The New Colossus: Teaching Notes and Vocabulary

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”

Emma Lazarus’s inspiring poem is engraved on a plaque at the Statue of Liberty.  Many people only know the famous ending, but reading the whole sonnet gives a much deeper meaning.

“The New Colossus” makes a wonderful memorization challenge.  Your students can handle it—my third graders sure did!

The title refers to the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.  The Colossus of Rhodes was a huge statue of the titan Helios, constructed to celebrate Rhodes’ victory over Cyprus.

America’s Statue of Liberty is “The New Colossus,” symbolizing welcome, freedom and hope.

I hope you and your students will enjoy my teaching notes and vocabulary handout.  It gives background information and lays the poem and relevant vocabulary words side-by-side.  Having all this information on one sheet will help your students understand and memorize the poem.

Memorization tips:

  1. Give a deadline:  Students will work harder if they have a deadline.  Memorize the poem alongside your students.  Offer a reasonable deadline—I chose two weeks—but you can tell students that if they don’t have it learned by then, they’ll get an extension.
  2. Offer a reward.  My class’s reward was an ice cream sundae.  I expected about five students to take the time to memorize, but 35 students qualified! (Tip: when you’re making that many sundaes, save yourself the trouble of scooping and buy the little ice cream cups.)
  3. Study and analyze the poem:  Students learn and memorize more effectively if they understand the material.  Work as a class to find examples of metaphor and symbolism.
  4. Memorize in sections.  Begin with the most famous lines, “Give me your tired…”  Then, go back to the beginning and memorize in sections.  Practice each section over and over.  Don’t move on until you know that section cold.
  5. Don’t worry about the lines.  Sometimes one thought continues onto another line.  Focus on meaning, not form.
  6. Memorize with your students.  When you undertake to memorize this yourself, you’ll come across tips and tricks to help your students.
  7. Finally, appreciate the poem’s beauty.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

You can read about “The New Colossus” at Wikipedia.  Be sure to click and read about the Colossus of Rhodes.  Visit the Statue of Liberty’s official site, as well.

Posted in FREE Worksheets,Social Studies,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ May 13, 2017

 

History of the Easter Parade (with clips from Fred & Judy’s star performance)

Watch the clip of Judy Garland and Fred Astaire performing Irving Berlin’s classic song “Easter Parade” and teach your students a little history!

Easter Parade is a classic MGM musical. It is a Pygmalion story about a famous dancer who is abandoned by his dancing partner and bets that he can turn anyone into a better partner than she was. His random protégé is Judy Garland, so you know that the singing-and-dancing act will (eventually) turn out well. Of course, Fred and Judy’s characters fall in love, and the finale finds the happy couple walking in New York’s Easter Parade.

Teaching Tips: New York’s Easter Parade on Fifth Avenue was an important institution for decades. It began as in impromptu event in the 1870s as couples showed off their finery while admiring the Easter flowers at the sanctuaries of the city’s most beautiful churches. Over the years, the floral displays and elegant dress grew more and more ornate. By 1947, the Easter Parade drew over a million people.

Your students will be interested to learn that both Easter parades and new clothes for the holiday have a long tradition. Easter processions have been a part of Christianity since the first Holy Week., and Christians in Eastern Europe would gather together and walk in a solemn procession to church on Easter Sunday. The clergy have long worn special garb for Easter, and in Tudor times, superstitious parishioners believed that if you didn’t wear new clothes for Easter, moths would eat your old threads.

When I teach my class about the classic “Easter Parade” song, I never lose sight of a very important lesson: teaching students to analyze just how Judy Garland gives another stellar performance. Not a move, gesture, or vocal intonation is wasted. She is a star for the ages!

*Fun Fact: Sydney Sheldon, author of many novels of suspense, wrote the screenplay for Easter Parade.

**Fun Fact: Irving Berlin first used the tune for “Easter Parade” in a song called “Smile and Show your Dimple.” The song flopped, but he later salvaged the tune and made it into a classic. The stick-with-it lesson, perseverance, is an inspiration for all of us.

Posted in Academics,Holidays,Social Studies by Corey Green @ Apr 10, 2017

 

FREE April Fools Day Worksheet

Here is a FREE April Fools Day worksheet written by a National Board Certified Teacher. Students will build comprehension skills and practice critical thinking as they learn about the origins of April Fools Day.

April Fools Day began with a calendar change in 19th century France. King Charles IX moved New Year from April 1st to January 1st. News spread slowly through the countryside, so some folks celebrated on the wrong day for years before they learned of the change. Others refused to change and became known as April Fools. It became a tradition to play pranks on them.

Click here for the FREE worksheet.

More April Fools worksheets are available from Classroom Jr. Click here to access them. There is a reading comprehension activity, a writing activity, and a word search. Build reading fluency with these fun and ready-to-print April Fools poems.

Posted in Academics,FREE Worksheets,Holidays by Corey Green @ Mar 26, 2017

 

Groundhog Day including a FREE Worksheet

Groundhog Day is a fun, low-stress holiday for the elementary classroom.

Teach your students about the history of Groundhog Day using my Groundhog Day Worksheet.  You will find vocabulary definitions, think and respond questions, and a fun tongue twister about woodchucks.  (Did you know a woodchuck and a groundhog are the same creature?)

Visit Groundhog.org, the official website of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, for pictures, articles, and resources for teachers.  (I like the songs to the tune of “Winter Wonderland” and “Up on the Housetop.”)

“Punxsutawney” [puhngk-suh-taw-nee ] originally was settled by the Delaware Indians.
The name derives from a Native American term which translates to “town of the sandflies.”
The town is located in Jefferson County, Pennsylvania, 84 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.

Here is a quick brush-up on Groundhog Day history from my worksheet:

Groundhog Day is a holiday celebrated on February 2nd.  According to folklore, if it is cloudy when the groundhog emerges from its burrow, the groundhog will leave the burrow, signaling that winter will soon end.  If it is not cloudy, the groundhog will see its shadow and retreat back into the burrow.  Winter will continue for six more weeks.

Groundhog Day began as a Pennsylvania Dutch tradition in the 18th and 19th centuries (1700s and 1800s).  In Pennsylvania today, you can see official Groundhog Day early morning festivals.  You can enjoy special food, hear speeches, and even watch a g’spiel (play or skit).  You might find that only the Pennsylvania German dialect is spoken.  Those who speak English at the event pay a penalty, usually a coin per English word spoken, to a bowl at the center of the table.

Posted in Academics,FREE Worksheets,Holidays by Corey Green @ Jan 30, 2017

 

Fun Facts about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s School Days

Students love to learn about Martin Luther King, Jr., but his achievements seem inaccessible to them. For kids, Dr. King was a fully-formed civil rights leader who always knew just what to do.

You can inspire children by teaching them about Dr. King’s school days. Then they will understand that he had to face obstacles, study, and learn. Kids feel so powerless sometimes—it’s good to show them that famous people were once children, and that everyone was a beginner at some point.

You and your class would enjoy taking Valerie Strauss’s MLK Quiz: His unorthodox education. Here are some no-context tidbits to get kids interested:

Did you know Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. …

> Was kicked out of school? (Okay, so it was kindergarten, and it was only because he was too young. Got your attention, though!)

> Was called an underachiever by his college professors?

> skipped two grades?

> thought about studying law or medicine?

Posted in Academics,Social Studies by Corey Green @ Jan 23, 2017

 

Teaching Notes for Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” Speech

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, you may want to show the “I Have a Dream” speech to your students.  I have found that this speech is captivating for elementary school students, but it is absolutely necessary for you to teach them about the speech before they listen.

I’d like to share my teaching notes (pdf) on MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech with you and your students.  I hope it helps you teach the historical context, allusions, and rhetorical techniques.  If you copy my teaching notes for your students, I suggest you read the speech with them and explain the context.  Then, listening to Dr. King give the speech will be an unforgettable experience for your students.

Why are teaching notes so important?  The “I Have a Dream” speech is rich in allusions: historical, biblical, and even financial.  Your students will appreciate these allusions—if they know about them.

Take the first few paragraphs: will your students understand the significance of the speech’s setting, the Lincoln Memorial, and the phrase “a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today” if you don’t explain these details?  Will your students understand how the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution compare to a promissory note?  My teaching notes explain these details clearly.

What about the famous part of the speech, at the end?  For example, knowledge of geography is essential to understanding the “let freedom ring” section.  Dr. King begins it with “let freedom ring…” [in famous landmarks of northern and western states]… “But not only that.  Let freedom ring…” in famous landmarks in the southern states.]  The sequence will be more memorable for your students if they understand this distinction.  Without teaching notes, your students might miss much of the meaning.

I recommend you buy the Martin Luther King Jr. – I Have a Dream speech on DVD rather than listen to the speech through the Internet.  This DVD introduces the speech with real footage of events leading up to it.  You can also watch a featurette about the March on Washington on August 28, 1963.  Your students will enjoy seeing the marchers and will be impressed with how well-dressed the marchers are.  (Every year, this is the first thing my students notice.)

Free “I Have a Dream” speech at AmericanRhetoric.com

Posted in Academics,FREE Worksheets,Holidays,Social Studies by Corey Green @ Jan 16, 2017

 

FREE Worksheet for the Movie The Mouse on the Mayflower

Celebrate Thanksgiving and give yourself a little prep time by having your class watch Mouse on the Mayflower and complete this FREE worksheet.

Mouse on the Mayflower is a time-honored Thanksgiving movie. Your class will enjoy the cartoon story told from a mouse’s point of view.

For older students, you can use this FREE comprehension worksheet to increase the educational value a little. The questions are easily completed by a fifth-grader who pays attention. This worksheet is perfect for grades 4-6. In my experience, third graders just stress out and interrupt each other asking for the answers because they missed them.

Here’s a previous post about Mouse on the Mayflower.

Follow up other mouse-eye views of history. My favorite is Ben and Me, a wonderful book by Robert Lawson and a fun cartoon movie by Disney. It’s a great way to teach students about Benjamin Franklin and set the stage for a unit on the American Revolution. Another good mouse story is She Was Nice to Mice: The Other Side of Elizabeth I’s Character Never Before Revealed by Previous Historians, a cute mini-novel written by 80s star Ally Sheedy when she was twelve.

Posted in Academics,FREE Worksheets,Holidays,Social Studies by Corey Green @ Nov 16, 2016

 

Teach the 2016 Presidential Election

Teaching government is most fun during a presidential election year. These resources will help you and your students learn about the 2016 election. Election day is November 8, 2016.

The following resources and lessons help you teach government basics and how to choose a candidate—while steering clear of contentious politics.

Schoolhouse Rock Election Videos

Watch these at the official Disney site and avoid embarrassing YouTube moments (scroll down the Disney page to where the “Watch Videos” section appears):

Electoral College
I’m Just a Bill
Presidential Minute
Preamble
No More Kings

Icivics has created an excellent packet to teach the electoral process. You will enjoy these worksheets with pleasing design yet meaty information.

Teach students to evaluate candidates—but take today’s politics out of it! The Icivics Candidate Evaluation packet is a ready-to-use unit that lets your students compare two fictitious candidates.

FREE online debate game: The Icivics Cast Your Vote game lets kids run the debate! Two fictitious debate important (but not too controversial) issues. Students choose which question to ask and then decide which candidate they agree with. At the end, they get to vote. A printout shows how often they agreed with that candidate and how strongly. Students will probably find that no one candidate reflects all their views; voters have to make a judgment call on what’s important to them.

Your judgment call: will you make your students write an essay about their debate game? Why or why not?

Learn about voting rights: who got the vote and when? What are barriers to voting? This Icivics lesson packet gives you everything you need to teach the topic of voting rights at the elementary level.

The classic site for teaching elections and government: Ben’s Guide to Government: this extensive site gives you materials to teach government to students in grades K-12. For branches of government to the Electoral College, all the information you need is here.

Classic election night homework: give students this Electoral College map coloring page that they can fill out as they watch the election returns. You can also do this the next day at school.

Teacher Tip: the day after a presidential election can be a rough one in the classroom. Some students internalize their parents’ politics. If their candidate didn’t win, kids can be very depressed or angry. Likewise, students whose candidate did win can be insufferably smug. You can talk with students about how after the election, the president represents everyone. Then you might want to move on to a new subject, fun art activity, learning game—anything but elections and government!

Posted in Academics,Social Studies by Corey Green @ Nov 2, 2016

 

Write spooky Halloween stories using a sensory word bank

HalloweenIt’s not often that students are truly interested in imbuing their writing with sensory details.  Halloween is one of those rare occasions.  Here are some tips for encouraging students to write vivid details.

Practice as a class

Working together, choose a spooky setting and story premise.  On the board, create a chart with five columns, one for each sense.  (Sight, smell, taste, sound, touch)  Fill each column with at least three examples.  Then, encourage students to try turning the sensory details into sentences that could fit into a story.

Create individual sensory word banks

Once students start writing their spooky Halloween stories, they are more interested in action than description.  A little planning can go a long way.  Encourage students to brainstorm sensory details for their stories.

Separate description from storytelling

Writing a Halloween story with vivid descriptions might be too much for your students.  You could encourage students to write descriptive Halloween paragraphs and illustrate them.

Create a grab bag of sensory details

Cut scratch paper into eighths.  Give each student five scraps.  Then, have each student write a sensory detail on each scrap.  Put all the scraps in a grab bag and redistribute them.  Challenge students to create a paragraph that incorporates all the sensory details they pulled from the grab bag.

Read spooky stories and descriptions aloud

As students work, take frequent breaks for sharing.  You can choose good examples or allow students to volunteer to read their efforts to the class.  Students will be motivated by seeing their peers succeed at description.

Happy writing!

You might enjoy these other Halloween posts at ClassAntics:

New Orleans Halloween: teach a Fall Festival lesson about the culture of New Orleans.  Includes a FREE powerpoint of New Orleans cultural symbols and landmarks, book recommendations, and music tips.

A good way to organize a Halloween Party: learn how to create a party for your whole grade level by setting up a rotation.  Each teacher need only prepare one activity.

Do any of your students opt out of celebrating Halloween or other holidays?  Read how to accommodate that student in a pleasant way in the post Buddy Up to Help Students Who Don’t Celebrate Holidays or Birthdays.

Make it a theme day with Halloween Math Worksheets.

Posted in Holidays,Writing by Corey Green @ Oct 24, 2016

 

New Orleans Halloween

bookThis year, try a New Orleans theme for your Halloween/Fall Festival party.  You can work in geography, history, culture, and Halloween fun.

I did this last year and I can tell you that both the kids and parents just loved it.  It was a nice modification of traditional Halloween-at-school activities.  Parents appreciated the educational angle and they learned something, too.

I grabbed everyone’s attention by showing them that the Disney Haunted Mansion is in New Orleans Square.  I told them that the Disney Haunted Mansion movie is set in New Orleans, too.

Once I had everyone’s attention, I showed them a New Orleans PowerPoint I created.  You can click to download & share it, too (large file: 3+ MB).  It shows pictures of New Orleans to help get everyone in the mood.  I downloaded the Disney “Grim Grinning Ghosts” Haunted Mansion song along with some classic New Orleans jazz to play while we looked at the pictures.

Everyone loved learning about the New Orleans jazz funeral.  I told the children how it evolved from African funeral customs.  A New Orleans jazz band plays a sad song or dirge on the way to the cemetery, and happy tunes for the procession out.  Click here to learn more about the New Orleans jazz funeral.  Here is a sample:

Eileen Southern in The Music of Black Americans: A History wrote, “On the way to the cemetery it was customary to play very slowly and mournfully a dirge, or an ‘old Negro spiritual’ such as ‘Nearer My God to Thee,’ but on the return from the cemetery, the band would strike up a rousing, ‘When the Saints Go Marching In,’ or a ragtime song such as ‘Didn’t He Ramble.’  Sidney Bechet, the renowned New Orleans jazzman, after observing the celebrations of the jazz funeral, stated, “Music here is as much a part of death as it is of life.”

Because I teach third grade, I don’t explain how the New Orleans above-ground cemeteries are necessary so that the bodies don’t wash out on the streets during floods.  This would be very interesting to older students, though.  For third graders,  I  show  pictures of the beautiful New Orleans cemeteries, famous cultural landmarks of the city.

Make sure to teach the kids about New Orleans food, like jambalaya and po’boys.  Explain that po’boy sandwiches can be any simple filling in bread, but that most people think of a shrimp po’boy.   My mom said that when she lived near New Orleans, red beans and rice was everybody’s Monday dinner because Monday was laundry day and the mother was too busy to cook something difficult.  Practical details like that help history and culture come alive for students.

Parents and students alike are very interested in my story about the New Orleans streetcars.  I explained that if you ride the car to the end of the line, the driver will have everybody stand up so he can reverse the seat backs.  In that way, you always ride facing forward.  Click here to see the concept.  The picture is part of my New Orleans PowerPoint presentation.

For a literacy connection, I recommend reading the New Orleans Magic Tree House book A Good Night for Ghosts.  Your students will enjoy learning about New Orleans and Louis Armstrong.  The book touches very, very lightly on segregation.  You can expand on that or wait for another learning opportunity, your choice.   (If you like, teach your students that Ruby Bridges integrated William Frantz Elementary in New Orleans.)  A Good Night for Ghosts shouldn’t be too scary for your class.  It has a mild ghost scene that turns out not to be ghosts after all, but Louis’s friends.

Happy Halloween!

Posted in Academics,Holidays,Social Studies by Corey Green @ Oct 17, 2016

 

The Second of July: “the most memorable epoch in the history of America”

I always imagine John Adams as the nerdy know-it-all of the Founding Fathers, the guy who was never quite cool*. Nothing illustrates this so well as his earnest prediction that July 2nd was gonna be a big day:

“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”— July 3, 1776 letter to Abigail

Americans celebrate the date on the document, not the date the resolution was approved in a closed session of Congress. We all know that we’ll be partying on the Fourth. Let’s take the Second to do our homework and learn a little about the holiday.

Because the Census Bureau is all about the fun: peruse their Fun Facts about the Fourth of July. I liked their comparison of who will be celebrating in the USA: over 311 million now versus 2.5 million then. Also, did you know that more than 1 in 4 hot dogs consumed on the Fourth of July originated from Iowa?

View the Declaration of Independence from the Archives web site.

Read John Adams’ letter describing the 1777 Fourth of July celebration.

That treasure trove of Internet research, Wikipedia, publishes a useful Fourth of July.

*My basis for this assumption: the “Sit Down, John!” number from the musical 1776 . This is such a fun movie. I get a kick out of watching Gwyneth’s mom as Martha Jefferson. There are powerful moments, too. The best is “Molasses to Rum to Slaves.” (Note: according to an Amazon review, this song is not in the director’s cut DVD.)

Posted in Academics,Holidays,Social Studies by Corey Green @ Jul 2, 2016

 

Tips for Helping Kids Enjoy Museums and Historical Locations: Part Four—Practical tips and suggestions

MixedUpFilesYes, it’s possible to teach preschool and elementary school-age children to enjoy museums.  Apply these tips and watch students enjoy art museums, historical museums, historic houses and other historic locations! These tips work well for parents and teachers.

  1. Think about your purse or bag. Some museums won’t let you carry a large bag.  A diaper bag or Mom backpack won’t cut it.  Think about how you’ll carry your wallet and keys.  Maybe you want a small purse that’s easy to carry.  Also, bring some quarters for the locker.  Many museums’ lockers are free these days, but not all.  It’s good to be prepared.
  2. Remember that children have short attention spans.  A teacher’s rule of thumb: a child can focus intently for the same number of minutes as his age in years.  Of course, if you can truly engage the child, he will focus for much longer.  Just keep this in mind for those times when you want to linger over an exhibit, but your child is done quickly.  That’s how kids are.
  3. Hydrate!   Bathroom!  These two go hand-in-hand.  When you feel your energy lag at the museum, it’s time to hydrate.  A nice big glass (or bottle) of water will restore you pretty quickly.  Then hit the bathrooms—or plan to go soon—because you don’t want bathroom emergencies.  I recommend you locate the bathrooms when you first enter the museum so you’re ready for a crisis.
  4. Eat something. Hungry kids are cranky kids.  Eat something filling before you go, and find a snack while you’re there.  Musuem cafes often have tasty offerings.  Some cafes are on the expensive side, but they often have reasonably priced offerings for kids.  If the café isn’t in your budget, bring a snack from home.  Good Old Raisins and Peanuts (GORP) is an easy snack to bring.  Add some M&M’s if you’re feeling generous.  That plus water from the water fountain will get you pretty far.
  5. Take breaks.  Many museums have beautiful grounds or a nice patio.  Take breaks every so often and let the kids run around.  Grab a snack from the café or head to the car to enjoy a brown-bag snack.  In a pinch, get kids away from the exhibits and do a few yoga stretches or simple exercises.
  6. When all else fails, play I Spy. A game of I Spy can keep a child going even if she is not particularly interested in the exhibits.  Alternatively, I Spy might help your child focus on the details.  Sit on the bench in the middle of the gallery.  Ahhh…that feels good!  Now, play I Spy.  Challenge your child (or students) to find the green this or that, an unexpected symbol, an artifact, etc.

Read all four posts about helping kids enjoy museums and historical locations:

Part one: lay the groundwork

Part two: structure your visit

Part three: learn all you can

Part four: practical tips and suggestions


 

Juneteenth (June 19th)

“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”—Read by Major General Granger to the people of Texas, June 19, 1865.

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration of the end of slavery in the United States. On this day in 1865, the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with the news that the war was over and the slaves were now free.

I wish this date fell during the school year, because it would be so meaningful for students. Still, we can learn and celebrate today, take the lessons with us back to school.

How can you celebrate Juneteenth? Learn about the history and search for Juneteenth events in your area.

I highly recommend visiting Juneteenth.com, the comprehensive source for all things Juneteenth. You can learn more about Juneteenth at the Smithsonian, in this article that complements a special exhibit.

Posted in Academics,Holidays,Social Studies by Corey Green @ Jun 17, 2016

 

Tips for Helping Kids Enjoy Museums and Historical Locations: Part Three—Learn all you can

NightAtTheMuseum2Yes, it’s possible to teach preschool and elementary school-age children to enjoy museums.  Apply these tips and watch students enjoy art museums, historical museums, historic houses and other historic locations! These tips work well for parents and teachers.

  1. Connect the past to the present.  Ask thought-provoking questions.  How do the activities in the painting/exhibit remind you of modern life?  How do the artifacts, tools, and daily-life objects compare to now?  Compare and contrast.  Think about whether the people in the paintings look like someone you know.  You might see some familiar faces!
  2. Start a collection.  Give your child a purpose in attending the museum: adding to a collection.  The collection could be postcards with pictures or reprints of art, magnets, scrapbook pages, facts, whatever.  Kids love to collect, and they love to learn more about their collections.
  3. Make a museum-movie connection.  Watch movies with fun museum scenes or a connection to the historical location.  Some of my favorites are Night at the Museum and Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.  Ferris Bueller’s Day Off features iconic scenes from The Art Institute of Chicago.  Your older kids will love it.  Heist movies are fun, too.  Edgy parents might let their kids think about how a heist might go down at the museum—or how they could prevent one.  Historical fiction movies pair well with historical visits.  For example, watch Felicity – An American Girl Adventure if you’re visiting Colonial Williamsburg.  Parts of the movie were filmed there, and the plot takes place in Williamsburg.
  4. Make a museum-book connection.  Before or after your visit, hit the library, Internet, bookstore, whatever!  Look for books set in museums, like From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler or the delightful  Katie’s Picture Showand other picture books about Katie, a girl who can step into paintings. Another idea: read books set in the time of paintings or exhibits you saw.  Your child might develop an interest in a certain location or time period.  Encourage that!
  5. Build a frame of reference.  Many people say, “I know what I like,” but the truth is that we like what we know.  Often kids don’t like museums because they don’t have a clue what they’re seeing.  No clue, no appreciation. Many museum and historical exhibits go over a child’s head unless you build a frame of reference. Here’s a fun, easy technique that educators call K-W-L. (Knows, Wonders or Wants to know, Learned)
      • Find out what your child already knows about the location or topic.  You might be surprised at what your child already knows—or you might uncover misconceptions.
      • Make a list (or just discuss) what your child wonders about the topic.  What does she want to learn?  You can offer some knowledge here, but don’t spill everything, because…
      • After the visit, you will list (or discuss) what your child learned.  Bonus points if you can turn a discussion on what you learned into a discussion about what you now wonder.  After all, learning makes us realize how much there is to know, and how much we don’t know.  Ideally, you can entice your child (or students) to do some research (or just visit the museum website) after the visit.

Read all four posts about helping kids enjoy museums and historical locations:

Part one: lay the groundwork

Part two: structure your visit

Part three: learn all you can

Part four: practical tips and suggestions


 

Tips for Helping Kids Enjoy Museums and Historical Locations: Part Two–Structure your visit

NightAtTheMuseumYes, it’s possible to teach preschool and elementary school-age children to enjoy museums.  Apply these tips and watch students enjoy art museums, historical museums, historic houses and other historic locations! These tips work well for parents and teachers.

  1. Bring supplies so kids can draw what they see.  (Bonus points if you convince a child to take notes!)  Even preschool children will enjoy sitting down right in the middle of a gallery to draw what they see.  This technique works especially well at art museums, but also enhances visits to historical museums and locations.  Once, at a museum, I chatted with a mom who was calmly enjoying the gallery while her preschool-age children sat silently on the floor and sketched the artwork.  She told me that she created a special bag of art supplies—that the kids are ONLY allowed to use at museums.  She gave each of her preschool-age children their own box of crayons.  (VERY important!)  Each child had her own sketchbook.  You can create a kit like this for less than five dollars, using basic crayons and a spiral notebook.
  2. Take a docent-led tour.  Docents work long and hard to learn about the collection, and they love to share.  Join a docent tour.  Most docents will tailor the tour to the guests, so a tour with well-behaved children will feature highlights that appeal to them.  Docents give fascinating talks, and you might be pleasantly surprised by how much your child enjoys the experience.  Encourage your children to behave, perhaps by arranging to take a break right afterward.
  3. Take the audio tour.  Many museums have audio tours.  Some museums provide their own audio equipment; others provide info you can access through your phone.  Some museums offer special kids audio tours, curated for kids’ tastes.  Imagine your child, silently absorbed in an audio tour.  Ahhh, museum bliss!
  4. Encourage children to read the exhibit descriptions.  I’m talking about the plaques and cards many museums use to describe pieces.  Older children can read these on their own. Younger children will enjoy highlights.  Reading the exhibit descriptors GREATLY enhances the educational value of any exhibit.
  5. Use the museum’s resources.  Many museums have special website sections for kids, coloring pages, kids’ tours, activity rooms, orientation films, kids’ audio tours, and kid-friendly plaques describing exhibits.  Take advantage of these resources!
  6. Don’t miss the gift shop.  Museum gift shops have cool merchandise you can’t find elsewhere.  They can be pricey, but there are also bargains.  Postcards of famous artwork are some of the cheapest souvenirs.  Make a big deal out of letting each kid pick 4 or 5 (a dollar’s worth.)  They’ll have fun evaluating the choices and deciding on their favorites.

Read all four posts about helping kids enjoy museums and historical locations:

Part one: lay the groundwork

Part two: structure your visit

Part three: learn all you can

Part four: practical tips and suggestions