The study of the history of America begins in second grade and continues throughout high school. Bulletin boards are a great way to interest students in upcoming topics and to organize recent classroom experiences. For the History teacher of American Colonial Life, four elements will ensure an effective bulletin board.
First, no History class is complete without a geography connection. This bulletin board should include a detailed map of the original 13 colonies. There are a couple options to choose from when deciding on the map to use. Interactive maps designed specifically for bulletin boards are available for purchase and download, or students can color and label a printed black line map.
For younger students, it might be helpful to contrast the 13 original American Colonies with the current 50 states of the United States of America. The map chosen should also help students categorize the origin of each colony including the home country and religion of its first colonists. A great resource for history maps is MrNussbaum.com.
The next element that will benefit the American Colonial Life bulletin board is a timeline. The age and level of historical understanding of the students will determine how detailed the time line should be. The time line can be made interactive by using magnets to attach the events to the board. Before class begins, scramble the events and add the events that will be covered on that day. Then students can rearrange the events after the lesson, during down periods, or after completing seat work early. This is an opportunity for the teacher to award extra points to students who unscramble the events and match them with the correct date on the timeline.
A bulletin board would not be complete without a vocabulary list or word wall. One of the key elements of content mastery is obtaining the language necessary to categorize the new information and retrieve it at a later time. Vocabulary lists and word walls can also be made interactive. The words can be printed on one set of cards and the definitions on another. Using magnets, the board becomes a game board for playing matching games such as memory.
This element can be adapted for younger students by replacing the definition cards with picture cards. For example, card 1: pudding; card a: picture of a baby with big puffy bloomers. A sample vocabulary list can be found at MelodyShaw.com.
Finally, to peak students’ interest and encourage extended learning, the American Colonial Life bulletin board should include a reading list. Be sure to include various types of texts from multiple genres, including historical fiction, novellas, biographies, and internet resources. It would be wise to have some of these texts on hand and available for students who may not be able to acquire the resources outside of school. This is also another opportunity to award extra credit for book reports and projects.
The four elements discussed in this article, maps, timeline, vocabulary list and extended reading list, are simple suggestions to get the bulletin board started. Before beginning, it is important to review some bulletin board basics. Always cover the background with a solid color. Use borders with caution, busy borders distract from the content. Pre-plan the layout to avoid clutter and create ‘white space’, this will enhance comprehension and retention. Finally, remember this bulletin board is a tool to aid the teaching plan, not replace it. Have fun with this and the students will benefit greatly.