Artifact Introduction

The first day of school can be overwhelming and exhausting – you are getting to know your kids, and your kids are getting to know you.  Try this fun idea for an introduction with primary sources – your primary sources.  This is called an Artifact Introduction.  I use this with both my students and the adults I teach in workshops, and everybody loves it. What is even more fun is listening to the conversations as they try to figure out the details of your life.

I start out putting the kids into groups of 3 or 4. I give each group an large brown envelope and just tell them that their job is to find out as many details as they can about the individual in the envelope. (I don’t tell them that it is me.)

Inside of the envelope I have artifacts that make up the story of my life. I have put copies of my old certificates, letters of acceptance to my colleges, souvenirs from a few of my trips and even a picture of painting I made in 7th grade! When they open up the envelope it looks a little like this – 
They begin to sort out the artifacts. I guide them by giving them a timeline and asking to put the artifacts in chronological order (as best they can) and to see what they can learn from each artifact.
As they sort the artifacts, they start to get a picture of my life – where I have been, what I have done, what my personality is like…
The next step is to have my students make inferences about the artifacts. What does each one show? What can they learn? It is neat to listen to them say statements like “Well I know she is artistic, because she likes to draw…” or “She is smart in math because I see a math award…” (that one is not true by the way!!!  
As they compete their inferences we have a brief discussion – What facts do you know about this individual? What inferences? What have you learned about this individual? What do you have in common? What is different? How did you learn these facts and inferences?  After we have discussed what they have learned, I challenge them to either create a character collage on me – or even better – make their own artifact envelope to bring to school to share.
With just a little bit of prep, you have an amazing lesson to start off the school year – student focused, engaging and full of higher level thinking skills! The added bonus – you have just introduced primary sources in a manageable lesson 🙂
Have fun on your first day of school!
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