One of the best experiences of my teaching career was the Teacher Institute in Colonial Williamsburg. I wanted to bottle it up and bring it home, and recreate and refashion it so that we could produce similar experiences for people on the West Coast.
Organizers packed the week with themes of experiences, most of them reproducible except for the location.
Before we arrived we had to read a couple of books about Colonial Williamsburg, and the PEOPLE who lived there. Whenever you spend the time and money to take kids on vacations or field trips, you should prepare them in some way. That’s half the fun of going. Assigning your students books or articles to read, watching videos together, then having them discuss and write about what they are learning will put the steroids into the field trip – without making it illegal!! Students will be constantly comparing what they read with what they learn when they visit. They will be able to ask questions.
Once we arrived in Colonial Williamsburg, we received a new identity. That first evening as we got an overview of the town, we were always looking around the corner to find out about our special person.
I was Clementina Rind, whom I wrote about earlier in my blog. The interesting thing about doing that SIMPLE activity is that you never forget THAT PERSON. You might forget tons of other factoids, but that person lives in you forever.
They they invited a guest speaker who survived the Holocaust.
The strategy of assigning alternative identities is applicable anywhere about any period in history. Most teachers can’t dredge up re-enactors, or even guest speakers, but I’ve seen teachers dress up themselves,
These fifth grade students became re-enactors for the Civil War Time Time Travelers Student Event. (Another story coming soon.)