Standards: Illinois State Standards History

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Chicago History Unit - Introduction
Illinois State Standards


  • 16.E.2a Identify environmental factors that drew settlers to the state and region.

  • 16.E.2c Describe environmental factors that influenced the development of transportation and trade in Illinois.

  • 16.C.2c Describe significant economic events including industrialization, immigration, the Great Depression, the shift to a service economy and the rise of technology that influenced history from the industrial development era to the present.

  • 16.A.2a Read historical stories and determine events which influenced their writing.


  • 17.A.2b Use maps and other geographic representations and instruments to gather information about people, places and environments.

  • 17.C.2b Describe the relationships among location of resources, population distribution and economic activities (e.g., transportation, trade, communications).

Common Core Literacy Standards

  • RI.3.1: Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.

  • RI.3.2: Determine the main idea of a text; recount the key details and explain how they support the main idea.

  • RI.3.3: Describe the relationship between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text, using language that pertains to time, sequence, and cause/effect.

  • RI.3.4: Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 3 topic or subject area.

Unit Objectives:

  1. Explain the significance of each symbol on the Chicago flag

  2. Identify the environmental factors that drew settlers to Chicago and explain why they were important

  3. Identify Chicago’s founding father and explain how Chicago started as a town.

  4. Explain the significance Fort Dearborn and the role it played in Chicago in the early 1800’s.

  5. Explain the factors that contributed to the start of The Chicago Fire and how it impacted the city of Chicago.

  6. Identify some of the problems that new immigrants faced in Chicago and explain why cultural neighborhoods were formed.

  7. Explain the importance and impact of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition and the 1933 World’s Fair Century of Progress on the city of Chicago.

  8. Describe who Daniel Burnham was and the important contributions he made to Chicago.

  9. Create a timeline of the major events in Chicago’s history.

  10. Identify the 3 general areas of the city of Chicago and its important waterways on a map.

Big Ideas/Enduring Understandings:

  1. Flags have symbols that are used to represent something important to that specific place.

  2. Timelines show and explain important events in history in a chronological order.

  3. Maps allow us to locate places and parts of a region.

  4. Maps help us understand local, national, and global events and problems.

  5. Climate and physical geography affect the development of a settlement.

  6. When cultures interact they produce different perspectives, challenges, and opportunities.

Key Concepts:

  1. Symbol – a letter, character, image, or sign that stands for something else and has a specific meaning

  2. Chronological – arranged in the order of time (first, then last)

  3. Region – an area that has specific characteristics or features that define it (i.e. desert, forest, prairie, mountains)

  4. Physical Geography – physical features of the earth, such as landforms and bodies of water (mountains, hills, valleys, rivers, lakes, plains, etc.)

  5. Climate – the average weather conditions of a particular place

  6. Natural resources – naturally occurring resources on earth (grass, trees, wood, air, water, etc.)

  7. Immigration – movement of people into a place or region from a different country

  8. Culture – the beliefs, social practices, and characteristics of a group of people; the characteristic features of everyday life shared by people in a particular place or time


Studying the history of Chicago is not only interesting, but meaningful to my students because it centers on the community they come from. Most of my student’s families came to Chicago from another country, and it would be significant to them to learn and understand more about the city, as well as how and why it developed into the city it is today. Through this unit, my students can learn to understand why their families might have moved here from somewhere else. There are many important factors that impacted the development of the city, and it is essential that my students understand the cause and effect relationship that occurs throughout history. Cause and effect relationships are important because my students should understand how one event in history can affect something else. This connection can also be applied to their daily lives and help them understand that their own actions can influence what happens.

Additionally, by learning about how and why Chicago was created the way that it was, my students will also come to an understanding about why it is such an important city even to this day. By gaining this knowledge about their community and the city in which they live, I am certain my students will develop a deeper appreciation for the city. Many of my students do not know much about the city of Chicago, and I believe learning about it will help them develop more curiosity about the city and its history. It is also important that students know and learn about their community and the surrounding communities. This knowledge will contribute to my students’ development as a citizen of their community and the city of Chicago.

Understandings, Appreciations, and Applications Goals:

  • Understand cause and effect in the context of history and the importance that events can have in the development of a city.

  • Appreciate the various cultures in Chicago and the contributions they made to the development of the city.

  • Apply map reading skills and geographic knowledge to navigate around one’s community.


Planning Resources


  • Chicago History Museum. Accessed 1/16/14.

  • City of Chicago. Accessed 1/21/14. <>

  • CPS Social Science Planning Guide SY12-13. Accessed 1/15/14. <‎>

  • Accessed 1/19/14.

  • Illinois Learning Standards: Social Science. Accessed 1/16/14. <>

  • Chicago, City of the Century – Maps: Chicago on Fire. PBS American Experience. Accessed 3/19/14.


  • Kreczmer, R. (2012). Just add water: Making the city of Chicago. Lake Claremont Press: Chicago.

  • Cleland, J. (2010). Surviving the great Chicago fire. Rourke Publishing: Florida.

Classroom Resources:

  • Pictures of the Chicago flag, Chicago Fire, Columbian Exposition, etc.

  • Maps of Chicago throughout the development of the city

  • Newspaper articles about the Chicago fire

  • Children’s books about the history of Chicago

    • Cleland, J. (2010). Surviving the great Chicago fire. Rourke Publishing: Florida.

  • Chicago History Museum website & materials


    • My Chicago Scrapbook Activities

  • PBS American Experience: Chicago: City of the Century


  • Kreczmer, R. (2012). Just add water: Making the city of Chicago. Lake Claremont Press: Chicago.

  • Worksheets

    • Cause & effect (Chicago Fire)

    • DuSable timeline

    • Note sheets for readings

    • Question sheets for readings

  • Homework activities and readings

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