Welcome back to the second post in this series about creating hands-on history lessons. Last month, I shared tips for engaging students during your early explorers unit. Now, I am excited to share a few of my favorite ideas for teaching colonial America. By implementing these activities, your students are sure to have a blast while about learning about the first permanent settlements and the 13 colonies!
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Use a History Mystery to Teach Early American History
If you tell your students a group of people mysteriously disappeared without a trace, they are sure to be intrigued! What happened to the settlers at Roanoke Island is one of the greatest history mysteries. Why not let your students become detectives and draw their own conclusions about what happened to the Roanoke colony?
Provide students with an assortment of passages and accounts about the Roanoke colony. As students read, have them take notes about what happened and the different theories. To make this activity even more fun, have students record their notes in a detective notebook. Then, students should use their notes to write a paragraph, drawing a conclusion about what they think happened. Not only is this a fun activity, but it is also a great way to integrate ELA skills into your social studies lesson.
Play Colonial America Games Online
No matter what subject I am teaching, my students always enjoy playing online games to review the information. When it comes to teaching about the first settlers at Jamestown, my students absolutely love On the Trail with Captain John Smith: A Jamestown Adventure. In this online activity, students play games and watch short videos with the objective of helping the settlers survive. Learning about the challenges some of the first settlers in America faced is fun with this online game!
Examine Artifacts from Colonial America
So, you may not be able to take a field trip to the historic Jamestown site to examine artifacts, but you can find lots of Jamestown artifacts online. The Jamestown Rediscovery website offers images of many artifacts that have been found where the Jamestown fort was located. By examining these artifact images, students can make inferences about life in colonial times.
Compare and Contrast Colonial Settlements
I am always amazed that when I begin teaching about Jamestown, which is the first permanent English settlement in North America, students think I am talking about Plymouth and the Pilgrims. Having to learn about so many early settlements can be confusing. One way to solve this problem is by using graphic organizers to have students compare and contrast life within the different settlements.
Move Around With a 13 Colonies Scoot
One of my favorite ideas for teaching colonial America is with a task card scoot activity. I place 13 task cards at different stations around the classroom. Each task card has information about one of the 13 colonies. As students move around the room, they must read the information on each card, and use that information to answer questions about life in the 13 colonies.
Read Books about Colonial America
If you’re like me, the time allotted for teaching social studies isn’t much. So, I always look for ways to teach the U.S. History topic we are learning about in my ELA block. There are several great books about colonial life that can be used as a read aloud or during guided instruction. Here are some of the best books about colonial America:
- You Wouldn’t Want to Be an American Colonist! by Jacqueline Morley
- Colonial America: An Interactive History Adventure by Allison Lassieur
- A Timeline History of the Thirteen Colonies by Mary K. Pratt
Host a Colonial Jobs Fair
Another one of my favorite ideas for teaching colonial America is a colonial jobs fair. Many schools host job fairs, where students research a career they are interested in and present on that career. In a colonial jobs fair, students research a colonial job and create a presentation about it. To make things even more fun, encourage students to dress up for their presentation in the attire a colonist would have worn when performing that job.
You can implement lots of fun, hands-on ideas for teaching colonial America. The activities listed above are sure to engage students and get them up and moving while they learn about early American life. Most of these activities are easy to replicate in your classroom but, if you are short on time, I can help you out! I have created the following colonial America teaching resources:
It’s been fun sharing some of my favorite ideas for teaching colonial America. Don’t forget to bookmark my blog so that you never miss any of my hands-on history tips and ideas. Next month, I will be sharing creative ways to teach the American Revolution.