Spotlight on Strategy

Colonial America Video Journal


As an elementary teacher, one of the biggest challenges is finding time for all core subjects in a day. Often times teachers are encouraged to overlap subjects or incorporate one subject in another. Many teachers use social studies as a vehicle to have students do more writing. This also has the added benefit of increasing engagement and enjoyment of a subject many students don't like. A common writing strategy in social studies is to have students role play a historical figure or a person living in a historical time period and write a journal from that perspective. Moore et al (2010) said, "Having students assume the role of a person in an historical setting promotes their use of the imaging and evaluating thinking processes." In this strategy we add a new twist to the traditional journal activity. Rather than have students write in their journal, they will create video journal entries (we will ignore the anachronism in the spirit of student learning and motivation).


Many teachers want their students to understand what it was like to live in the various historical eras and one that is often used for a role playing scenario in fifth grade is the Colonial America time period. For this strategy each student would review the materials presented in class that range from the textbook to research online to the media elements linked below. Once students have learned about life in Colonial America they will create a character. They should decide things like gender, age, profession, economic status, personality, family, etc. The more details they decide on now, the more interesting their journal can be. Once they have created their character they can either write a full script for their video journal entry or list some highlights of what they want to include (this will depend on the improvisation skills and general comfort level of the student). After they have written or outlined their journal entry they can record it! Students can create a simple backdrop or a class one can be created to provide some context.
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The benefit of this strategy is that it is easily transferable to any age or time period. What is a critical time period in your own classroom that you want students to understand? Is there a specific historical figure you want your students to portray? If you have older students how can you extend this strategy to account for their deeper understandings and more sophisticated technology skills? Gather resources that reflect your particular grade and/or topic and see what students come up with!


Moore, D. W., Moore, S. A., Cunningham, P. M., & Cunningham, J. W. (2010, July 20). Writing in Social Studies Classrooms | Retrieved from

Image #1

Revolutionary war cooking [Illustration]. (n.d.). Retrieved from,%201876,%20H.%20W.%20Pierce-500.jpg

Image #2

King, S. (n.d.). An autumn harvest [Painting]. Retrieved from