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Teaching History Blog

Life of an Artifact


Students will be asked to:
1.    Describe the events a historical object experienced.
2.    Describe the purpose of the object, how it was significant, and how it was used at the time and how the use of the object evolved over time.
3.    Locate and include a picture of the object found either on the internet or take one of an object in a museum, antique store, or in their own home.
4.    Compose a first person narrative as the object.  Include clues for classmates to determine what the object is, but do not specifically reveal what the paper is about.
Summative Assignment
Outcome:  Students will compose a first person descriptive narrative about an object and how it was used in historical events and how the purpose for the object changed over time.
Assignment Description:  Creative writing assignments in history encourage students to more fully immerse themselves in an event or time.  Understanding the role of tools or objects in relation to history is not only interesting but an important part of telling a historic story.   In this assignment, students will describe in detail the “experience” of an object.  The instructor may want to limit the object choices for students to a certain period or event, or the instructor may want to select some famous objects such as the flag raised at Ft. McHenry in 1814 that inspired the Star Spangled Banner or Dizzy Gillespie's B–flat Trumpet.  The Smithsonian Institute is a great resource online to find more inspiring images of objects for this assignment.  You may also want to provide suggestions of objects that aren’t necessarily famous and allow the student to be broader in their research such as a gun carried into a WWI battle.  The student might start with the factory where the guns were created, use in a training camp for soldiers, it’s time on the battlefield, and then now being displayed in a museum.  While a gun may appeal to many students and is an obvious choice, encourage student to think more creatively.  The object could be  an old school desk from Little Rock, Arkansas or a wagon wheel used by a pioneer family traveling west for a new life and now mounted on a wall in a home.  Encourage creativity, imagery, and attention to detail.  Part of the interest in this assignment is for students to not to identify the object directly in their paper, but rather provide clues to what it is so classmates have to really pay attention to the details to figure out each object.
Steps and Instructor Notes:
1.   Collect some images of objects, or in a face-to-face class bring in some unusual objects, used in a certain period.  Students can also search for artifacts in their own home or grandparents home that they could tell the story about.  Students could also take pictures of objects in a museum or antique store. 
2.    Take a picture of the object or even multiple pictures of the object from many angles or in use.
3.    Research the use of the object in history.  Encourage students to collect lots of facts and specific examples and then thread a story together about that object.
4.    Write a 3-5 page creative narrative essay that is grammatically sound in first person as the object.  Do not identify the object in the narrative and do not include an image that might give away what you are.  However, provide at least one image to the instructor.  (The instructor could post all the pictures and let students match stories with images or simply provide images after students have an opportunity to guess.)

 Rubric is based on 100 points total but this assignment would take several days and is very dependent on participation which could be evaluated many different ways:
10 points-Student submitted a creative 3-5 page narrative for classmates to read that is in first person and describes the life of an object.
10 points-
Student participated in a discussion about and guessed the object for at least 2 other classmates.
20 points- The description of events and use of the object is historically accurate.

30 points-Student included at least 1 image and was very detailed about the object.
20 points-Overall the student composed a grammatically sound and well-organized document.
10 points-Citation is included in the assignment.



Links
How to Make a Playlist on HippoCampus:
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