Today I decided to ask the children to think like historians. I wanted them to learn that objects can tell us a story. My end goal for the next few lessons is to guide their thinking about how objects can tell us about the past, how objects can become different pieces in a story about the past.
So I asked them to pick five objects in the classroom that told the story of us, of our class and what we do here. I was so surprised at what they came up with I just had to share it.
The first clue that something different was going to happen was when Tally asked " Can we do this metaphorically?" As I was being open to their thoughts I replied, "sure, that sounds interesting." Now thinking purely as a historian I might not have gone there, but we are exploring and I was intrigued.
Each group quite quickly came up with five objects and were easily able to write down the reason for choosing each object. Here are their thoughts.
Mallory, Lila and Sydney
A photograph of me – representing the importance of the teacher (nice to hear!)
Maraca – straightforward representation of music but also the deeper thought that our classroom is festive and happy
Belt – friendship - "friends tied together" and the connections between us
Word study book – writing down ideas and continually making them better
scissors and glue – our close community, "we know how to help each other when in sticky situations.”
As interesting were the comments that followed. Arthur commented that "a musical instrument could also represent how we express ourselves."
The first group had actually started out very simply. They had picked the workbooks to literally show the work that was being done. Then the group felt like it didn't tell the whole story. "The belt started the whole symbolic vibe" said Lila "The workbooks had no emotion."
Tally and Dylan
Glue – us sticking together as a community.
Crayon – one in a million we are all very unique.
Binoculars – seeing each other as we truly are.
Sharpie – how our ideas stand – they can change things, they are permanent.
Clock – the time ticking – we are persistent – the clock never stops.
This set of items also encouraged comments. Mallory noticed the use of the glue stick as a very different symbol then their group. Dylan replied that her group's glue was like their group's belt. Sophia added onto the binoculars metaphor saying that "with binoculars you can see more than with regular eyes, you can see what people are like." Jude added "we look out for each other."
Sam and Jude
The book “Trouble Talk” - representing both the role of guidence class and friendship
Map – the whole world where we live, and how to navigate through life.
Ping Pong - Sam's fiction story representing the improvements the class had made with their writing.
Investigations book – tells the story of our math program, not just naked numbers but real problem solving.
A copy of the schedule – represents what we do each day – how we work together.
Comments included Mallory noticing that their objects were "half telling a story and half metaphorical." Dylan added that she sees the map a representation of "how far we've gone this year."
Arthur and Grace
Computer – representing choices we make about writing style, and also our best work.
Rubics Cube creativity, thought and imagination.
Book – reading, growth, knowledge and imagination.
Pencil - thought and writing.
Eraser – going over your work and thinking about it
Mallory noted that she liked how they put imagination in almost everything . "I love what you did with the eraser. If you think you don't have a good idea, you don't have to keep it. There are good ideas and bad ideas. Kind of opposite of what Dylan and Tally had." Arthur added that he felt the eraser represented that"it is okay to start over."
Stella and Sophia
Dictionary – learning new things about writing and reading, all of our knowledge.
Marker – creativity
Eraser – erase mistakes and not being afraid to start over.
Rubics cube – everyone is unique – all the different colors and the little people on it too.
Paper dolls – our community and everyone is unique
Samantha noticed the importance of being both a community and being unique and that the group had included two objects to represent that. Sophia replied that they had at first noticed the rosebud paper and chose it to represent "children blooming, learning new things."
What struck me most about this experience was that the children went immediately to the habits of mind, the dispositions and social aspects of their learning. The objects represented not subjects that they were learning but practice with life experiences. They showed that those are the things they are working on, those are the things that are important to them. It was a joy to watch them thinking in this way, and made me feel so happy about the work that we do.
When thinking like historians, we pick objects that tell us about a time in history. We draw conclusions about what we find and piece together a story. Of course, the children live their story and have applied symbolic meanings to their objects based on their own experiences. But it certainly gears them up for thinking about the significance of objects and why they might be significant in a historical study.