History Make-Over Please?
Guest Author: Deidra L. Tolliver
If you’re like us, sometimes learning history by the suggested curriculum books and selections can be a bit overwhelming, boring, and lengthy. How can you embellish your history studies just a little bit? Better yet, how can you possibly create a complete history makeover? We have a few ideas and suggestions on how WE study, learn, and engage in history at our homeschool.
I. UNIT STUDIES
I only grasped the context and purpose of a unit study well into my son’s homeschool journey. A unit study is a way of learning about one topic by studying that topic across several subjects. So if you’re studying Mae Jemison, as we’re using in this example, you’d incorporate learning about her into your reading lessons, history, science, art, language arts, and even mathematics. This is said to help instill retention of otherwise more difficult (or boring) information on a particular subject or topic.
We sometimes create a single unit study on one historic honoree. Here are steps to help you follow this formula and cover several subjects within a one-week study (or longer should you choose).
1) Select your chosen honoree, Mae Jemison (shown here).
2) Visit your local library (the week before) and select several books, preferably children’s books no matter your student’s age, dvds, cds, articles, etc on your subject.
3) During READING or LITERATURE, you’ll read all about Mae Jemison and her many contributions to society. You’ll study to become as informed and familiar with your subject as you can.
4) While reading, be sure to write down and look up any unfamiliar words (VOCABULARY/GRAMMAR)
5) Then, you and your children will brainstorm things you can write, draw, make, or create that would both inform your “audience” (readers) about her, as well as honor her.
6) Here, you’ll agree to do one or several of the following over the week:
• write (or type) a summary (or report for older students) page about Mae Jemison; this summary should be neat, and re-written if a rough draft serves most feasible for your students level (WRITING)
• write a vocabulary definitions page for any of the words you learned during reading and research
• locate her birth place, current residence, or any other locations you choose on a map or globe
• older students can be assigned a MATHEMATIC lesson on the trajectory of spaceships
• watch a few videos of Mae Jemison speaking on why she chose to become an astronaut
• pick up more library books about space shuttles, astronauts, even planets and the solar system (SCIENCE/LITERATURE)
- create (or draw) a project on your last day of the unit study together that relates to her profession (we create an astronauts helmet using a photo of our student and a paper plate) (ART)
7) If you follow these steps and ideas, you can turn any generally long-winded history lesson into a week-long, engaging, fun, interactive, hands-on activity! You will also have covered various academic venues all on the same topic. Children (and teachers) seem to retain the information easier and better when something other than simply reading the lesson is encouraged.
Say you’re learning about Queen Victoria of England
1) First you’ll find easy reader books about her at your local library
2) Find short YouTube videos summarizing her reign
3) Observe the attire they wore during her era
4) After you’ve studied her and her reign, and England during her time, you could write a short script which includes parts for all the students and/or parents to participate in.
5) Practice the short play and its parts, and plan your costumes (use only items on hand like sheets and blankets to wrap and tuck like 17th century attire)
6) On the final work day, you could take turns either re-enacting certain people from her story, or put on a play, even if it’s just between you and your students minus an audience. Grandparents and neighbors may enjoy the show, too. (This is super hilarious if you opt to do an “impromptu” play, or an unscripted skit).
III. FLASH CARDS
There are tons of flash cards in various forms on various historic topics. We’ve collected several over the years from Target, Wal-Mart, Knowledge Tree (our local educational supplies store), Amazon, and even the dollar stores. We have decks on US Presidents, Black History Figures, Civil War Machines, and more. They won’t be marked “history,” but if there’s anything that can be learned from them or taught in school, grab them!
All we do is flip through them when we first get them, just to familiarize ourselves with the people to be studied and how the deck of cards is organized and outlined. Then we’ll choose 2 to 3 people to read about, and then exchange oral 3-question quizzes. We’ll add onto our questions the next day until we’re more familiar with each history honoree. (Read more about our love and uses for Flash Cards here. Learn how you can make your own set of numbered flash cards for various educational activities here.)
These front-back jewels come in various subjects and many different colors, styles, outlines, shapes, and lots of information! They not only make great educational mats for eating on top of, but can also create great conversation during meal time. They are a quick reference, fun way to internalize snippets of information and to familiarize our minds with great facts. They have all kinds of categories at our educational supply store, from math and science to history and geography. We learned the US presidents using placemats and flash cards.
I hope you’ve enjoyed our ideas on how to honor the men and women in our many history books. I hope you’ve been encouraged to give your curriculum a little twist using some of the ideas suggested above. The main idea is to be as creatively fun as you can.
How do you spruce up any subjects that you and your children have found to be less exciting to learn? What do you do to inject livelihood and energy in your so-called “boring” subjects? Please leave your comments and thoughts in the comments section below.
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-Deidra L. Tolliver
This article was originally published on ArtEase123.com used on Homeschooling in Memphis blog with permission.
Photos inside post provided by Deidra L. Tolliver
Deidra L. Tolliver is regular contributor for Homeschooling in Memphis blog. Before graduating summa cum laude from the University of Memphis with a Bachelor in Fine Arts degree concentrating in Graphic Design, Deidra studied, tutored, and taught art lessons at her church, high school, and college. Since college, she has served as graphic artist at local firms, retired in 2005 to become a homeschool educator, met many homeschool supporters who encouraged her to share her passion for art & education with others, and now works on her family’s blog, “ArtEase123.com” in which she and her family share many ideas on how to incorporate both art and education into just about any item, project, subject, or activity.