This year I came across a new activity that would allow me to review the process of thinking like a historian and let the students have a little fun too.
Introduction: I pass out a brown piece of construction paper and tell the students that I want them to think of an event in their life that has meaning. It can be good or bad, just something that sticks out in their memory.
The Task: Students must illustrate their event as if it was a cave drawing. We talk about what the first cave drawings were like and what they had (and didn't have). Students quickly realize that this means absolutely NO WORDS, LETTERS or NUMBERS! Pictures only!
The Time Limit: I don't want this activity to drawn out too much (pun intended!) so I give them a 15 minutes to complete this. Now I have some 8th grade students who will think...OK...I'll get my stick figures drawn and be done in 2 minutes and play games on my device for the rest of the time. I make sure to tell them I want them to use the entire time. If they finish their drawing before the time is up, they get to add color. This also gives those students who like to be very detailed a stopping point. **Also I make sure they know, they can't tell anyone what their picture is about**
The Activity: Once the time limit is done, I have the students place their drawings on the edge of the paper and stand up. Groups rotate from one table to the next and their task is to figure out what story is being told based on the illustration.
**Important** I make sure and reinforce again and again that I don't want the "topic" of the picture I want the entire STORY. It's easy to tell that the topic is about a roller-coaster, but I want to know why there's a picture of the roller-coaster, how did the person feel, what caused them to go on the ride, did they like it after? I want the WHOLE STORY!
The Discussion: Once the groups have made the rounds, we sit back down and talk how difficult it was to gather the entire story based on the images. Throughout the discussion we talk about making an inference based on the evidence. The students placed the event in context...by "dating" it without even realizing it. They know that everyone in the room is 13-14 years old, meaning the event had to have taken place within that time period. They corroborate with who the author is and what they know about that person. And they make a claim with supporting evidence.
Look at all that great historical thinking goodness that occurred within a 30-40 minute activity! I just love the way it worked out. It was a great exercise in reviewing those skills, a fun way to start the year, and allowed for us to get to know each other a little better.
Win. Win. Win.