Back from the Future
Language Arts Activity
In this creative writing assignment, students will assume the role of future
archaeologists excavating the remains of an ancient twentieth-century classroom
(or other site of your choice).
WHAT YOU NEED
- Everyday classroom objects
- Self-adhering notes, masking tape, or another means of tagging selected artifacts
- Numbered slips of paper
- Empty container
WHAT TO DO
- Tell students that one of the most difficult jobs of an archaeologist is to
figure out the uses of the artifacts found at the sites of ancient civilizations.
Explain that in this activity, the students will become archaeologists from the
far future. It will be their jobs to analyze objects or a place to determine what their function "might have been."
- Select the objects in the classroom to be "found" and studied by the "archaeologists."
You might tag each "artifact" with a number and allow students to pick
numbers from a container. You may also wish to have one or more students
report on the room itself (its shape; its possible use -- for example, throne room,
home, or tomb).
- Assign each "archaeologist" to report (orally or in essay form) on a particular artifact.
- Describe the selected artifact in detail.
- Draw a diagram of it.
- Use their imaginations to guess what function(s) the item may have had
for the citizens of the ancient United States.
For example: A pencil might be interpreted as a wooden rod of authority
(officials of different ranks having shorter or longer pencils)
or possibly some form of dart-like weapon. Encourage students to explain what their
artifacts might tell them about the people of the ancient United States.
David Macaulay's well-illustrated Motel of Mysteries, about a
twentieth-century motel mistaken for a burial chamber by forty-first century archaeologists,
provides a humorous example of archaeological misinterpretation, and would be an excellent
primer for this assignment.
Student essays could take the form of stories or journal entries that could
be combined into a "record" of the dig. Classrooms could also share their journals and theories
about what twentieth-century United States might have been like with other classes.
As a warm-up or follow-up discussion, you may want to show students pictures of actual artifacts from ancient civilizations and, without
revealing the purpose of the artifact, have them exchange ideas about what it could be.
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