Category Archives: Teaching Tips

History Wax Museum - Marco Polo

Wax Museums

 

“DON’T COME NEAR! I HAVE THE BLACK DEATH!”

Startling the crowd around her, my student shouted these words at the beginning of her wax museum speech. The crowds loved it, and her speech was a highlight  during one of my earliest wax museums.

Wax museums are a great way to make history come alive for students. The students research the information on a historical person or event, write and memorize a one minute speech, prepare a 3-fold presentation board giving more information, and finally present the speech wearing a period costume.

A wax museum can be adapted to any grade level. In my fourth grade class, it was a yearly history project given during Grandparents Day. Around 400 people would visit the wax museum during our 90 minute time slot. Parents, grandparents, and kindergarten through high school students would come and listen to the speeches. I was fortunate to teach in a K-12 school, and the older students enjoyed hearing the speeches and reminiscing about the historical person or event they represented when they did the wax museum.

My students loved doing the wax museums. After all their hard work with research, writing and memorizing their speeches, they transformed into little experts as they donned their costumes and said their speeches. The reward was instant with the smiling audiences and positive comments. Even with the almost non-stop reciting of the speeches, it was a highlight of the year for the class and always a huge success with the audiences.

Logistically, the students would be assigned a presentation spot about 10 yards apart from each other. They would set up their presentation boards and “freeze” in a comfortable pose. A person or small group would come and press an imaginary button on the shoulder, and the wax figure would come to life, deliver the speech, and freeze again as soon as the speech was over. This process repeated many times during the Wax Museum. The students had carefully hidden water bottles for when their throats got dry.

Here are a few pictures from the past few years. The Leonardo da Vinci characters were from three different years.

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Here are the steps for a wax museum.

  1. Pick the historical event/person.

  2. Research and write a one minute speech.

  3. Revise the speech and memorize (teacher needs to edit speeches).

  4. Prepare a presentation board with more information (character/event title and dates, map of where the event happened or where the person lived, any interesting pictures or information.

  5. Practice memorized speech in front of people with good volume, speed and enunciation.

  6. Find a costume.

  7. Present the wax museum.

Whether you have a traditional class or a home school, a wax museum can work in many settings and is a great way to learn history. Have you done a wax museum? I would love to hear about your experience.

Special thanks to Veronica at captureperfection.com for the use of her pictures.

 

 

Geography Day

Geography Day – When Geography Comes Alive

The school I taught at for the last fifteen years wanted to make geography more meaningful for our students.  We came up with the idea of doing a Geography Day to highlight different places in the world.

The elementary grades have a continent they focus on throughout the year, but for Geography Day each year we focus on a particular aspect. Then we get parent help to come up with ideas for presentations and room decorations.  On Geography Day, the students come dressed in traveling type clothes and are given school passports complete with their names and pictures, and travel with their class to each elementary room to learn about the particular continents.

As an example, one year we concentrated on animals common to each continent.  Each grade asked for parent volunteers.  Some parents had ideas on how to decorate the classroom to represent the theme, and some parents had ideas of lessons they wanted to teach each class as it came to visit on Geography day. The students of each class completed a project for involvement.

The fourth grade class learns about Europe in connection with their history, so for the animal focus each student made a poster about an animal from a European country of their choice. These reports were displayed around the room. The parents came up with the animals they wanted as a focus and made a slide show about these animals.  They decorated the room with life-size paper mâché animals. Some of these animals were on mountains the parents created with classroom desks and a lot of butcher paper.

 

When each class came through for the presentation, they learned about the different animals, got to read the class reports, got to pet a real hedgehog, and were given a bookmark about European animals. The other elementary grades did something similar. There were many  real animals in the school that day.  The parents had fun being creative and resourceful.

Other themes we have done besides animals are dances from each continent, musical instruments, geological  features, and specialty foods.  Recently our high school sophomore Geography class has joined us for

Geography Day by giving presentations.  It’s a fun day that the students anticipate every year.

I would love to  hear from anyone with other success stories  for making Geography come alive.  Also, please feel free to ask further questions on creating a Geography Day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Create Memorable Content

Coat of Arms

Coat of Arms

On Tuesdays for a while, I will post teaching tips on how to make create memories and make history and other subjects come alive for your students.

A few weeks ago I was consulting for a small school, and I asked the teachers what they were doing to make the year memorable. I gave the example of a project one teacher had just completed on Shakespeare. I saw a few pictures of the event on Facebook, and those pictures demonstrated excitement and the joy of learning in the eyes of the students.

As educators we want to create a lifelong love of learning in our students. We can help nurture that love by taking different subjects and creating fun memories for them. In a school setting, the students can look forward to the special projects established for each grade.. For the home school setting, you and your children can come up with special projects as you plan out each school year.

For example, when I taught 4th grade, the students coming in would look forward to the Medieval Banquet, the Wax Museum, making gingerbread cathedrals, and creating salt dough maps of Europe. I would make sure the younger classes in the school would be exposed to our projects to create an anticipation for 4th grade. As much as possible, I let the older grades see our projects because they had a great time reminiscing about their experiences doing the projects.

Come back to this website on Tuesdays for Teaching Tip Tuesday or sign up on email for specific project ideas and instruction. Next week, I’ll be talking about having a special Geography Day to expose the students to different countries and cultures.