In Class V, a primary goal is to help students develop processes that allow them to fully comprehend the ideas they are researching and to distill data into information relevant to their paper, project, or end goal. Research is an important part of the learning process as well as a valuable skill to develop as students move forward in their educational experiences and in life.
Every year, Class V students look forward to Colonial Day. This project serves as an opportunity for students to cultivate and demonstrate their research skills. Students each select a Colonial profession and then research, write about, and present information on these professions on Colonial Day. Colonial Day is a celebration of weeks of hard work and student knowledge.
Continue reading to learn more about Waterford’s Colonial Day from Class V teacher Michelle Curtis! (Photos by Heather Mortenson)
Colonial Village preparation begins in early October. Students commence this assignment by choosing a job from the American Colonial Period that they find compelling. Once a job is chosen and assigned, reliable and appropriate sources for research are supplied from Waterford’s Lower School Library.
It is important for every student to understand that research is a process. Class V teachers begin the research process by modeling a sample question and answer search. In this sample search, the class takes collective notes on the board. We discuss strategies for finding topical information and extrapolating main ideas. Modeled notes are condensed, but are also correct, clear, and complete.
Next, students form at least five questions related to their colonial profession that they want answered. These questions serve as focus topics to guide students in their research as they gather raw data. Notes are taken in their Colonial Packets, each page with a specific topic area and space for notes. Teachers check-in with students periodically throughout the process to answer questions, check notes, and to share interesting information. Teachers also differentiate the note-taking process by offering one-on-one sessions with students who need additional support. Students begin to take ownership and pride in their chosen Colonial profession.
Once students complete their notes, they review each section to determine which information is most important, sequence information when appropriate, and consider the quality and quantity of information obtained. Students outline individual paragraphs for each topic, creating solid topics sentences and including plenty of supporting facts. Students then write rough drafts, edit those drafts, and finally type five paragraphs about their Colonial Job.
After students complete their reports, it’s time to get creative. Students use their artistic and individual skills to make signs and posters on their profession. They start by viewing a slideshow that features photos of the signs and streets of Colonial Williamsburg. Signs must be appropriate to the time period, and include a picture representing a profession and a date of establishment. Students have the opportunity to work on these signs with a parent during a special visiting day which falls during this time.
Students also create detailed posters. The centerpiece of the posters is the five, typed, informative paragraphs. Many students opt to cover additional topics for extra credit. When decorating the poster, students draw pictures with captions that bring to life the facts they have shared in their writing.
Next, students create spinners with questions related to their job to use as talking points for the upcoming Colonial Day. They gather related items for their desk display. Finally, students decide on an item they can make relevant to their colonial job. These items range from homemade bread, to leatherworks, and even blown glass!
The culminating activity of these weeks of work is the Colonial Village and Colonial Day. Students come to school dressed in the costume of their colonial profession. They each set up a “shop” in our Colonial Village in the Lower School gym. Their display includes their posters, handmade item, gathered objects related to their profession, and their spinner for visitor questions. Parents, faculty, and students visit the Colonial Village during the morning hours, and students are thrilled to answer questions, explain their displays, and demonstrate their knowledge and passion for their chosen job. Oral reports in the homerooms follow, and allow students to share their knowledge and to practice presenting information with classmates.
In the afternoon, students enjoy an entire afternoon of exciting colonial activities. Parent volunteers come dressed as colonial villagers and share in the fun. Students make candles as they did in colonial times. They make pomander balls, learn calligraphy with homemade ink, have their silhouettes drawn, make tin-punches, play colonial games, and make butter to spread and eat on delicious Johnnycakes. Colonial Day is an amazing day celebrating the students’ hard work and new knowledge.