I’m back with more hands-on ways to teach Virginia Studies throughout the school year! So far, we’ve explored ways to creatively teach regions of Virginia, Virginia Indians, and Jamestown. In this post, we’ll continue our journey through the Virginia Studies curriculum by investigating 8 colonial Virginia lessons and activities your students are sure to love!
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Virginia Colony Economics Game
One of my favorite colonial Virginia lessons is a bartering lesson. Rather than just having students describe bartering, I like to get them up and moving with a bartering activity!
Each student is given a brown paper bag filled with different objects related to colonial Virginia. Each bag has a different number of items. Then, students are given a goal of getting specific items through bartering within a certain amount of time. My students usually ask to play this game several times throughout our colonial Virginia unit.
Colonial Virginia Scrapbooks
To help students better understand how the culture of early Virginia was a reflection of different cultural groups, have students create scrapbooks of colonial Virginia. Each student should select a group that was represented in colonial Virginia such as American Indians, Germans, English, etc. Then, they should create a scrapbook with drawings and descriptions to show what daily life would have been like for that group of people in colonial Virginia.
If you are short on time to teach Virginia Studies, this can also be integrated into a writing lesson by having students write the image descriptions during their writing block.
Colonial Virginia Agriculture Projects
Agriculture was a huge part of colonial Virginia and the success of tobacco farming is what helped Virginia grow economically. The process used by early Virginians to grow tobacco was fascinating. It took over a year to grow, harvest, and ship a tobacco crop. A small mistake could ruin a whole crop, causing the farmer to lose his income for the year. As students learn about the process, have them create a timeline or sort, which will also help them work on sequencing skills.
The age level when Virginia Studies is taught is a good time to introduce the negative effects of tobacco use. I like to integrate a research and writing activity into my colonial Virginia lessons about the negative effects of tobacco use. Students can record their findings in an essay, brochure, or slideshow. This also helps to ease any worries you or parents might have about teaching students about tobacco crops.
Colonial Williamsburg Field Trip
One of the best field trips I have ever taken my students on is Colonial Williamsburg! Colonial Williamsburg is the world’s largest living history museum. In the life-size replica of an early Virginia town, students can visit shops to learn about different colonial jobs, tour colonial homes, participate in the General Assembly, and interact with Virginia’s early settlers.
Best of all, tours are aligned to the SOLs and do an excellent job of bringing Virginia Studies to life. When I took my class to Colonial Williamsburg, I was even able to speak with a representative beforehand about the specific standards I hoped they would cover. Our tour guides did a great job emphasizing the standards I requested throughout our tour.
If visiting colonial Williamsburg is not an option for your class, a virtual field trip can still create a memorable experience for your students. Colonial Williamsburg does provide videos with virtual tours on its website. Whether visiting in-person or virtually, experiencing the sights and sounds of the Virginia colony is sure to be one of your students’ favorite colonial Virginia lessons!
Virginia Cities Graph
Did you know the names of many Virginia cities are influenced by the cultural groups that lived in different regions of Virginia?
Have students select several Virginia cities to research. Then, look up the origin of the name of each city. For example, Nottoway is an American Indian name, whereas Bedford is an English name. This lesson can also be integrated with math by having students graph the origins of the city names they researched. Which cultural group is most represented in the names of our state’s cities?
Colonial Day Activities
Hosting a colonial Virginia day at your school is a great way to get students and families excited about Virginia Studies.
Be sure to dress up for the event and encourage students to dress up too. Colonial days work best when there are activities in different classrooms or places around the school. Ask parents to volunteer for the day to help with the stations. Divide students into groups and have the groups rotate through each station.
There are so many fun learning activities you can use as part of a colonial day. Here are a few of my favorites:
- make butter
- play colonial games
- make three-sided hats
- complete a weaving activity
- make candles
- complete a cross-stitch activity
- sample colonial foods
If you are unable to dedicate an entire day to have a colonial day, any of the activities listed above can also make for fun colonial Virginia lessons in the classroom.
Task Card Games
For this game, I divide my 28 colonial Virginia task cards into several categories. I flip each card over and write a point value on the back of each card. Then, I divide students into four or five teams. Teams take turns selecting cards and answering the questions on the cards. If they answer correctly, they get the points. If they answer incorrectly, another team can steal the points.
Time Travel Escape Room
In my Colonial Virginia Escape Room, students pretend to travel back in time to study life in the Virginia colony. While time-traveling, their time machine malfunctions. The only way to fix the time machine and return home is to complete several puzzles and challenges that incorporate math, ELA, and critical thinking skills. As soon as this escape room activity ends, students are always begging to do another one.
These are some of the best colonial Virginia lessons and activities that you can use to engage students and get them excited to learn about history. With these activities, your students will be excited to learn more about Virginia Studies each day!
If you’re short on time or could use some additional help planning your colonial Virginia lessons, everything listed here and more can be found in my Colonial Virginia Unit and my Virginia Studies Curriculum Bundle. I also have pre-made Colonial Virginia Task Cards and a Colonial Virginia Escape Room that are great for an end-of-unit review or as a way to review before the Virginia Studies SOL test.
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