Hands on History Questions

Posted on February 19th, 2014 by


Thank you to everyone for a fun class session! I appreciated your thoughts on what it means to “think historically” and loved looking at the Hands On History artifacts! Here’s a link the Colonial Williamsburg site. You’ll see that they have lots of other resources for teachers.

In a couple of weeks we’ll be talking to a master teacher who uses the Hands On History materials with her fifth grade students. Here’s a draft of the questions you would like to ask her. Please read it and add comments if you want to revise the list, add to it, etc.


  1. What grade/class/unit do you use these materials in? Where does it fall in the course of the year? For example, have students already done inquiry? Have they already studied Colonial America? Do you have students work with artifacts at the beginning of the unit? How much background do they have as they work with the materials? How long does the unit take?
  2. Why do you teach with this type of curriculum? What do students learn from it?
  3. Who tends to benefit most from this type of curriculum? How do you adapt the lessons for English Language Learners, gifted students, or students with other special needs? What do you see different students learning?
  4. What strategies do you use to increase student engagement and learning? Do students ever get frustrated when they find out their hypotheses are wrong or struggle to make sense of artifacts? How do you avoid having students feel upset?
  5. What are some of the challenges of teaching inquiry in Social Studies and/or using the Hands-on History materials? What tips do you have for us to avoid or respond to problems?
  6. How do you assess learning with these materials?
  7. Where did you get the idea and the money to get the Hands-on History kits?
  8. How long does it take to prep these types of activities?
  9. We’re teacher candidates. What was the most challenging part of your first year of teaching? What advice do you have for us as beginning teachers?

How do these look! Write me a comment to check in!




  1. Valerie Walker says:

    I think about the “local” as a question about connection. How do we connect students to content that is required by the MN academic standards, when it isn’t local? How do we connect to national or global issues?

  2. Jessica Ries says:

    I really liked that the kits were from Colonial Williamsburg, but I am curious to find out how many places in Minnesota have a similar system. While it is great to get the students involved in the history around the revolutionary war, it might be difficult for them to understand the setting since they, most likely, have not been there. If you find materials that are close by, the chances are higher that the students will have experiences with those areas and the information which might lead to more in depth conversations. I may be completely out in left field, but is it better to have that locality in your lessons like this?

  3. Michael Humphrey says:

    I like this list a lot. It seems to cover just about everything that we talked about in class. I’m glad we came up with it together and prepared so our session will go a lot more smoothly.

  4. Laura Flicek says:

    I feel that this list is really comprehensive! I especially like the questions that address how 5th graders think, what challenges hands-on activities present, and what assessments are useful.

  5. Nikki Middendorf says:

    This activity was fun and something different for us (and it would be for the students, too) to participate in! I’m glad you are so passionate about effective teaching and teaching that will make a lasting impression on students, particuarlary in social studies. Personally, our list of questions look really solid to me. I think we did a good job of collaborating as a group and coming up with questions that cover multiple areas of teaching and social studies. The question you added about reading and writing is also very connected to what we have been talking about in class, so i’m interested to hear her response about that!

  6. Valerie Walker says:

    I’ve had another thought. Let’s add a question about what role reading and writing have in her social studies class/unit. I would love for her to give us suggestions of historical fiction titles that work well with the unit and/or how she uses informational texts and/or textbook reading in meaningful ways.

    This list might get longer before it gets shorter!