Visit Islam-We have 5 pillars!


Mecca-click here for image source

My 7th grade students and I are going to explore the world of Islam!

To begin, students will turn to section two of chapter five in their social studies book-“Beliefs of Islam.”

We will read the chapter as a class.  I will select a student at random via popsicle sticks and that student will read one paragraph out loud.  After each paragraph, I will ask students brief questions to ensure they are comprehending what they are reading as we go along.

When we are done with the reading, students will have a discussion within their table groups.  Since I am placed in a Catholic school, I will have students compare and contrast Islamic and Catholic beliefs.  One group member will record the differences and similarities. They can set up the notes anyway the like-venn diagram, list, pictures-as long as they understand it.  They will also discuss what they found the most interesting about Islam.

After seven minutes of discussion, groups will share what they discussed with the entire class. I will have each group go one at a time and talk about what they discussed.

Next I will assign what will be used to assess their learning.  Students will create a brochure that describes the five pillars of Islam.  The five pillars are a staple of the Muslim religion.  Therefore, it is essential that my students fully grasp the five pillars in order to completely and fundamentally understand Islam.

The five pillars of Islam are:

  1. Shahadah: declaring there is no god except God, and Muhammad is God’s Messenger
  2. Salat: ritual prayer five times a day
  3. Zakat: giving 2.5% of one’s savings to the poor and needy
  4. Sawm: fasting and self-control during the holy month of Ramadan
  5. Hajj: pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime, if one is able

I will encourage students to layout the brochure any way that they like.  However, they must include in the brochure:

  • A description of each of the five pillars
  • An example of how to live out each pillar

Students will first create a rough outline-it could be as simple as a list-of what they plan to include in their brochure.  They also will sketch a layout for their brochure.

At the next class period, students will share their brochure plans with the table groups.  Other students will give them feedback on what looks good and what could be improved.  They will have class time to work on their final copy of their brochures.  At the next class section, the completed brochure will be due.  Additionally, students will turn in a one paragraph reflection on what they changed after their peer review and how they think they did.


After doing this assignment, I now understand better the importance of peer and self reflection.  I really valued getting to witness it first hand when we went over our assignments with our peers.  In my lesson, I tried to emphasize student and peer reflection as well.  It gives the students more autonomy and I think it makes them feel like they do have the ability to improve after citing it themselves, rather than an adult.  In the future, I will definitely keep peer and student reflection at the top of my list when it comes to planning lessons.

What’s Up With the Constitution?

We the People

8th Grade Social Studies Lesson Study

Content As we introduce our unit on the United States Constitution, we will examine the intent and underlying philosophies of the framers. The learning goal is to understand the concept of basic rights and the role of government.

Process The students will be split up into groups of 5. Each group will be given a different scenario to analyze. The scenarios will focus on the tension between personal rights vs. the good of the community.

1) You want to build a mountain bike trail in the woods near your house, but in doing so you would be damaging rare bird habitat.

2) Your neighbor wants to turn his back yard into a hog farm, causing strange smells to waft through your window.

3) In an effort to curb obesity, the school no longer allows the drinking of soda or other sugary beverages in school.

4) The school implements a new zero tolerance policy for cell phone use. If a student is found using her phone during school hours, the phone will be confiscated for 1 week.

The groups will be given 10 minutes to discuss the possible outcomes and issues with their given scenario. We will then come back together and a representative from each group will explain their scenario to the group, identifying the central issue that is being argued, who are the main actors, and which side they support. The students will take notes on each other’s scenarios during the presentations. For homework, after reading the chapter in their textbook on the framers of the Constitution and their guiding philosophies, they will write a reflection of the exercise they did in class and how it fits into the issues at play in the crafting the Constitution.

ProductThe students will have briefs of the scenarios from class and a written reflection.

Evaluation The students will be evaluated informally by their participation and engagement in the exercises, and their ability to apply the concepts discussed in class to the history of our Constitution.

What kinds of thinking will students need to do to participate in the lesson?

The students will use strategic thinking such as formulating, assessing and analysis when they discuss the scenarios. For the reflection the students will need to use extended thinking like connecting and applying to make the connection from the classroom exercise to the history.

To what extent do students have options or choices regarding these lesson components?

The students can interpret the scenarios any way they choose. They have the option to align more with individual rights or the collective good, either answer is correct as long as they see that there is tension between the two. For their reflection they can choose what they found meaningful and how it relates to the history.


Personal Reflection

This project proved quite challenging for me because it involved both a lesson planning aspect and a technology aspect.  These are two areas in which I have little experience.  My original lesson was very much like a traditional lesson, there was a lecture, a worksheet, and a little bit of group work for the students.  This is the way I was taught and is my first instinct when it comes to designing a lesson.  However, we have learned repeatedly that students need to have more control of the learning to truly understand concepts.  Through the peer review process I was able to rewrite my lesson to put almost all of the learning in the hands of the students.  As the teacher I simply designed the lesson, but the students came up with all the content.  I even decided to leave out the lecture all together and have the students try to make the connections themselves from the exercise to the homework reading.  I can always fill in the blanks if the reflections reveal a lack of understanding of the concepts.  Going forward I will attempt hold my lessons up to a standard of maximum allowable student interaction.  I will see where I can replace my talking with student activity, discovery, and hopefully, understanding.


we the people photo: Wang

reflection photo: essentialscafe

Bringing Primary Sources to the Classroom: Nikkei Center Suitcase Lesson

           ImageFor the EdMethods class a few peers and I have created a set of lessons for the Nikkei Legacy Center (a museum located in Portland, OR) to pair with the museum’s suitcases. Educators can check out the suitcases, which contain numerous primary sources about Japanese Americans in Portland and their time spent in incarceration camps. The lessons we created range from elementary, middle to high school level.

Creating lessons is always a bit of a challenge but it is even more of a challenge when making them for someone else. The suitcase project has been a great way to practice my lesson making skills by making sure the lessons are thorough in explanations, complete in resources but still flexible so teachers can adapt them to their classrooms.

My lesson is for a middle school social studies classroom. The lesson (that can be broken up into two days) focuses on the incarceration of Japanese Americans from a cultural perspective. The lesson will show students the daily life of internees. The lesson uses readings, videos, and primary source documents with individual and group activities. The lesson would be best used in a class that has already covered World War II.

Here is the procedure of the lesson. For a PDF of the whole lesson click here Suitcase Lesson. (138KB pdf)

Overview: Today’s lesson will focus on the incarceration of Japanese Americans from a cultural perspective. This lesson would fit in after learning about WWII.

Goals: To understand the experience of Japanese Americans being incarcerated during the WWII.

Objective(s): Students will be able to identify the key aspects of life for Japanese Americans in incarceration camps during WWII.


CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.9 Analyze the relationship between a primary and secondary source on the same topic.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.7 Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.

Resources: suitcase, pencil/pen, paper, projector, internet access, printed documents included in lesson plan


  • Ask students if they know the following terms: interned, incarceration, Japanese-American, Nisei and Issei. If not, go over as a class making the definition together using previous knowledge.
  • Read them Scenario A. Have them write a short paragraph on how they would feel, what would they do. Then share with a partner. Have a few students share with the class aloud. [Attached to lesson plan. Called “SCENARIO A”]
  • Have students read brief background on why the Japanese Americans were incarcerated. Either read aloud, popcorn style or at teacher discretion. [Attached to lesson plan. Called “HISTORICAL CONTEXT”]. Answer follow up questions.
  • Have students watch a short interview with George Takei about leaving behind his life to go to an incarceration camp. Answer follow up questions [Attached to lesson plan. Called “Video Questions.”]
  • Have students read about life in the incarceration camps. Split up students into different groups based on the sections. Then have them create a poster depicting their section. Share with class. Have class answer as a whole the follow up questions. [Attached to lesson plan. Called Behind the Fence: Life in the Incareration Camp]
  • Show pictures of incarceration camps. Have students draw connections between what they read and what they see in the pictures. Have class discussion. [Pictures in suitcase. Choose from the following images: G3, G2, I6, I5, D2, I3, I4, H2, F2, G1]
  • For the remainder of class and homework, have students write a letter home to a friend pretending to be an incarcerated Japanese American. Have them use material that they learned about from the day. Have them express their feelings of being interned, and have them tell their friend if they still feel like an American after this experience.

Formative Assessment: Students will answer follow up questions to readings, and the class will go over them as a whole.

Summative Assessment: Students will write a letter pretending to be an incarcerated Japanese American.

Photo Credit: A Japanese Child in an incarceration Camp from