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Tell a Tale of a Trail

Tell a Tale of a Trail

Grade 7, Social Studies

Description of the Unit

Students will choose a Texas historical trail and research the physical and historical impacts of the trail. Students will explore how the route affected the development of the state. For the final product, students will create an interactive website about the trail they chose.

This guide links the Tell a Tale of a Trail unit to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for seventh graders. Tell a Tale of a Trail is a social studies unit that allows students to study the history of Texas and the State’s historical trails from a geographic and cultural perspective. This unit also has interdisciplinary connections to English language arts. For example, students will use geographic tools to collect, analyze, and interpret data, as addressed in the Social Studies TEKS; and students will analyze, make inferences, and draw conclusions about theme and genre in different cultural, historical, and contemporary contexts and provide evidence from the text to support their understanding, as addressed in the English Language Arts and Reading TEKS. The following document includes the applicable TEKS and the details of the Tell a Tale of a Trail unit. The asterisks indicate the TEKS that are testable on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR™). The final section of this document presents the applicable Texas College and Career Readiness Standards adopted by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) on January 24, 2008.

Phase I. Learning Experiences

  1. Define the following terms: ferry, road, route, trace, and trail. Discuss these terms in relation to modes of travel, commerce (economy), and population in the past and present.
    Topics for discussion:
    • Do they know any trails?
    • What makes a trail famous?
    • Why use a trail?
    • What and/ or who influenced the creation of the trail?
    • What made the trail successful?
    • Is the trail well known today? Why or why not?
    • What does it mean to be a historic?
  2. Introduce historic routes to the students using a map of Texas. (See attachment A.) Have students speculate why these routes existed. Discuss what might have been transported on these routes and why?
  3. Divide the students into two or four groups. Each group will select either El Camino Real de los Tejas or El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro of the National Historic Trails within Texas. Go to the National Parks Society website for each trail: Consider the questions above and have students to develop their own about these two trails.
  4. Groups are to create a map with legend of the route(s) of the trail representing the past and present key points.
  5. Each group will present their findings and lead a class discuss on the impact of their trail. Groups should include why their trail is also a National Historic Trail.

    Other resources:

Phase II. Independent Research

A. Research process

  1. Selecting an individual or pair. Each student selects a trail to study that interests him or her. The trail could be from any area, but it must have an impact on Texas.
  2. Asking guiding questions. To understand the historical importance of the trail, students must ask questions of time and place, cause and effect, change over time, and impact and significance. They must not only ask when their trail was the most successful, but also how did it impact the events of the time.

    Each student should think of three to five guiding questions to explore, such as:

    • How did it contributed to the development of Texas?
    • How did the trail affect individuals, communities, states, nations, and the world? What is its affect today?
    • What factors contributed to your trails’ success or demise?
    • What political, economic, religious, environmental, or sociocultural perspectives influenced and/or motivated individuals to travel the trail?
    • How did the trail impact society?
    • How does the trail impact today’s economy?
    • Why should this trail be considered for recognition as a national historic trail?

    While these examples are general, the student’s questions should be specific to the chosen topic. Each student should think of guiding questions about the trail or the person or group that traveled the trail that will lead to his/her own research-based opinions. The student should also develop a hypothesis or some possible answers to the questions.

  3. Designing and submitting a research proposal. The student should include numerous components in the research proposal:

    • The trail he/she will research
    • The three to five questions he/she will investigate
    • Resources he/she will need to find answers to questions, such as primary and secondary sources, correspondence with experts on the subject, etc.
    • Initial thoughts concerning the impact of the trail on contemporary society.

    In the process of writing the research proposal, students may refine their guiding questions. Here are some questions to guide students’ identification of resources:

    • What libraries, research centers, archival institutions, museums, or organizations will have information on the trail?
    • What are some key words, dates, or people related to the trail?
    • What types of primary sources might exist? Who might you interview to gather information?
    • What letters, diaries, or other first-person narratives are available pertaining to the trail?
  4. Conducting the research. After the teacher has approved the student proposals, each student will begin using the identified resources and/or other sources he/she may encounter. During this stage, the student will need to keep a log, note cards, or resource process sheets of all the sources he/she uses and what he/she learn from each one.

B. The product

A webpage. The student should design a webpage with the historically information on their trail, a map of the trail, highlighting the impact on Texas, and links to resources. Students should create and properly document approximately ten artifacts highlighting the trail and its impact. Highlight changes in the trail over the years and the communities surrounding it. Each artifact need not be student-created. For example, students may include photos, drawings, maps, letters, and diaries that may be a photocopy, as appropriate. Students should think about how they can convey what the trail stood for and how it has impacted the times in which it was productive and/or the future. The web page should be easy to navigate and be user friendly.

C. Communication

In a period of no more than 10 minutes, students will navigate others through their website, engaging other students in the content of webpage. Students should ask questions for the student web developer to respond to.

D. A completed project consists of:

  1. A cover sheet
  2. The research proposal, including guiding questions
  3. A research log, note cards, or resource process sheets
  4. A layout design for the webpage
  5. A works cited page
  6. The webpage link for the final working webpage
  7. A videotape or audiotape of the presentation, including the Q&A session