Currently... and a History Mystery Suitcase

Hello everyone! Well I'm writing to you from the couch, aka my home away from home for the past couple (and next couple!) days! I had my gall bladder out on Friday (can someone say OUCH?!?) and I've been confined to the couch ever since. Now I'm not exactly complaining - okay, I am about the pain part, but the forced relaxation? Not so much :) I'm thoroughly enjoying myself. I decided to take a break from the napping, reading, indulging myself in too much television, and post a new entry.

But before I get to idea, for the first time ever, I am linking up with Oh Boy, Fourth Grade here  for her Currently Linky party.  Here's my currently...

Well now, I feel like an accomplished blogger! This is what all of the "cool kids" in the blogging world do :)

Ok, ahem...back to my original purpose for this post! 

Do you ever feel that when you're starting a new unit in history, it always starts out the same? You may have tried the "open up your textbooks to page 32. Now who can tell us what our next unit will be on?" or "I want you to look at the pictures. Does anyone have a guess what we'll be studying about next?" 
(snore fest!) 

Well I've come up with a solution to captivate your students' attention, keep them engaged, and help them develop critical thinking skills when introducing a new social studies unit.

Introducing...dah dah dah dahhhh! The History Mystery Suitcase! 

Ok, so I know what you're's just a regular, old, slightly-beat-up suitcase. And yes, your assumptions would be correct. Except, I have trained my students to think that this is not your run-of-the-mill suitcase. Au contraire - It contains treasures! Whenever we're about to begin a new unit, I fill the suitcase with items, pictures, trinkets, etc. that serve as clues to the unit or topic of study. 

Here's my example from our last unit on the early 1900s where we focused on the Wright Brothers' First Flight and Henry Ford's invention of the Model T. 

I included a car manual, some keys, some rental car advertisements (we discussed the power of advertising in the unit), a dollar bill (we discussed the economy and the ways we're interdependent on one another), a hammer (the assembly line was instituted in the car factories), peanuts (from the good ole days when they served those on airplanes), a book on the Wright Brothers, a play we were going to perform, and a red cloth which represented the "Red Flag Law" which stated that the speed limit in a town was 5 mph and a car had to have a person walking in front of the car, waving a red flag, and announcing "car coming!" for the safety of nearby pedestrians :) The kids get a hoot out of that one!

The History Mystery suitcase capitalizes on their prior knowledge, encourages them to make critical-thinking connections, and keeps them on their toes as we read and study to identify the items they saw in the suitcase.

This week we're starting our unit on WW1 - I wonder what treasures I can find to fill our Mystery Suitcase this time...
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