Happy New Year!
The History of the Magical History Tour
Celebrations connect us. They connect us to our friends and family. They connect us to our past. Many of our holiday rituals have been passed on for generations. We eat certain foods, decorate in a particular way, and participate in various activities because it’s part of the celebration. Many times we have no idea why it’s part of the holiday, it just is, so we do it.
When I was a college student, I took several history courses. The first was an art history and humanities class. It connected art, literature, architecture, and music to the events of history. It was an amazing class! I was constantly thinking, “Why have I never heard this information?” When I was in high school, history classes were about war and famous men who had founded, invented, and discovered everything. The only thing I really knew about history was – it was boring! The humanities class changed my view. Now, I couldn’t get enough history.
Around the time my daughter started kindergarten, I started writing curriculum for reading and language arts, but I had another passion – history. I felt like history, the human experience from beginning to present, should be a course that began in elementary school, but I didn’t even know where to start with that idea. I talked to my mom because she’s super smart and was constantly reading and researching. She said she’d think about it. About a week after our conversation, she invited me over to discuss an idea she was working on. When I walked into her house I saw 15 sheets of poster board arranged in sequence on her living room floor. On each sheet, she had written a title and a date. She photocopied pictures from various books and pasted the pictures onto the poster board rectangles. In just a few months, she had created a poster timeline that would be the basis for our elementary school history program.
All of the curriculum I’ve worked on over the years has had one theme in mind: build a foundation for future learning. I still believe in that theme. I’ve met so many kids while working in various schools who are struggling because they never absorbed basic information and don’t have a process to place new information in their brains. With our history program, you introduce 13 distinct time periods in sequence, thereby creating 13 “file folders” in your students’ brains. Once the students are familiar with how people lived and dressed and who the key players are in each time period, they will have a place to file future historical information.
I often think back on the standardized test my first graders took at the end of the school year. One of the questions was, “Which of these illustrations is of Christopher Columbus?” The test page had four portraits: A. Abraham Lincoln, B. George Washington, C. Christopher Columbus, and D. Julius Caesar. The first time I gave the test, I noticed about a fourth of the class chose Caesar. The following year, I made sure to make a big deal over Columbus’s tights, cloak, and triangular hat. But even with that information, there were still a few kids who chose Caesar. I remember thinking, these kids have no connection to ancient Rome. If they did, they’d be able to eliminate Caesar as easily as they did Washington and Lincoln. The following year, I included a unit on ancient Rome. That spring, 100% of my students identified Columbus on the standardized test.
History is a collection of great stories; the stories of our past. Like celebrations, history connects us.
Another year has come to an end. Most of us celebrated with lights, candles, and fireworks. Lighting the winter in anticipation of spring is something that is celebrated in almost every culture. My final craftivity is called “LITTLE LANTERNS.” Click the link to get the template. Light up the new year!
My blogs in 2017 will focus on history. In the coming months, I will post a cut and paste craft, fun facts, and important vocabulary for each historical period. Also, I plan to connect each history page on my website to the best videos, projects, and information on the web. Get ready for the Magical History Tour!