Homeschool: Children Learn History Through Reenactments
“If you don't know history, then you don't know anything. You are a leaf that doesn't know it is part of a tree. ”— Michael Crichton
Based on your age group, pick a book that weaves a historical story about a time your kids can understand. The story can be about the landing on Plymouth Rock, American Revolution, George Washington prevents the Newburgh Conspiracy, Robert Carter formulates a plan to free his slaves, Robert E. Lee supports and arranges peace over the Civil War, the discovery of gold in California, or John F. Kennedy directs America to land on the moon. The stories are available in books written for children of all ages.
Students Act it Out
Follow these steps to help your children get involved with history. The process is learning and entertaining for everyone.
- You pick your book to read according to the historical significance and curriculum.
- Introduce the historical event to the children, and tell them they will hear a story about the time when (example) an American landed on the moon.
- Read the historical story out loud to the children.
- Make sure all the children understand the story. Ask them periodically about what is going on in the story.
- Assign children characters in the story.
- Again, read the story, and this time have the children act out the people in the story.
- As you read the story out loud, give them time to act out the situations.
- Using President Kennedy's speech regarding a man to the moon as an example, you feed the main points of Kennedy's speech, and the student repeats them. The students don't have to have it verbatim.
- Pay more attention to the action of the situations than the significance.
- Encourage the children to act out the action. Validate them often.
- Change character assignments, so everyone gets a chance to play a role.
- Create an audience if you have more children than characters with the understanding of rotation.
- Once you are done and depending on how old the children are, ask them to draw a picture of what they did or write a brief report of what they like about learning the historical event.
Play the Roles in History
Depending on the age of the students, continue the program by putting together a full reenactment of the historical event.
- Take the reenactment up a notch and encourage the students to speak some of the lines in the story.
- Take the words between the quotation marks, and the students say those as lines in a play.
- Keep the story exciting. Listen to what the children have to say about acting out history. Share their enthusiasm.
- Dress up the children for each role. You can get hats, ties, jackets, vests, or scarves.
- Add props to the story.
- Run the story one more time with dress-up, props, and children acting out the story without you reading the book.
- As a bonus, perform the reenactment to the parents or other people.
Ask them questions like:
What is the weather? How much food do you need to gather for your family? How long will it take you to grind the corn? What's it like to be on the moon? Is there air on the moon?
When you visit a historical park or fort, do you enjoy the reenactments?
Field Trip to Historical Reenactment
Take a field trip to a location where students can "see" history. Your children become Indians at an Indian village. They can be gathers, corn grinders, or teepee builders.
Let them decide what they want to be and have them act out their roles. Ask them questions like: What is the weather? How much food do you need to gather for your family? How long will it take you to grind the corn?
Create History in Your Home
Take a moment and figure out what they can reenact in your home. If you have a lot of girls, reenacting doing the laundry in the early 1800s would be a fun project.
Search the Internet, find what you need, and collect the items. List the different hats each woman wore when they did community laundry. Assign those hats to your children and let them shine.
If you have some boys around, ask them: What were men doing while women were doing the laundry? Have them reenact what men did in the 1800s. Mend fences hunted for food, check on the farm animals, and so forth.
Being Apart of History
Each time you and your kids act out an influential moment in history, the experience will become more comfortable and manageable to perform. Being apart of history through role-playing is the most engaging way to learn and understand history.
Don't be afraid to push the envelope and go all out with a crucial historical moment. Follow the tips I shared in this article. Have fun, and learn.
© 2016 Kenna McHugh