Friday, August 15, 2014

History in a Bag - Part 1

I always hated the first day of school as a student.  Not because I had to go to school, I liked school fine.  Because all we did were rules, rules, and more rules.  Ugh!  Suckfest. 

I am embarrassed to admit it, that the first few years of my teaching career that's what I did.  I tried to disguise it with a "scavenger hunt" or station "activities," but it was still just rules.  I still hated it.  I was still bored by it.  But I felt like I HAD to do it.  The kids need to know what to expect in my class. 

By the end of the day I wanted to beat my head against the wall.  So I'm sure my students felt like that too. 

So a couple years I changed it up.  Each day I do a few "Need to Knows."  Select rules and policies that the students need to know on that specific day.  The first day my 7th graders meet me, they need to know that they must be an ACTIVE participant in this class.  It is a must.  But they don't need to know my late work policy until we start having assignments. This allows me to spread out my "rules" and get right down to business.

Today was my first day with 7th graders, and after a brief introduction of myself, tour of my classroom, and the select "Need to Knows" for the day we jumped in.

The activity is called History in a Bag and I took the idea from here.  But you know me (or you will very quickly) and know that I can't just leave it at taking someones idea.  I have to jazz it up a bit.  Make it fit my classroom and what I want my kids to gain from the activity.

Today was part 1. 

  • We had a discussion on what history is, how historians find the information, what a primary source is and how historians use a variety of sources and points of view to infer what happened.  The more sources and the more reliable the source is, the easier it is to be accurate in the story.  I told the kids that today they would get their first chance to "Think like a Historian."  Something they will be asked to do MANY times this year.
  • I gave each student an empty paper bag and instructed them to fill the bag with 5 items that they have with them (or in their lockers) and place the bag on the empty group in the front of the room.
    Bags filled with artifacts ready to be discovered!
  • Each student was then given a bag at random along with questions to answer about about the owner of the bag.  They could only use the items in the bag to answer the questions.
  • The questions were...
  • Is the owner of the bag male or female?  What makes you think this?
  • What is a hobby this person might have?  What makes you think this?
  • What type of music do you think this person likes to listen to?  What makes you think this?
  • Who do you think is the owner of the bag.
  • For some students the answers were easy.  Pink lip-gloss, perfume, and a key that says Princess were some good artifacts to use to answer the questions.
    Male or Female???

    Hmmm...Deodorant?  I wonder if he or she play sports?

    "I don't even know what this is?!?!"

    "Cherry Limeade chap-stick.  Female."

    "I think this person is female because there is a picture with three little girls"
  • For others, they had to use some reasoning and critical thinking to answer the questions.  Like the student who found a pair of running shorts in the bag.  He decided that her hobbies might be running or working out, that they would need fast, fun music, so he inferred that the owner of the bag listened to pop/rock music.  Great reasoning.  Awesome thinking.  
    Running shorts??
For me the best thing about this lesson is how it sets up the next one.  You see, what I described above is pretty much step by step and word for word what I took from Glenn Wiebe's back to school blog post.  In our next class period I will have a "real" History in a Bag filled with actual historical artifacts, pictures, and articles.  The students will have a series of questions to answer based on what they discover by studying the artifacts.

Stay tuned for part 2 next week!

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