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Unit 7 of Benchmark Advance

Welcome to Unit 7! This unit is all about communities, culture, and civilizations.  This is the main hub for all my resources, tips, tricks, project ideas, and freebies for this exciting unit!

But first, here are all the ways you can connect with me:

* My Facebook group has tons of resources organized under “Units”, so be sure to start there when looking for loads of relevant info.

* All of my live videos are available on my Markers and Minions YouTube channel

* Find me on Instagram to keep up with resources, freebies, and ideas.

* And of course, MarkersandMinions.com is your one-stop source for videos and posts. My TPT shop is filled with grade-specific Benchmark resources and loads of other fun resources.  Be sure to check out my new Close Reading Companions!

All About Unit 7!

The themes for Unit 7, taken directly from the Teacher’s Resource System (TRS), along with some great discussion starters and extension ideas across all grade levels, are as follows: 

Kindergarten: Holidays and Celebrations


Essential Question: Why do we celebrate people and events? 

Unit 7 is about why we celebrate people and events (holidays). Students read about America’s history and some of the holidays we have here, as well as who we honor – veterans, role models, and people who made a difference.

Great Discussion Starters:

  • What holidays do you celebrate?
  • How do you celebrate these holidays?

Extension Ideas:

  • Create a calendar and have students make illustrations for the national holiday each month. 
  • Have students paint or draw a national monument and then set up a gallery walk.
  • Use clay or play-dough to create 3D monuments

First Grade: Past, Present, and Future

Essential Question: Why is the past important?

Unit 7 is about learning from the past and why looking at the past is important. Students explore how the past affects the present and future, by reading and comparing selections about historical events and people.

Discussion Starters:

  • What can we learn from the past, even just in our own classroom? Think about the very beginning of the year. What has changed?
  • What else has changed over time?

Project ideas:

  • Invite a grandparent (or an elderly community member) to speak to the class about what school was like for them. Then, have students write a thank-you note and include one detail about what school is like now.
  • Show a YouTube clip of the first moon landing in 1969.
  • Create a class timeline on a large piece of butcher paper on a topic of interest. For example, transportation, space, or technology.

Second Grade: Investigating the Past

Essential Question: How does understanding the past shape the future?

Unit 7 is about learning from the past, and students examine the different ways we learn about what happened in the past, such as primary sources and fossils. Students learn about historical figures like Helen Keller, Harriet Tubman, and Alexander Graham Bell.

Discussion starters:

  • What kind of information can you learn from a journal entry? How is this different from the information in a textbook?
  • Why is it important to remember what happened in the past?

Project ideas:

  • Ancestor project, scrapbook style! The kids can include photocopies, a family tree, a family recipe, a drawing of a flag, a world map showing where their ancestors are from, a memory or tradition, etc.
  • Hold an “old-fashioned” day. Students can come dressed in old clothing, write with quills, do loom-weaving, make corn-husk dolls, use a chalkboard, and play a colonial game outside.
  • Make dinosaur shadow paintings. Paint the dinosaur in black, and then use sunset colors to create a background. The colors pop!

Third Grade:  Communities Then and Now

Essential Question: What is a community?

Unit 7 is all about different kinds of communities and what they all have in common. Students will study communities from Florida to Vermont, and Texas to California and be exposed to new traditions and also recognize familiar ones. 

Discussion starters:

  • Is our community more urban or more rural? How do you know?
  • What is our community known for? What makes it special?

Project ideas:

  • Give a community research project. Invite students to research different aspects of their towns and then create a newspaper column about it. I also have this as a project unit on my shop: https://markersandminions.com/product/community-research-newspaper-project-paper-and-google-slides/
  • For the week 2 text “All Kinds of Communities,” it’s fun to go over the first two pages together as a whole class, but then break the kids up into three groups for the rest of the text. In their groups, they become experts on that specific city and then come up with a way to present it. It’s very informal and they get about 20 minutes to prep. This is a nice alternative to the usual key details lesson.
  • Invite a leader from your community to come speak to the class about why they love living there.

Fourth Grade: Developing a Nation

Essential Question: How do communities evolve?

Unit 7 is about how communities can change over time, with an emphasis on economy, transportation improvements, and weather. Students read and compare selections about the development of the United States to understand how communities evolve.

Discussion starters:

  • Why do you think people move to new places? Have you ever moved? Why?
  • If you could live anywhere else, where would you go?

Project ideas:

  • Research how the US Highway system works (even numbers going East/West, odd numbers going North/South). Have students make their own maps of some famous roads through the United States.
  • Much of the development mentioned in the readings were controversial—lean into this. Research what impact the development of train tracks had on Native American tribes and wildlife. Consider including a study of the lives of the minorities that were the labor behind the railroad.
  • Picture Study: Look at pictures of Dust Bowl migrants. What do you see? What do you imagine the trip was like? Focus on Dorothea Lange and research her life and work

Fifth Grade: Conflicts That Shaped a Nation

Essential Question: How does conflict share a society?

Unit 7 is about conflict with an emphasis on the wars that have shaped our nation. Students will read and compare texts about the American Revolution, the Civil War, and the military to understand how conflict shapes a society. We will be examining the important events of our country’s history and discuss how conflict shaped our nation into what it is today.

Discussion starters:

  • Are all conflicts the same? Or are there different types or different levels of conflict?
  • Are all conflicts bad?
  • Why do we have conflict?
  • What can we learn from conflict? How can we grow from it?

Project ideas:

  • In Extended Read 2, students are briefly introduced to the following wars: Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, and the War on Terror. Have students create a product that teaches about those wars and the effects they had on society.
  • Have students pretend to be journalists during a war. Students will then either write a newspaper article or create a news segment where they “interview” someone about the war’s effects.
  • If possible, have veterans come to class and speak about their experiences. If it’s not possible to have someone come in, have students interview family members or friends that have served in the military and then share what they learned about their experiences.

Sixth Grade: Achievements in Ancient Culture


Essential Question: Why do we consider certain civilizations great?

Unit 7 is all about ancient civilizations! Students study and read about early civilizations, their importance, and how they changed over time.

Discussion starters:

  • What can we learn from studying early civilizations? Why is that important?
  • Civilizations change over time. But what do they all have in common? What aspects of a civilization change and what stays the same?

Project ideas:

  • Blast from the past tour! Have groups of students become experts on different ancient civilizations. When it’s time to present, have them “transform” the classroom for the day and teach about the civilization.
  • Connect to classroom management. Divide students into groups and assign each group a different Greek city-state. Award points for participation, assignments completed, etc. The kids will love going to war with one another!
  • Art connection. Have students recreate an ancient monument (Great Wall, coliseum, etc) either as a painting or perhaps a sculpture. Put them on display and hold a gallery walk where students teach about their monument.

Anchor Chart for Unit 7

The following introduction anchor chart is a great way to kick off Unit 7 by introducing and teaching your students about their own town/city community. Focusing on history, important people, geography, and importance. This is a great time to also include a timeline of your town/city to share how it has changed from past to present. You can find more information like this in my Planned for Me resource.

Community Research Newspaper Project

A fun way to learn about your own community is through my Community Research Newspaper Project. This project will guide students (grades 3-4) through exploring and learning about their own town/city’s history, traditions, economy, geography, and places to visit. After completing their own research, students then create their own newspaper column about their community. This project can be done in both print and digital (Google Slides) format depending on your needs. 

Community Field Trips

This unit is a great time to take a class field trip to learn more about your own community. Plan a visit to a local museum, historical site, or downtown to explore your community with your students. They will always remember this special opportunity!

Unit 7 Planning

Virtually “plan with me” in the two videos below. You can follow along using my free planning templates.

Plan With Me Episode 11

Plan With Me Episode 12

That’s all for now! I hope this helps you prep and plan for Unit 7. Feel free to leave me comments on this post with any questions!

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