Are you looking for a creative way to build Inquiry into your classroom? This activity sparks lots of fun inquiry while building on inferencing skills, making connections, and focusing on different ways personal histories can be told. It's a great introduction to biographies too!
My students sit in table groups so I place one artifact on each table and give students a paper to record questions. I tell them to write down anything they wonder about the object. After about five minutes, I rotate the artifacts giving each group a chance to observe and record observations and questions on each item. Then we share out our questions and write them all on the board.
At no point I have I indicated these are mine, but slowly several students do begin to feel confident that they belong to me. Before I reveal anything, I lead a discussion about what we think we know about the person these items belong too? We try to determine what story they tell.
You can reveal that same day, or wait till the following day and let your students ponder a bit more. For my reveal, I post a picture of my artifacts on the screen and then read aloud the story of my artifacts. My story describes why each of these items is important to me, what memories they hold, and what you can learn about me from observing them and knowing that I value them.
Students are then tasked to go home and choose 5-7 artifacts that they value and that tell part of their personal history. They are instructed to choose items that do NOT reveal who they are. Rather than bring the items to school, I ask them to arrange them in a display and take a photograph to e-mail to me. This insures that nobody knows who the artifact pictures belong to.
Now the fun begins! I print out each photo in color for our interactive class bulletin board. I display each photo and number each photo on the board. Remind your students not to make comments, point, or reveal in anyway which photo might belong to them or it will spoil all the fun! Students are given a recording sheet and I allow time for students to observe the photos in small groups, and try to see if they can match the photos to their classmates. Students love trying to solve the mystery.
As a part of this inquiry I give each student a copy of another classmates photo and I ask them to write the story they think these artifacts tell. They also make a prediction of who they belong to.
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For our big reveal, I put together a Power Point slideshow of all the photos, and then using the fabulous drumroll sound effect, the slide transitions to reveal the name of the person the artifacts belong to.
Finally, the students write and share their own story revealing the meaning behind each of their artifacts, why they are important, and what we can learn about them from their artifacts.
This activity makes a great jumping off point for all kinds of studies. We have used it lead us into learning about and reading biographies, studying artifacts from other cultures and how they can help us to learn and understand the past, making connections to family histories, and all sorts of things!
The inspiration for this activity came from a lesson on Lincoln's Pockets from the Library of Congress. I also use photos of Lincoln's artifacts to spark additional inquiry in our classroom. Be sure to check it out!