Cluster-up Archaeologist Style

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TSWBAT simulate an archaeological "dig" and its outcome places them in new groups in the classroom.

Big Idea

Ditching the routine to participate in a mini-excavation on the playground will please most students....let the search begin!

Preparation of Ancient Artifacts

45 minutes

Pictures of ancient artifacts to fit your curriculum needs, glued onto posterboard then cut in half and laminated.  I suggest finding at least thirty pictures.  On one half of the pieces are the names or initials of the group you're using, and on the other halves, an X.  The half with the initials will be "Artifacts" in the sand

For example, I am grouping my students into Native American regions, so I chose artifacts specific to each region.  My favorite resource for artifact pictures- National Geographic magazines.  They are cheap and easy to come by and have lots of beautiful illustrations. It's also easy to spot them when they're in the Playground Setting (spread artifacts out when really placing them.)

Setting up the Simulation

15 minutes

Note: Grouping the kids for success is imperative.  For this reason, I've already created the groups according to academic and behavioral needs, so the students must be told not to trade the artifact picture on their desks.  Although not random, when they gather with their new group after the activity it feels as though their group "just happened," which is fun. 

Ahead of the class coming in, put both pieces of the artifact examples at set uon each student's desk then collect the name side and leave the piece with an X behind for them to find. 

The pieces with the group names are taken out to a playground or any area where the kids can search. There should be enough covereage to be a bit challenging, but easy to find, depending on the amount of time you intend to spend.  We have sand on our playgrounds, so a few minutes before the morning bell rings, I put the artifacts around the primary playground, cover most of each "artifact" with sand, then quickly take off for my classroom knowing the day is about to start in a truly unique way!

I hope your students enjoy the simulation! Something I should point out....although the teacher preparation takes a large chunk of time, once you create your artifacts and laminate them, they'll last for many years. Therefore, that prep is really a one time deal!

Warm Up

5 minutes

The students discover half of an "artifact" on their desk.  It's actually a picture of an artifact, but interesting to find, nonetheless!  They examine and speculate about what it is, then write in their journal. Journal Example

This direction should be on the board when they come in and they can start Warm Up while waiting for morning announcements, etc. so there will be less to do when academic day actually starts.  Domain specific words learned in the previous lesson are on the board.  The kids should highlight them in their journal or after a quick vocabulary review.

After they find the matching piece in the next section, they will complete Drawings (with the actual artifacts) just what they think the artifact is.


25 minutes

Review vocabulary from previous lessons including archaeology, archaeologist, excavation, artifacts. 

"Today, you will take on the role of an archaeologist, and simulate going on a dig.  When you came in this morning, you found on your desk a picture of half an ancient artifact.  In a few minutes, you will attempt to discover that other half."

As part of your discussion before going outside, address the realities of archaeology....sometimes not all of the artifacts are recovered. After the activity, in case this happens, positively recognize the few students who come up empty handed, because more often than not, incomplete artifacts are all the experts have to study.

With their artifact pictures in hand, lead the students outside to the playground.  My rules are:

*have fun with your classmates as you search for your artifact- if you find the one that matches it, sit by the wall with your pieces and wait for your classmates to finish

*if you pick up a piece that's not the match of yours, lightly cover it up and keep looking, it's a fun activity, even if not everyone finds their piece. 

After everyone's had the chance to discover and fit their artifacts together, they should be sitting at the designated spot. Validate those who didn't find a match, reminding them that it's typical to be in that position after an archaeological dig. Return to the classroom.

Once they're seated, inform them they've just placed themselves into their new groups for the duration (in my classroom) of their new unit of study.  All they have to do is turn their artifacts over to see the name of the group.  I use initials so that they won't know ahead of time, but it doesn't matter in the end. 

Reread selected portions of the Informational Text: Archeology by Dr. Jane McIntosh the kids became familiar with during the previous lesson. Discuss the responses students wrote in their notebooks for the Warm Up.  It's important for the kids to read informational texts, such as Archeology, because it gives them insight about topics they may never have thought about twice.


Evaluation of Activity

15 minutes

Students should respond to some or all of the following in their notebooks:

1) How did searching for the missing part of your artifact simulate the task of an archaeologist?

2) Was it difficult to find your piece, or is it still out there? Regardless of your personal result, how did it feel to search for something that was missing?

3) What makes the role of the archaeologist significant to our society?


4) How do you think archaeologists are able to determine an artifact's purpose if they don't have all of the pieces?

5) Write the perfect adjective to describe this simulation and then define the word.

As an enhancement to this lesson, it would be fun to create a more physical archaeology experience by burying artifacts in a box or even deeper in the dirt if you have permission.