Justine Gamble has created unit studies based upon the American Girl® historical fiction books published by Pleasant Company. The American Girl books feature twelve fictional girls as lead characters who each live in a particular era of history. There is a series of twelve books for each of the characters.
Gamble’s studies each cover one of the characters with activities geared to students in grades two through six. You will need to simplify some activities for younger students and challenge older students with additional reading and writing activities. Each study should take about six weeks, although some might take longer. You need to purchase each character’s series of books for the corresponding study. You will also need to borrow or purchase other books, especially craft and cook books. Lists of optional resources are provided on the publisher’s website. Lists of required resources and links are password protected.
Girls of American History can serve as your core curriculum for history and geography, and might offer most of the activity needed for language arts depending upon the needs of your child. It also incorporates lessons on character development. If you want to use it as your core, you might want to use additional non-fiction sources for history for more thorough coverage. You will definitely need to add science, math, and grammar. You might also use Girls of American History as a supplement to a history textbook or alongside a spine book for history—more like a literature study guide.
Despite the fact that these are studies with stories about girls, boys can also participate fully. In fact, many activities such as building your own teepee might be even more appealing to some boys than to girls. The studies are multisensory as children listen to read alouds, read independently, discuss what they have read, create lapbooks, make crafts, participate in field trips, play games, watch DVDS, make food, and write about what they have learned.
Studies are relatively brief—more of an outline rather than step-by-step instructions. Lesson plans within each study are laid out on a simple grid. They show you reading a chapter a day from each book on Mondays through Thursdays with sometimes two chapters on Thursday for those books with five chapters rather than four. On these days, students also work on lapbooks, drawing, writing, and free reading with optional books. Fridays are for additional reading, discussion, crafts, videos, and a party on the final day of the study. Of course, you might be squeezing in field trips whenever you can fit them in.
Lapbooking appears to be an important element for engaging students with vocabulary words, historical information, and other “data” from their reading. The Girls of American History studies reference free lapbooking resources as well as some whose cost is fairly minimal.
The study guides are secular as are the American Girl books. However, both the guides and the stories themselves include character building elements that help support religious beliefs.
The study guides are available only as downloadable PDF files. You can purchase individual study guides for each series or the entire set for a significant discount.