Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Touring My County

Kristy Rousseau
Bay District Schools


Students will research historical county events in order to discover how individuals, ideas, decisions, and events have influenced history over the past century.


The student writes notes, comments, and observations that reflect comprehension of content and experiences from a variety of media.

The student organizes information using alphabetical and numerical systems.

The student creates expository responses in which ideas and details follow an organizational pattern and are relevant to the purpose.

The student understands how individuals, ideas, decisions, and events can influence history.

The student understands broad categories of time in years, decades, and centuries.


--The Hundred Penny Box- by Sharon Mathis Bell (1975, Viking Press)
-KWL chart for county history research (Download master from Associated File.)
-5x7 cards and white paper to construct timeline showing 100 years
-Chart paper titled and divided into four columns: -Individuals,- -Ideas,- -Decisions,- and -Events-
(Download master from Associated File.)
-Resources highlighting historical state and county events (Primary: oral interviews and guest speakers; original maps, charts, and pamphlets; diaries, letters, and autobiographies; photographs. Secondary: newspapers; books; pamphlets from historical sites; encyclopedias; movies, filmstrips, and videos)
-Due to a possible scarcity of reference sources on county history, teachers may want to collaborate with others to -pool- resources. In our county, third grade teachers worked with the district and local community college to build a CD-ROM of state and county history. This History CD-ROM can be viewed at and serves as a model of how teachers have made reference materials available to students and teachers district-wide. Check it out for possible reference ideas and topics!


1. Gather materials needed for timeline construction.
2. Download KWL master from Associated File.
3. Download and/or label chart paper for -Individuals, Ideas, Decisions, and Events- that have influenced county history.
4. Gather school based reference materials for classroom use, or sign up for reference time in the library.
5. Check procedures at the public library for accessing and researching historical county documents. If possible, plan a field trip to the public library for research.
6. Enlist community members as guest speakers. Provide the speakers with a list of topics the students are interested in, and ask them to share their stories of growing up in the county.
7. Gather 5x7 cards for students' lists of top five events, and materials needed for illustrations.
8. Trouble-shoot potential problems with initial research: Do my kids know how to use an index? Table of contents? Search for individuals by their last name? Scan for information? Jot notes without copying? Read captions under photographs? Know what questions to ask when they are stumped? Provide initial mini-lessons at the on-set of research, and use student share times to further discuss and model options.


BACKGROUND: In the first lesson, -Through the Years,- students completed autobiographies containing personal and worldwide events for each year of their life. Information for their autobiographies was researched via oral interviews and written information. A class timeline representing each year of life was constructed using 5x7 cards (to identify the year) attached to a sheet of white paper (to record worldwide events that occurred during that year.) The students' books were built on the model of -The Hundred Penny Box- book by Sharon Mathis Bell. This book served as an introduction for teaching students about the time categories of centuries, decades, and years. The background knowledge of researching history across broad categories of time will be built upon and further developed in this lesson.

1. Refer back to the book, -The Hundred Penny Box,- to review how time can be divided into categories such as centuries, decades, and years.

2. If the classroom timeline shows at least a decade, design some type of marker or symbol to place on the timeline to indicate one decade.

3. Ask students, -How do we know about history?- Use this discussion time to review that history is passed down to us through the spoken and written word.

4. Tell the students, -Since we now know what happened in your life and we have an idea about some of the things happening in our nation, let's take a closer look at what was happening in our county.- Ask them, -What has happened in our county during your lifetime?- Use a KWL chart to record student responses.

5. Direct students' attention to the -Individuals, Ideas, Decisions, and Events- chart posted beneath the timeline. Model for the students how these topics can be categorized using the chart.

6. Be prepared to share one or two examples that may help -jumpstart- their thought processes. For example, when I was in fifth grade my county started an eastside girls' softball league. This was the first opportunity young girls had to participate in a competitive sport all their own. Explain that someone had the IDEA that the county needed to offer competitive girls' sports.

7. That night, have the students go home and interview family, friends, and neighbors about county events that occurred over the past decade.

8. The next day, be prepared to add to the KWL chart and 5x7 timeline cards the county events that the students have learned about over the past decade.

9. Ask the students to categorize these topics using the -Individuals, Ideas, Decisions, and Events- chart(s). Through discussion and questions, help them to categorize as many of the events as possible into one of these four areas.

10. Explain to the students that over the next few weeks they will be gathering further research to find out how individuals, ideas, decisions, and events in their county have influenced history over the past century. The students will then use the information gathered from their -tour of county history- to complete -Then and Now- pamphlets. (Procedures for the -Then and Now- pamphlets will be outlined in the third lesson, -A Look through Time.-)

11. Continue the KWL chart (started on the previous day) to fill in what the students WANT to know about their county. What questions do they have about their county that they could possibly research? What are some historical sites in their county that they would like to know more about? Have them think about the county sites that others, such as tourists, might find unique or interesting as they -toured- through the county.

12. To narrow the initial research, it may help to generate a list of topics that stem from the students' questions and interests. Other topics may evolve as students gather research, but having a few topics to start with will help their initial research focus. For example, some possible topics could include:
· Sports and games children played -then- and -now-
· County services: police department, fire department, post office
· Development and location of towns within the county
· County parks, churches, schools
· Historical landmarks and sites
· Reasons behind street names and signs
· Companies and industries -then- and -now-
· Influence of national events on county history: the Depression, the World Wars, segregation and civil rights, etc.

13. Further develop the classroom timeline so that it spans the last century (1900-2000). Instead of having one 5x7 card represent each year, have one 5x7 card now represent a decade (1900-1910) (1910-1920). Leave the last two decades (1980-1990 and 1990-2000) broken down into years so students' work from the first lesson can continue to be seen.

14. Review with students that in the first lesson, -Through the Years- they organized events based on the years they have lived. Explain that now they will keep -decade notes- for the information they gather. In a folder, have students label one page with each decade. As they come across information, instruct students to store it in their -decade notes- until they have the opportunity to share it with the class. Since research will take place over a span of one to two weeks, provide an opportunity every day for students to share their information per decade, while you summarize their findings on the timeline. In this way, the class will construct a historical timeline throughout the project and create a visual learning tool for organizing their collected pieces of information.

15. During the student share times, discussion needs to be centered around:
· Identifying individuals, ideas, decisions, and events that influenced history (continue using the chart to categorize their findings);
· Modeling and brainstorming how to trouble-shoot problems and find solutions when encountering research -roadblocks;-
· Pointing out connections and patterns that emerge between events within a decade and across decades.

16. After gathering a substantial amount of information, re-examine the initial topics with your students. What ones, if any, would they delete? Are there others they would add? Use the KWL chart during this time to record the answers students have found to their initial questions. What have they LEARNED? What would they still like to know more about?

17. Using the -Individuals, Ideas, Decisions, and Events- chart(s), have students select and list five topics that they personally found interesting and influential to their county history (a 5x7 card can be used for the initial list.)

18. After listing the five topics, have the students write a paragraph on the bottom half of the card that explains why they chose each topic. Students must state the influence that the individual, idea, decision, or event had on their county history. At least one reason should be given for each topic chosen.

19. On the back of the card, students should provide
a) an illustration of one of the five events,
b) the year, and
c) a short description explaining 1) how many decades and years have passed since that event, and 2) why they found that individual, idea, decision, or event influential and interesting.

20. To provide closure to this activity, and to lay a foundation for the third lesson in this series, have students share their top five selections and explanations in groups of three or four. After sharing, the students should work together in their group to generate a list of the top ten items they believed were the most interesting and influential.

21. A member of the group should then place a -tally mark- by each topic on the -Individual, Ideas, Decisions, and Events- chart(s).

22. After all groups have recorded their responses, the class should analyze the results to select the ten topics that groups will further develop for the -Then and Now- collections.

23. Collect students' 5x7 cards, and encourage them to begin thinking of ways that they could creatively present the -Then and Now- pamphlets for others.

24. Assess students' understandings using the assessment criteria below. Begin planning how to address misunderstandings and misconceptions at the start of the third lesson, -A Look Through Time.-


1. A checklist should be used during student share times and discussions to record student participation and correct categorization of
-Individuals, Ideas, Decisions, and Events that have influenced county history, and
-Events that have occurred during the past century, as charted on the timeline highlighting decades and years.
The checklist should be used to ensure that each student shares events and categorizes information consistently throughout the research process.

2. Students' Individual -Top Five- List of Historical Events should include
-On the front of the card: A list of five events and an expository paragraph -in which ideas and details follow an organizational pattern and are relevant to the purpose. -The organizational pattern- of the paragraph should include one reason for each topic chosen explaining why they found that topic interesting and influential to county history.
-On the back of the card: An illustration of an event, the year of the event, and one to two sentences about how many years and decades have passed since that event and why they found that individual, idea, decision, or event influential to county history.

3. Students' -decade notes- should be periodically checked and assessed for:
-notes and events that have been organized into decades and
-notes that contain -comments and observations that reflect comprehension of content and experiences from a variety of media,- and original (not copied) sentences and paragraphs.


1. Language Arts time may be used to teach and effectively develop the writing process skills students will need to produce expository paragraphs.
2. The approach of year 2000 also opens up a fourth broad category of time to be studied and discussed--millenniums.
3. Research may also be gathered using electronic encyclopedias, Internet searches, and historical CDs. Students would need to know how to navigate within these written records, but the interactivity of -hot links- and movie and sound clips would open up another whole arena for gathering research. (For a model, see Bay County's History CD-ROM at
4. All research tools that are available and somewhat accessible within your classroom, schools, and community should be seen as potential sites for gathering information. Our students need to learn how to learn, and research projects such as this introduce them to the processes and steps involved in managing information.

Web Links

Web supplement for Touring My County
Bay County History CD-ROM

Return to the Beacon Lesson Plan Library.