With this interdisciplinary approach to teaching about the transition to the New World, students give oral presentations from the perspective of colonial tradesman.
- Identify reasons why people left or emigrated from a colonial American town
- Write a journal entry about how their trade is affected when the blacksmith leaves town
- 4" x 6" index cards OR 5" x 8" index cards OR sentence strips cut in half, 28 or one per student
- Web of Interdependence: Colonial Job List printable
- Hole puncher
- Laminating machine
- Ball of string or yarn
- Student journals
- Optional: Books about colonial life
- Optional: Plimoth Plantation: Slideshow Tour from Scholastic's The First Thanksgiving online activity
- Use a marker to write one of the professions from the Web of Interdependence: Colonial Job List printable on the front of each index card or sentence strip. On the back, write the corresponding job number from the printable. Each student will need a profession, so if you have more than 28 students, you will need to repeat some of the jobs or make up your own.
- Laminate the profession cards and punch a hole in the top two corners of each card.
- Cut pieces of yard or string long enough to hang the cards around students' necks. Thread the yarn or string through the holes and tie.
- Keep the rest of the yard or string to use in an activity.
Step 1: As a class, discuss the meaning of interdependence. If students don't have much background information about colonial towns, show them examples in books or the Plimoth Plantation: Slideshow Tour from Scholastic's The First Thanksgiving online activity.
Note: When I teach this lesson, we set up our classroom as a little town. Students choose a colonial name and conduct research to write a short history about their colonial character. If you want to focus on colonial professions without the added storyline, continue directly to Step 2. If students have colonial characters already, take some time now to review why each student (as a colonist) emigrated from his or her country of origin to the colonies. Possible reasons include economics, religious freedom, adventure, land, etc.
Step 2: Briefly discuss each profession on the Web of Interdependence: Colonial Job List printable. What does each job entail? What tools are necessary for each job?
Step 3: Distribute the laminated profession cards to students, either randomly or based on previous classes or discussions. Have students sit in a circle with you.
Step 4: Hold the ball of yarn or string and have the Web of Interdependence: Colonial Job List printable with you. Hand the loose end of the yarn to the student holding card #1 (the farmer) and say, "You were probably one of the first people to come to this area because you are so self-sufficient. You grow or make whatever you need to live."
Step 5: Keep unrolling the yarn as you hand the ball to the next job on the list (the dairy maid). Have students hold their part of the yarn as you pass the yard ball to the next person. A web is being made.
Step 6: As you unravel the yarn, explain why the next job would come into the community. For example, after the blacksmith comes, the cooper and the wheelwright have access to metal and can join the community.
Step 7: When the last student is holding the ball of yarn, you will have a big circle of students with a web of yarn connecting all of them together. Comment on how linked, or interdependent, the community is.
Step 8: Have students carefully stand up, still holding on to the yarn. Explain that now the blacksmith gets a better offer from a community down the road and leaves the town. Have the blacksmith student sit down, still holding the yarn.
Step 9: Ask, "Uh oh, who does that impact? Who doesn't have what they need in order to perform their job?" As students raise their hands, encourage them to explain how they are impacted. For example, the cooper needs metal to bind barrels; the tanner needs metal tools; the wheelwright needs metal rims; the gunsmith needs metal; and the sawyer requires metal tools. Have all students whose professions are impacted sit down.
Step 10: "Now, because of all those people who left our community, who else doesn't have what they need to perform their jobs?" For example, the tavern keeper doesn't have enough people coming to use services to keep him in business; the cabinetmaker has no wood; and the shopkeeper doesn't have enough business or storage barrels. Have these students sit down as well.
Step 11: This next part should go very fast because once so many people have moved out of town, then all the "luxury item jobs" (such as the printer, the paper and bookseller, the silversmith, the whitesmith, the pewter artisan, the glassblower, the tailor, the milliner, the limner, and the candle maker) don't have customers. Then the service people in the community (like the apothecary, the doctor, the teacher, and the barber) won't be paid because the others are not making money. All of these students will sit down like dominoes.
Step 12: At the end of the activity, the community consists of the two professions it began with: the self-sufficient farmer and the dairy maid. The town is gone.
Step 13: Discuss what students learned from this activity. In their journals, have students write their personal accounts of the downfall of their town.
When you have a few extra minutes in class, have students give you a number between 1 and 26. Look on the Web of Interdependence: Colonial Job List printable and see which job it is. Tell the class the name of the job, and see how many people they think would be affected if this job moved out of town. They will soon learn who is critical to the town and who is not.
- Complete the journal entry if it was not completed in class.
- Write a second journal entry telling what you could do to keep this from happening to their town.
- Did the activity seem relevant to the students?
- Did they stay focused on the main idea and not get overly involved with the physical activity?
- Could the students write about the experience coherently?
- During the discussion did the students understand the meaning of interdependence in colonial life?
- Did their journal entries reflect an understanding of what would happen in a community if certain key personnel left?
- Did they recognize who were the "key" personnel?
- Did they personalize the experience?