How-to Posters

Language Arts/Social Studies/Art

Students enhance their respect for the practical know-how of early Americans by preparing an instructional poster for a skill that would have been useful during colonial times.

What You Need

  • Reference books with information about early colonial life or Native American culture
  • Paper or poster board
  • Art supplies

What to Do

  1. Divide the class into discussion teams to brainstorm a list of skills that early Americans, such as colonial settlers or Native Americans needed in order to survive. Suggest that teams consult reference books and textbooks to learn how different groups provided for basic needs, such as food, clothing, shelter, child-rearing, and transportation. Then break down those activities into specific skills. Lists might include:

    building a canoe/making tools
    gathering food/making weapons
    growing food/preparing/cooking food
    making clothing/training animals
    making fire/mapping/navigation

  2. Bring the class together to make a master list. Then have individuals (or partners) choose one skill/activity to research. Students will then use the information they find to create a how-to poster that explains how to carry out the activity. Posters should be illustrated with drawings, photocopies of pictures, or diagrams, and include explanatory text and labels, as necessary. A poster on building a canoe, for example, might show a sequence of steps, such as finding a proper log, hollowing it out, and preparing the exterior. Students could use a cut-away diagram to show the canoe's structure. Students could also include drawings of the tools needed.

  3. Encourage students to give a brief oral presentation of the activity on their posters. They might also discuss the process they followed in their research, how they chose which steps to illustrate, or which steps were difficult to show.

Teaching Options

  • Display the posters in your room or in some other public space. Group them by subject or culture. Choose volunteer student guides to learn as much as possible about each grouping. Then invite other classes or families to visit the exhibit, moving small groups around the room, asking questions of the guides. You may wish to rotate the guides so that each student takes part.
  • Invite a community member who practices one of the poster skills to talk about his or her work to the class. Possibilities include: a weaver, farmer, cook, wilderness hiker, archer, seamstress, etc.
  • You may be able to arrange a class visit to a living museum or craftperson's studio to watch traditional craftspeople and other workers in action.


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