Thursday, May 28, 2015

Letter Home - West Indies Island Unit

published on: 10/29/2008

Contributing Teacher(s): Kalen Prothero

Subject Area: Social Studies/Geography

Grade Range: Middle Grades (6-8)

Materials Needed:

  • Textbook or other resources about the West Indies Islands Blank maps of the West Indies

Objective: Students will complete the following objectives during a two week unit with 70% accuracy.

  1. Locate 6 West Indies Islands and their capital cities.
  2. Identify three characteristics and three problems of the West Indies nations.
  3. Use a web browser to research 10 facts about the West Indies nations.
  4. List three personal learning goals. Students will identify how they meet their goals in a journal.

Essential Question:

  1. Where are the West Indies Islands located and how does characteristics in each of the following areas: history, government, economy, society, and nature, affect the islands today?

Instructional Strategy: Evaluating Student Understanding

Process Standards:

  • Goal 1.1 develop questions and ideas to initiate and refine research
  • Goal 1.4 use technological tools and other resources to locate, select and organize information
  • Goal 1.8 organize data, information and ideas into useful forms (including charts, graphs, outlines)
  • Goal 4.1 explain reasoning and identify information used to support decisions
  • Goal 4.5 develop, monitor and revise plans of action to meet deadlines and accomplish goals
  • Goal 1.9 identify, analyze and compare the institutions, traditions and art forms of past and present societies

Content Standards:

  • Social Studies 4. Economic concepts (including productivity and the market system) and principles (including the ...
  • Communication Arts 4. Writing formally (such as reports, narratives, essays) and informally (such as outlines, notes)
  • Social Studies 5. The major elements of geographical study and analysis (such as location, place, movement,...
  • Social Studies 6. Relationships of the individual and groups to institutions and cultural traditions
  • Social Studies 7. The use of tools of social science inquiry (such as surveys, statistics, maps, documents)


    Time Allowance: 3-4/90 minute class periods.

    Technological Resources:

    1. Internet access
    2. Microsoft word access
    3. Over head projector or smart board

    The following extensions could be used in the unit:

    1. Key term illustrated glossary.
    2. In this activity, students draw pictures or symbols of key terms from the unit.
    3. Integration:

      1. Map skills remediation: drill and practice. For students struggling with the map assessment try this activity. has a game site were students can drill and practice the location of countries.
      2. provide feedback for students on the rough draft letter and provide time for them to make corrections.
      3. Provide time for peer editing and corrections.
      4. Provide time for small group instruction for students needing additional work on the letter. Small groups can occur when large group is reseaching web activities or working on extention activities.


      1. Provide more time to students who need it. Give extending dead lines on writing assessment.
      2. Reduce the length of the letter. Students with writing disabilities could be required to write 3-5 sentence paragraphs rather than 5-7.
      3. Reduce the number of facts to research on the Web research lesson.
      4. Reduce the number of personal goals for the student to complete.

      Please see files.

      Description: In this unit, students will write “letters home” pretending they are a person who has left the West Indies region to live in the United States. In the letter, students will identify major reasons why people leave the region, and characteristics of the area. Students will expand their learning with a web research activity on teacher approved sites. Students will also write personal unit goals and keep a goal journal. In addition students will study maps of the West Indies and complete a map assessment.

      Classroom Component:

      West Indies unit outline

      This unit on the West Indies is best used divided into three daily lesson plans.  Some activities will take more than one day, depending on the length of your class period.

      Lesson one:

      Use textbooks and other resources to introduce the West Indies islands. You will need a blank map of the West Indies Islands. Provide background for information in the areas of: economy, location, history, government and society.

      1. Outline unit goals to students and have them write personal goals of their own.  Students will provide evidence of understanding in a goal journal throughout the unit.  Everyday of the unit students will write a journal entry describing any objectives they met, unit or personal. (see handout)
      2. Students will complete a map study of the region and a map assessment. (see handout) A great drill and practice activity for the lesson can be found at This site has a section for geography games in which students can identify a region of countries in a time limit.

      Lesson two:

      In this research lesson students will expand on information they have learned during a Web search activity. 

      1. Students will use three teacher approved web sites and create a list of 10 facts about a selected West Indies nation. 
      2. The student will also report to the class describing the country the picked and the information they found.  (See handout with scoring guide)

      Lesson three:

      In this lesson students will show evidence of learning important characteristics of the West Indies Islands in a letter writing activity. 

      1. Students will brainstorm letter writing ideas in a graphic organizer. I like to use the graphic organizer as a class activity to get started.  I use an overhead to complete the organizer with the students.  (A smart board works even better) The graphic organizer is the foundation to the lesson.
      2. Students will write a rough draft letter pretending they are a person who has left a West Indies Island nation to live in the United States. In the letter, they will describe characteristics of the island, reasons why they have left, and hope they have for the Island nation.
      3. Students will self edit their drafts. (I usually allow time in class if possible) Students will then divide into groups of three for peer editing. Each student must have two people edit their paper.  Then, I review the rough drafts to provide feedback to students.  Finally, students will type a final draft using Microsoft word.

      Explore the West Indies
      Web Search

      Use the following web sites to find more information about the West Indies Islands.  Choose one country from the following list to research.  You will locate 10 facts about one country of your choice and list below.  Identify information that is relevant to a least one of your personal unit goals. 

      Countries of choice:

      Puerto Rico
      Dominican Republic

      • This is a neat site that shows amazing pictures of each island count and gives basic information and history about each.
        • Click on people and places.
        • Use the mouse to locate the West Indies on the map and select.
        • Choose the country of your choice from the menu.
        • Read and research!
      • This site is operated by the CIA and is a data base for countries around the world.  Select your island nation to see a map, learn background information and history, and to see the countries flag.
      • This site is operated by the Department of State and gives background information and history about countries around the world.

      Exploring the West Indies fact sheet:

      West Indies country: ___________________________


      1. ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
      1. ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
      1. ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
      1. ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
      1. ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
      1. ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
      1. ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
      1. ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
      1. ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
      1. ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

      Your goals: Which of these facts related to your goals?  Explain what you know.


      West Indies Web Search Scoring Guide





      Student clearly identifies a fact about a chosen West Indies Island with detail. The student writes in neat complete sentences. The student clearly communicates the fact in a presentation to the class.

      Student does not clearly identify the fact. The student does not write in complete sentences. The student does not clearly communicate the facts in a presentation to the class.


      For additional information contact :
      Kalen Prothero
      Hamilton Middle
      Hamilton R-II
      (816) 583-2173

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