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New Teachers Online: How-To Articles: Use New Technology to Reinforce Instruction

How to Perk Up Classroom Presentations
Ann Stephenson

When teaching writing, social studies or any other class where reports generated and presented by the students are called for, it can be tedious for both you and the children to listen to each student’s essay. Since boys and girls today are technologically savvy, why not allow them to present a group presentation employing the available means in the classroom.
Famous Americans such as Lewis and Clark are a perennial topic for social studies. Two– four students work together reading books, searching the Internet and discussing the historical significance of these explorers. They can divide their findings among themselves with one focusing on the trip across the country, another on the diary that was kept, and perhaps a third about their guide, Sacajawea.

After the boys and girls have compiled their information and written their reports, according to the parameters of the assignment, they will then begin to add the “icing to the cake.”  The material for the presentations may include what they find on the Internet, and their essays may be hung on the bulletin board for all to see.

Each group will use the Internet as a time machine to “go back in history” to discover videos and audio clips as well as pictures, letters, diaries, virtual museums, etc. of the people being presented. 

Establish the criteria of what is expected of each child and group. The students can then work together (after the essays are individually completed) by finding historically appropriate background music from the era. Other items to search for:

  • Did they go to school when they were young? Is the school still in existence? What were the school rules of that time?
  • Search for games, toys or other amusements of the era.
  • What books were read then? Look up McGuffey’s Readers.
  • What did they eat? George Washington’s daily menu would certainly be far different from the provisions on Lewis and Clark’s journey. Add a recipe of that time.
  • Find maps where the famous person lived.
  • If a Smart Board is available the groups can use it to “visit a museum” such as that of Abraham Lincoln in Springfield, Illinois.
  • Have students find William Clark’s diary and read a small passage from it.
  • What mode of transportation was available at the time?
  • E-mail the historical society or library from the town where the person lived, asking a few questions about the famous American. Try to find out if there are any descendants living today.

For an evaluation, have the students write a brief essay describing how their historical figure has influenced life today.

Web Sites


Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

Lewis and Clark Expedition

Food Timeline

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