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Making Writing Fun While Exploring Historical Artifacts

by Nancy Fox

Introduction to Descriptive Writing

Read the book If You Lived One Hundred Years Ago by Ann McGovern.  Guide students to examine pictures and descriptions in the book.  Note any items they have not seen before or that they have observed in the homes of relatives or in other books.  Show the class an actual artifact.  I chose to utilize a dining table crumb pan. Another alternative would be to use the book Snap, Button, Zip Inventions to keep your Clothes On by Vicki Cobb.  I would use suspenders or hosiery rubber nubs for garters as the item in this case. This is where your creativity could go in many directions!!

Divide the class into groups of 3 or 4 giving each group a white board for recording information.  Pass the item around allowing students to handle it closely.  Give 15 minutes to brainstorm about the item.  They should also come up with words to describe the article.  List the words and their guesses on the whiteboards.

Gather the class together and ask the teams to report out regarding their descriptive words. Record this list on the board for the class.

Explain to the class that they have created a list of adjectives. The list will include words that describe the look, smell, feel and perhaps even the taste of the item. This lesson plan will lend itself to the teacher’s creativity in coming up with various categories of artifacts.

Students should then begin to share what they believe for what the item was utilized.  After sharing students will have 4 minutes to create a fast write giving their description of the item and what they believe to be its’ use.

Students share their writings reading them aloud before the class.

Day 2

Explain the actual use of the artifact to the class. Review the adjectives that the class gathered.

This time instruct the students to use a graphic organizer to prepare for writing a paragraph about the artifact.  Topic sentence in the center of  a circle with details listed on sticks coming out of the circle.  Summary sentence completes the five sentence paragraph.  “Snap” words—since, because, for, and, including  should be encouraged.

Be sure that the descriptive words are on the board and any words the students may need in giving the use of the artifact.

Evaluation should use standard grading of sentence structure, capitals and periods, and indention of the paragraph.  Various rubrics exist to accomplish this evaluation.

When using clothing items as artifacts refer to Fashion 2 Fiber osu as a reference and explanation.

Standards Addressed:  Production and Distribution of writing


4. With guidance and support from adults, produce writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task and purpose
5. With guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning revising, and editing.
10. Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.