I remember sitting in history class, as a student, and being bored out of my mind. The teacher just lectured and all I could do was to look at the clock and wish that I was someplace else, ANYPLACE else! Needless to say I learned very little history that year. I only began liking it after I became a 6th grade teacher, years later, and vowed that I would make history come alive for my children. I didn’t want them to go through what I did. That’s when my hands on approach to World History came about.
I found that a good way to get your class motivated in history class is to make it exciting by adding little tidbits of personalized information about people and or civilizations that you’re studying. Kids love hearing a bit of gore, so when I teach about the Maya, Aztec and Inca civilizations, I give information about their bloody sacrifices, or the game pok ta pok which is a predecessor to some of our modern sports like soccer and basketball. This is one way to help them relate to what was going on at that time.
Archaeology is a term that students should become familiar with. To just have them look up the word and perhaps write it in a sentence, or discuss it in class is tedious. I found some old clay pots, had my husband, who is an artist, draw designs on each one, we then broke them into fragments labeled them put them into bags and distributed them to groups of four students who were to work as an archaeological team. They were to walk around the room and find the missing parts from other groups of students. Once they had some pieces, they were to put the pots together so that they could figure out what the design was. I wouldn’t recommend this to younger students as it was a bit frustrating since pieces were difficult to find. Of course my goal for the lesson was achieved; the class knew a lot more about archaeology than they did before. More importantly, they realized how important it was to work as a team and what a difficult task an archaeologist had.
The Mesopotamians were the first architects of the ancient world, they built huge ziggurats. To help the class gain an understanding of what it was like to build bricks. One of their assignments was to make a brick out of mud, twigs, grass, etc. As a writing assignment, they were to write a daily journal of their experience. By doing this, they gained insight into the difficulties of brick building, and they realized just how difficult life must have been back then. As a culmination to the project, they brought their bricks into class so that they could build a ziggurat. Of course, many pictures were taken. Can you guess what their favorite part was? If you said smashing it to pieces, you would have been right.