In this two-part challenge, students examine the differences between life in their great-grandparents' times and the present. To prepare for this activity, arrange for someone to come to the classroom to answer questions about life in the community approximately 50 years ago. To help students gather information about the past and make comparisons with the present read aloud stories such as Three Names by Patricia MacLachlan and William Kurelek's book, A Prairie Boy's Winter. You may wish to create a large chart with two columns"Then" and "Now"to record similarities and differences in various aspects of life (e.g., education, clothing, recreation, jobs). Discuss the criteria for the biggest similarity (e.g., looks the same, is done in the same way, would have the same feeling) and the biggest difference (e.g., looks different, is carried out differently or not at all, would have a different feeling). Direct students to identify one thing from the story where the past is mostly similar to their lives now and one thing where the past is mostly different.
Now invite students to prepare questions to ask of a community member to learn about life long ago in their community. To introduce the task, explain that you are going to ask two questions and students are to decide if one question seems more interesting or powerful than the other (e.g., "Are you in Grade 1?" "What is the most fun activity you have done in your life?") Guide students to understand that questions that require more information are more powerful than questions that can be answered with a simple "yes" or "no." Explain that a guest will be visiting the classroom to talk about their community. Discuss what students would like to learn from the guest about life in the community long ago. Suggest that the interview will be more effective if they prepare a number of questions. In framing questions, encourage students to consider activities that might be done at various times in the year, depending on the season. As a class, develop criteria for powerful questions (e.g., ask for interesting information, tells us about the past, cannot be answered by yes or no, tells us what life was like all year). Instruct students to select a powerful question they would like to ask the guest. If necessary, have a reading buddy or adult scribe the questions. Ask students to work with a partner to assess the quality of each other's question by referring to the criteria and to refine their own questions. See Asking Powerful Questions (Modelling the Tools) for detailed suggestions on how to teach and assess the tools for generating thoughtful questions.
Arrange for the guest to visit the class and for students to pose their questions. You may want to adapt one of the charts and strategies in Recording Our Research (Support Material) to assist students in recording their questions and noting the key words in the guest's answers. As a class, record the information gathered from the guest in the "Then" column of a large chart and assist students completing the "Now" column for each item.
Invite students to consider the biggest similarity and biggest difference between their life now and life in the days when their great-grandparents were children. Review the criteria for making this comparison and invite students to choose the one thing that is most similar (e.g., they both went to school) and one thing that might be very different (e.g., now they play video games whereas then they played marbles). You may want to adapt one of the charts and strategies in Comparing Differences (Support Material) to assist students in recording their conclusions. Discuss students' findings.