods?” 
  • Next, hand out a green crayon and explain to the class that this represents their crops.  Have them draw in their crops on their maps.
  • Next, hand out a brown crayon and explain to the class that this crayon represents cattle.  Have them color in squares for their cows.  Explain that one square equals ten cows.  Ask them questions like, “What might happen if you draw the cattle really close to your house?”  or “What if you draw your cattle really close to your water?”
  • Have the students write the names of their Ranchos at the top of their page.  You can even have them draw a map key off to the side to show what the various colors stand for.

Check for Understanding: As you are running the program, continually ask the students what direction they are heading (they should know this by looking at their compass).  At the end, have students compare their diseno to that of their classmates.  Do they look the same?  Why do they think that they are different?

Closure:  Have the students compare their maps.  Do they look the same?  Why do they think they look different?  Ask the students what would happen if they used a landmark like a tree or a big rock to show where their land border was, and in the future what if that tree or rock was no longer there?  Also, ask the students to think about what might happen if they didn’t speak English, the language used in the court to apply for the land grants, and they were not able to ask questions about their land?

Independent Practice: Have the students post their disenos on the wall so they can get a look at all the maps.  Ask the students to think about the similarities and differences between the maps.

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Lesson Plan: Poetry

Teacher: Loryn Aman

Subject Area:  English and Literature

Grade Level: Fifth

Lesson Title:  Poetry


Students learn about writing their own poetry.

  • Students learn how to write a poem of their own
  • Students are able to identify various types of poems

Materials/Resources Needed:  Various examples of different types of poems. Here is a great website to use to get example ideas: http://www.kathimitchell.com/poemtypes.html

Anticipatory Set:

Have students read and discuss various types of poems.  “Mirror Mirror” by Marilyn Singer is a great example of imaginative and innovative poetry for students to be inspired by. 

Objective/Purpose:  Students will learn the various steps that it takes to write a poem of their own, as well as gain understanding about the various types of poetry. 

Check for Understanding: Have students talk about their various favorite poems they have read in class.  Ask them to specifically identify what kind of poem they are reading. 

Closure:  Have students present their poems to the class.  Encourage them to draw or illustrate their poems if they are able to.

Independent Practice: Have students continue to keep a poetry journal on their own time at home.

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Lesson Plan: I am the King (or Queen)

This idea was found online and then adjusted.  The lesson I used for my idea can be found here: http://www.carolhurst.com/subjects/ushistory/revolution.html 

Loryn Aman

Subject Area:  History & Social Sciences

Grade Level: Fifth

Lesson Title:  I am the King (or Queen)


Students gain insight into what it was like for those living in America before the Revolutionary War.

  • Learn about how it feels to have laws imposed on you by another person
  • Students are able to identify the various impacts that lead to the American Revolution

Materials/Resources Needed:  A list of various rules that are to be applied to the class.  You could even have another class make up the rules that the students need to abide by.  For example:

  • Students must bow before leaving their desk
  • Only the girls will receive a treat each morning
  • Only those older than a certain age get to go to lunch when the bell rings

A place for students to keep track of their feelings and frustrations about these various rules that are being applied to them.

Anticipatory Set:

Have students read the book, “Independent Dames” by Laurie Halse Anderson to get an understanding of how various women fought back.  Have them study various other important people to the American Revolution. 

Construct a timeline of the American Revolution that gives the main concepts for students to understand what lead up to the revolution.

Objective/Purpose:  Students will gain insight and understanding into how those living in America must have felt right before the Revolution. 

Input:  Reiterate facts about what people did for the Revolution.  Explain what came from the Revolution: Declaration of Independence, First President…etc.

Check for Understanding: Have students give examples of how these rules are affecting their own independence and liberty. 

Closure:  Have students present their feelings and frustrations to the class.  Also, have them think of rules to apply to your class next year.

Independent Practice: Have students locate information on important people from the American Revolution and present it to the class.

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Lesson Plan: Endangered Species

Loryn Aman

Subject Area:  Earth Sciences

Grade Level: Sixth

Lesson Title:  Endangered Species


Students gain a better understanding about the growing problem with endangered species.

  • Learn about different animals that are extinct, endangered, or on the rise
  • Learn about what people are doing to stop extinction
  • Students gain insight into the various biomes and what kind of animals can live and thrive there

Materials/Resources Needed:  Access to a library or computer for information about animals and biomes.  Teacher will need a list of various extinct, endangered, and on the rise animals for students to do reports on.  www.iucnredlist.org is a great resource.

Anticipatory Set:

Have students read the book, “Can We Save the Tiger” by Martin Jenkins.

Have students think of their favorite animal and then look up online to see how that animal is doing in the world today: okay, endangered, on the rise, or possibly extinct.

Objective/Purpose:  Students will learn and understand how intense the problem of extinction is today.

Input:  Show students a slide show featuring various animals that are now extinct.  Explain where the animal was originally located and reasons why this has happened.

Check for Understanding: Have students pick an animal from the list you found, or assign them an animal.  Have them complete some research while at school and give a brief summation of what they have located.

Closure:  Have students give an oral report on the animal that they found.  Where it is located, what has caused the population to be under stress, and some ideas on how to stop this problem.

Independent Practice:  Students will need to accomplish additional research at home.  This should be done through internet research as well as research through books.  Suggest that students go to their local library and find books about their animal.

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Lesson Plan: Write an Extraordinary Biography

Teacher: Loryn Aman

Subject Area:  History & Social Sciences

Grade Level: Fifth

Lesson Title:  Writing an Extraordinary Biography

Objectives: Students learn the process writing a biography.

  • Learn the process of interviewing someone and conducting research
  • Learn how the process of putting together a biography
  • Students learn the fact that even they can be fantastic biographers

Materials/Resources Needed:  Only a person to interview and the book, “The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy)” by Barbara Kerley

Anticipatory Set: Ask students to think of an important person in their lives, one that they can have contact with (no celebrities).

Have students find biographies about people and read them.  Ask students about some of the main parts of a biography.

Objective/Purpose:  Explain to students that their assignment will be to write a biography about a meaningful person in their life.  Like Susy, it is up to them to write it to their best ability and show as much about the person’s life that they can.

Input:  Again show students how the biographies they read are almost like a template for their own biographies they will be writing.  Provide each student with the handout from the book “The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy)” by Barbara Kerley that explains important parts of a biography.  This can be found here: http://www.barbarakerley.com/WritingABio.html

Check for Understanding:  Ask the students to give examples of people they are interested in writing about.  Have them share ideas about things that they will need to include in their own biography.

Closure:  Have students give an oral report on their person choosing the best topics and facts to share.  Encourage students to bring in pictures or various things that are important to their person.

Independent Practice:  Students will be writing a biography on their chosen person.  Have them come in the next day or two with the name of the person they want to be interviewing and their plan of action to complete this task.

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Independent Dames: What You Never Knew About the Women and Girls of the American Revolution – Written by Laurie Halse Anderson and Illustrated by Matt Faulkner

Independent Dames: What You Never Knew About the Women and Girls of the American Revolution, Written by Laurie Halse Anderson and Illustrated by Matt Faulkner, 2008, New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. 9780689858086.

Age Range: 6-10 years.

Awards: Amelia Bloomer Project: 2009.

Author Website: http://madwomanintheforest.com/

Illustrator Website: http://www.mattfaulkner.com/about.html

Media Used: The illustrations for this book are rendered in watercolor and pen and ink. (Information from copyright page in book.)

Annotation:  Learn all about the unsung heroes of the American Revolution: women old and young.  This picture book highlights contributions and exploits of the women of the American Revolution as well as giving a timeline about the war.

Personal Reaction:  I never really stopped to think about the role that women played during the American Revolution.  As a historian myself, I guess I always knew that women had to have played a part, no matter or small or seemingly insignificant.  However, I never knew the real impact that many women and girls had on the outcome of the war.

With everything from dressing up and pretending to be a man so they could fight in the war, to secretly passing on messages and British information, these women really did a lot! 

What is great about this book is that it not only teaches about the overall picture of women helping, but it also gives specific examples to really connect the readers to what was going on during this time in our American history.  Also, along the bottom of the pages, there is a detailed timeline giving readers a play-by-play about the war itself.  All of this culminates into a well-rounded learning experience for readers.

Anderson has done a great job with providing as much information as this book can possibly hold.  With three or four women per page in the main part of the book, an endnote page with more women as well, and even a part about other Americans that played a role like African Americans and Native Americans.  Anderson has really done a great job to highlight all those that are commonly left out of the history books.  She also has made a detailed index with the names of all the women in the book for quick access. 

Her bibliography speaks for itself too showcasing more than 20 referenced resources.  It is easy to tell that she was passionate about this topic and did her best to show all that she could.

Curricular Connection:  This book fulfills the California Department of Education Standards for the History and Social Science Content Standards for the fifth grade as follows:

5.5 Students explain the causes of the American Revolution.

  1. Understand how political, religious, and economic ideas and interests brought about the Revolution (e.g., resistance to imperial policy, the Stamp Act, the Townshend Acts, taxes on tea, Coercive Acts).

5.6  Students understand the course and consequences of the American Revolution.

3.  Identify the different roles women played during the Revolution (e.g., Abigail Adams, Martha Washington, Molly Pitcher, Phillis Wheatley, Mercy Otis Warren).

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Snook Alone – Written by Marilyn Nelson and Illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering

Snook Alone, Written by Marilyn Nelson and Illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering, 2010, Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press. 9780763626679.

Age Range: 7-10 years.

Awards: Booklist Editor’s Choice: 2010, Bulletin Blue Ribbons: 2010, SLJ Best Books for Children: 2010.

No Author Website.

Illustrator Website: http://www.timothybasileringart.com/

Media Used: The illustrations were done in acrylic and ink.  (Information from copyright page in book.)

Annotation:  Abba Jacob, a monk, and his faithful pup Snook are the best of friends.  They do everything together.  One day though, a ferocious storm separates the two, but Snook fends for himself while waiting for Abba Jacob to return.

Personal Reaction:  This is such a cute and fun book to read.  Living on a faraway island, Abba Jacob and his rat terrier Snook have a daily routine that keeps them both busy.  Even when Abba Jacob is working, one will usually be able to find Snook right by his side.  Snook loves hunting too, and makes sure to keep Abba Jacob’s kitchen rat free!

One day though, the two get separated during a storm on the island.  At first, Snook holds on to the scent of his master.  Quickly though, that scent starts to fade.  Every day that Snook is on his own, he has a new adventure to take on, but he always thinks back to Abba Jacob coming to get him. 

Through the power of prayer and faith, the two are finally reunited in the end.

This is a quick read, but it does contain a lot of words that might seem foreign to the younger readers.  These especially include words that describe the foliage around the island.  Besides that though, I think that most readers will really enjoy this story.

As the owner of a puppy myself, I cannot imagine what it would feel like to lose my dog.  Throughout reading this story, it really pulled on my heart strings to think of poor Snook out on his own in the wild of the island.  I was happy to read that in the end the two were reunited.

Use of Simile: “When Snook lunged, the crab fended him off with its claw, like a boxer with one giant glove.”

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