HOT TOPIC: Historic Costume
Volume 1, Issue 15 - December 19, 2004

"I remember my first year of teaching. Sixth grade social studies covered world history. I worked with disadvantaged inner-city students who needed motivation in order to get involved in learning. When classical Greece didn't seem to capture their imagination, I had to rethink my approach before moving on to ancient Rome . The first day of the new unit I entered the classroom dressed as Caesar without explanation. The students began asking questions and I answered in character. It was the hook I needed. I proceeded with a study of Rome that included social class and costume in our daily work. By the end of our studies we had planned a Roman feast in which each student participated in costume and in character. They loved it! Our principal stopped in and thanked me for providing an experience for the class which he was sure they had never had before. I was surprised how could students have gotten to sixth grade and never had an immersion into creative drama or costume?

Looking back at my naiveté, I now realize what a challenge it is to reach students especially inner-city students and how easy it is to simply keep children in their seats learning from worksheets and texts. In my first year zeal I had not thought about the energy and effort I put into making this unit happen. But looking back I'm so grateful it played out as it did. It gave me a perspective in my own teaching career on the approaches I had at my disposal to reach all students in the classroom. In subsequent years I continued to use costume to teach history, right up through the American Revolution and Civil War.

Costume can be a significant component in bringing history to life in the classroom. In those early years I had to go to fabric stores and purchase books on historic costume in order to gather the designs I needed. While those books were great resources, they were truly expensive. Now some twenty years later it's good to be able to access similar materials right online. And what a great collection there is! Imagine having students peruse collections of costume by culture or period as they study an era. But why settle for imagining? This week's Digital Dozen can help you make the magic happen right in your classroom!

This is the last issue for December. The next issue of the Digital Dozen will arrive in your email inbox the weekend of Sunday, January 9 th . Have a safe, restful and joyous holiday break! ....."


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©2005 Walter McKenzie

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