When Abraham Lincoln was a little boy, he had a dog. Most people say dog is man’s best friend, but little Abe was Spot’s best friend. They went everywhere together and everyone knew if they saw Abe, that little dog would be by his side. Spot was afraid of many things, but when Abe was with him, Spot seemed to be invincible! Spot taught Abe more about loving all people than he would have ever learned from anyone else.
The above paragraph is pure fiction. I honestly was never much one for history, but haven’t you ever wondered about the childhood of your favorite role model or historical figure?
I know I have. There are many people about whom I wonder: what happened when they were a kid to make them who they were as an adult?
Some biographies and autobiographies out there do touch on a person’s childhood, but they don’t typically include day-to-day things like our students are living. Some of the big historical figures out there had childhoods that probably look similar to our students.
We all teach history in our classrooms. Why not take a true person and have your students imagine what their childhood was like? Have your students write a story from someone’s childhood.
It doesn’t have to be real. What you’re doing is engaging their imaginations while connecting them to the subject you’re teaching.
Did Abraham Lincoln have a dog? I honestly have no idea. I could Google it and find out pretty quickly. However, the point of this exercise is to have your students focus on a real person and imagine what drove them to be who they were as adults. This will connect the facts in their minds more fully because when we create motivation for a person’s actions, the true actions tend to remain in our minds much better than just learning facts out of a book.
These stories don’t have to be long. If you want longer, more in-depth stories, that’s completely fine; it’s your classroom.
My suggestion: once you’ve taught about a person, have the students list 5 major facts about the person’s life and put them on the board where they can see them. Once those facts are in place, write the question, “What do you think happened in (insert famous person’s name here) childhood that led them to do one of these things in their life?”
This gives them structure while also allowing for creativity with their writing. You may want to practice this together as a class the first few times if you’ve never done it before.
As I’ve brought up many times in my education blogs, modeling is your greatest tool!
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