Teaching American History American Pioneer Bulletin Boards

When studying the American Pioneers visual aids can be helpful. For the most part, students will be learning about travels across the rugged terrain, inconsistent living conditions, and strong-willed survivors who refused to give up. The lessons can lean toward emotional so the teacher will benefit from some bulletin board ideas to keep the ideas and concepts organized for the students. Two different types of bulletin boards can be helpful in teaching about the American Pioneers.

The first of these bulletin boards is the interactive type. An interactive bulletin board isn’t only pictures and maps for students to look at, it is full of elements that allow and encourage students to explore and study. For the unit on American pioneers, the bulletin board can be broken into segments: geography, life, important people, events (timeline), vocabulary, and historical influence. Let’s look at these elements individually.

~Geography~

To make an interactive geography section of the American Pioneer bulletin board, various elements should be considered. First, maps are important, and the wipe of versions can allow students to mark various travels of exploration, expedition, and settlement. Next, the terrain was at times a determining factor for explorations, so study cards of mountains, plains, rivers, and forests will help students explore these geographical elements that affected the American pioneers. Finally, the human element of geography can be explored through elements pertaining to farming, lumbering, and trail blazing.

~Life~

The life of an American pioneer was directly connected to the geography of the wilderness. This element could be incorporated into the geography section or stand alone. Elements should be considered such as what families looked like, education (or lack thereof), religion (churches and meetings), political involvement of home land, and daily duties. For younger classes, one of the interactive elements for this bulletin board idea could be skit scripts from which students can act out various elements of the life such as tending the farm, mending clothes, and teaching the young ones to read. Older students could be provided lists of words or ideas from which they write their own American pioneer life script and act it out for the class.

~Important People~

This is a major portion of American History class, learning about the important people who helped form this nation. Who were the great American pioneers? What countries did they come from? Why did they come to this continent? The answers to these questions can make up the solutions to a trivia game. Students will discover the answers as the unit topics progress, and each time they learn about a new historical figure, that person’s information gets added to the game. Students can play the game in groups or individually and will be cementing those concepts while having fun.

~Events~

The major events that shaped the history of American pioneers can be included with the important people, but again it is an element that can stand alone. Interactive timelines are a very effective tool in teaching history of any kind. When students can rearrange events and look at what could have been if things happened in a different order they become more confident in retrieving the correct information for tests. A favorite among many teachers is to add new events as they come up in the lessons and scramble the pieces before any of the students see them, then award extra credit points or bonus points toward classroom prizes for anyone who can put the events in the correct order.

~Vocabulary~

Helping students increase their vocabulary is a key element in teaching history. When learning about the American Pioneers, students will encounter many new words and concepts that will need explicit instruction. However, instruction alone won’t improve students’ vocabulary. That is why adding this element to the interactive bulletin board will help students use the new language in the context of the study material. This element incorporates well through the other bulletin board elements, so it isn’t necessary to make a separate section. Simple flashcards with the vocabulary word on the front and a definition or sentence using the word on the back is usually enough for students to play games with the cards and quiz each other.

~Historical Influence~

Teaching about the American pioneers is senseless without including some aspects of how the people and events shaped history. What do we have today because of the sacrifices of the people long ago? A Jeopardy-like game would provide interaction with the information that can help students acquire the knowledge. On the front of the cards place concepts such as; cars to travel from place to place. On the back of the card, write out the American Pioneer way of doing the activity such as; horse drawn carriage or riding horseback, traveling on foot. This game can be played in small groups or with the entire class, and cards can be added as the lessons progress.

The other type of bulletin board that could be used when learning about the American Pioneers is the topical form. On this bulletin board, information is arranged according to the way it is taught and discussed in class, and only provides visual support. Maps, timelines, pictures of life, and word walls are just as important to this type of bulletin board as the interactive type. The teacher can take all of the bulletin board ideas discussed throughout this article and adapt them to fit he topical format. Just remember, the bulletin board is a teaching aid, not the lesson itself, so keep it clear and concise so students can make sense out of it.