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Teachers, you all know that teaching history can be a challenge. After all, with Facebook and reality TV in kids’ lives, history just seems so…yesterday! Nothing can bore a kid faster than the idea of textbooks, note-taking and unit tests. But, there is a better way!
Here is a research project that will not only foster kids’ creativity, but will also put them into the driver’s seat of their own learning about the past. It’s called the Multigenre Research Project, and while I designed it for Middle School, it could easily be adapted for upper elementary or high school, as well. Here are the steps to complete the project:
Read a Historical Novel or Biography
Students should choose a book that is set in the historical period that the project should cover (as decided by you, the teacher). Both historical fiction and biographies cover “real life” historical issues that people lived through. It’s important that kids begin their historical journey by walking in someone else’s shoes; they’ll need that perspective later in the project.
Choose a Topic
After reading, kids should choose an important topic or social issue covered in their book: What important facts jumped out? What struggles did the main character go through? For example, was the book about children during the Civil War? Was the book about soldiers who fought during the Revolutionary war? Keep the topic narrow.
Now is the time to find out all there is to know about the topic. Use the Internet to find articles, videos and pictures about the topic. The more knowledge kids have about their chosen idea, the better they will do in the next step.
Become a Historical Character
Here comes the really fun part! Let kids jump into the time machine of their own minds and create four to five creative original pieces. Kids should write (or draw or sing or act) from the point of view of someone in their historical era. Some ideas for them to think about:
• Write a poem or short story as an historical character
• Create a timeline of the era
• Record a video or original song as a character from the era
• Create an original magazine from the era
• Write a letter to a prominent figure of the era
• Draw a picture of a historical person from the era
Package It Up
Finally, kids will package up their work in a super creative way that fits the topic. For example, if the project was on American Soldiers during World War II, creatively package the pieces in a knapsack or backpack. If the topic was on families during the Great Depression, kids can frame drawings, poems and letters like family portraits on a display board. And Marie Antoinette findings, for example, could be fittingly collected in a jewelry box (or cake box!). The ideas are as endless as a student’s imagination!