Within 13 years, the United States became a nation of 13 colonies: Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia and Rhode Island. These 13 colonies were the starting point for the modern-day United States, and the nation's founding is an essential component of a well-rounded elementary history education. Hands-on projects will engage the students and increase interest in the topic.
Choose a Colony
Encourage students to learn more in-depth information about one specific colony. Assign each student one of the 13 colonies and ask them to act as a travel agent to create a brochure enticing tourists to come to that colony. Require the students to include basic facts about the colony, one or two famous landmarks, facts about famous people from that colony and several historical facts. Alternatively, group students and ask them to create a tourist campaign to present to class based on one of the colonies. The campaign could be presented orally or include a PowerPoint presentation or other visual props. At the end of the presentations, have the class vote on which colony sounds most interesting as a vacation destination.
Do Some Writing
Ask each student to pretend to be a famous person from the time when the 13 colonies were formed. Have the students write journal entries as if they were those people. Encourage the students to write about historical facts related to that person to make the entries more authentic. Alternatively, ask each student to write a series of journal articles as if he were a resident of one of the 13 colonies. Remind students to include their feelings about historical events and what daily life was like in their entries. Assign students to pretend to be reporters and write newspaper articles about an important event that occurred in one of the 13 colonies. Students might also write about pretend interviews conducted with a founder of one of the 13 colonies.
Do Crafts and Cook Foods
Ask the students to research daily life in the 13 colonies and make a craft project based on those facts. For example, students could stitch a small quilt, quill paper, make soap or craft a cornhusk doll. Have the students share their crafts with the class, explaining their significance and how they were made. Have the students prepare food to share with the class: Students could make cornbread, gingersnaps or butter, and explain the process to the rest of the class. Check for food allergies, however, before allowing students to share their foods with the class.
Expand the Lesson: Reading and Geography
Reinforce the lessons you're teaching about the 13 original colonies with a series of short in-class projects designed to enhance the larger projects. For example, bring an element of literacy into the study of the 13 colonies by asking the students to arrange the colonies in alphabetical order, which also helps them remember the names of each of the 13. Bring in some geography by giving students blank maps to color and label the 13 colonies. Ask your students to draw a timeline, outlining the date each colony was added, as well as several important events that occurred in each.
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