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...


  1. I love your suitcase idea!

    I think a cup of hot chocolate sounds like a great idea. I might just pick one up while I'm out doing errands.

    I hope you feel back to normal very soon!

    room 4 imagination

  2. Love the suitcase idea! I was hoping since you linked up to your first linky party you may be willing to help me link up also. I can do all of the linking, but I can't figure out how to get the Currently template so that I can fill it in. If you would be so kind to explain just how you were able to do it I would be THRILLED!!

  3. LOVE Once Upon a Time! I've actually been thinking all day that I can't wait until tonight for the new episode. It really is the best way to end the weekend. :)

    I loved reading your currently! Enjoy that crisp, cool fall weather.

  4. Hey guys!
    Thanks for stopping by :)

    Live Learn Teach - I can surely help you :)
    I'm not sure if this is the best or only way, but here's what I did: 1. follow the link to Oh Boy, Fourth Grade's page. There she has her "Currently..." and then a blank "Currently..." 2. Click on the blank one and save it to your computer somewhere. 3. Open the picture and then click "edit" using a photo software (I use Picasa - downloaded free from google). 4. Then one of the options on your editing program should be "add text." I used that to fill in my responses for each of the prompts. 5. Save the new photo and then upload it to your blog as a new post.

    Let me know if that's unclear or you have another problem.

  5. Just found your site through Farley's Currently. When I started, I would have originally had to leave a comment on your post according to the rules, but by the time I finished my post between dinner, kids, and hubby, well I was ten away from you. LOL...but I had to come back and visit, and tell you that I hope you feel much better. I recently had a ruptured gall bladder and surgery, and I know it is NOT fun! Wishing you the best

    Flamingos and Butterflies

  6. Awesome idea! I l love making my kids think instead of giving them all the answers! This is an amazing idea! Thanks for sharing!

  7. i seriously loveee the fall too!! your page is so cute..i found you on the currently linky... im your newest follower...drop by= )

    Just Wild About Teaching

  8. The suitcase idea is an amazing idea. I have used a suitcase to talk about needs and wants and getting ready to play a game like Survivor...what would we need to pack in our suitcase type of question. I'll have to try your idea when we learn about the Pilgrims and Thanksgiving.

    You've Got Mail is an awesome movie! =)

    I am happy to be your newest follower. If you get the chance, I would love for you to hop over and visit me. =)

    Heather's Heart

  9. Love the suitcase idea. We have the Age of Exploration coming up, so I'll have to brainstorm on what I might include.

    Also love "You've Got Mail" :)

    Hope you're recovering from your surgery. I remember my gallbladder surgery from a few years back. Avoid greasy foods ;)

    Your newest follower,
    Fifth in the Middle

  10. I can't wait to try out the History Mystery Suitcase with my Social Studies classes! Thanks for stopping by my blog, too : )

    Young Daze in 5th Grade


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