Do you know one of my favorite things about teaching fourth grade in Virginia? Teaching Virginia Studies! I have loved history since I was a kid, and helping students find that same love through hands-on activities is one of my passions. In this post, you’ll find some of my favorite Virginia Indians lessons and activities to use when teaching Virginia Studies.
With these activities, you’ll likely hear students saying one of my favorite things… “When does Virginia Studies start? I can’t wait to learn more about history!”
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Take a Virtual Field Trip
Taking a field trip isn’t always an option. But, virtual field trips are a great way to allow students to explore the world around them.
One of my favorite Virginia Indians lessons involves taking students on a virtual field trip to examine American Indian artifacts discovered in Virginia using the Jamestown Rediscovery website. The site provides images of artifacts, detailed descriptions, information about where the artifacts were discovered in Virginia, and when the artifacts were used by Virginia tribes.
When studying artifacts, be sure to encourage students to compare and contrast the artifacts used by different tribes. This can help students visualize what life was like for Virginia Indian tribes throughout the state.
Retell Virginia Indian Legends
Storytelling was an important part of daily life for the earliest American Indians of Virginia. Each tribe created stories that had to do with objects and happenings that were part of their lives such as food and animals. I have found that students enjoy listening to and retelling these stories. One of my favorite Virginia Indian stories is the Legend of the Three Sisters, which is a Powhatan story that had to do with the crops they grew.
I also like to find ways to bring the stories to life. For example, when retelling the Legend of the Three Sisters, students create a healthy snack using the crops described in the story. Students can also act out the legends or try creating their own stories about objects that are part of their daily lives.
Share Real Pocahontas History
Does anyone else cringe when they hear students describe Powhatan history by sharing what they saw in the Pocahontas movie?
As much as I love Disney, it always makes my head spin when a student describes the events in Disney’s Pocahontas as real-life events. While teaching this unit, use this as a time to change students’ misconceptions of Pocahontas by sharing real accounts and stories from her life. You can also have students complete a research project about Pocahontas to learn more about her life and legacy.
Invite a Virginia Tribe to Your Class
Want to create a Virginia Indians lesson that your students will never forget? Invite members of a local tribe to visit your classroom!
When I was the director of a Virginia museum, we would invite members of the Monacan tribe to visit each year. Members of the tribe would share artifacts, wear tribal clothing, and perform tribal dances. Some Virginia tribes are also willing to visit schools for educational programs. Reaching out to a local tribe is also a great way to build relationships with the community.
Create a Virginia Studies Foldable
When teaching Virginia Studies, I am a big fan of using foldables. Foldables are a great tool for keeping students active during instruction and for helping them organize information.
There are several opportunities for using foldables during your Virginia Indians lessons. For example, students can use foldables to organize information about American Indian language groups or to compare Virginia tribes that existed in the past and the present.
Locate Virginia Indian Tribes on a Map
This Virginia Studies standard expects students to describe the lives of Virginia Indians today. Use this as an opportunity to have students work on map skills.
Students can use a map to locate where tribes are found. Using a tool such as Google Earth, students can get a bird’s eye view of the regions. Students can also recreate maps to show where American Indians of Virginia are located today.
Play Review Games
My final Virginia Indians lesson for this unit is always a day for students to play review games. There are two review activities that students always love for this unit: a task card game and an escape room.
I have created 28 Virginia Indians task cards that model the types of questions students will see on the SOL test. These task cards can be used to play a variety of games with students such as scoot, a scavenger hunt, and partner games. You can learn more ways to use task cards by checking out my blog post that lists my favorite task card games.
Finally, what student doesn’t love classroom escape rooms!? Escape rooms are a great way to incorporate math, ELA, and critical thinking skills into your Virginia Studies lessons. Students love completing the six challenges in this Virginia Indians escape room. Best of all, this escape room can be completed in-person or virtually.
These are just a few ways you engage students throughout your Virginia Indians lessons. With these activities, your students will be begging to learn more about Virginia Studies each day!
All of these activities and more can all be found in my Virginia Indians Unit and my Virginia Studies Curriculum Bundle. I also have pre-made Virginia Indians Task Cards and a Virginia Indians Escape Room that each includes a PDF and self-checking digital version.
Here at Vestal’s 21st Century Classroom, we love helping Virginia teachers find high-quality, SOL-aligned resources. You can check out the Virginia teachers page here on the blog or sign up for the Virginia teacher newsletter to stay up to date with our latest SOL-aligned resources, news, and tips.