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Children Revisit History With Informative Reenactments

A former teacher and tutor, Kenna enjoys helping children live a better life, understanding the importance of helping them become leaders.

“If you don't know history, then you don't know anything. You are a leaf that doesn't know it is part of a tree. ”

— Michael Crichton, Author

Homeschool Program

Pick a book that weaves a historical story about a time your kids can understand based on your age group. The story can be about anything in history. In essence, the landing on Plymouth Rock, American Revolution, George Washington prevents the Newburgh Conspiracy. Robert Carter formulates a plan to free his slaves, Robert E. Lee supports and arranges peace over the Civil War, the discovery of gold in California, or John F. Kennedy directs America to land on the moon. These stories are available in books written for children of all ages.

Students Act it Out

Follow these steps to help your children get involved with history. The process is learning and entertaining for everyone.

  1. You pick your book to read according to the historical significance and curriculum.
  2. Introduce the historical event to the children, and tell them they will hear a story about the time (example) an American landed on the moon.
  3. Read the historical story out loud to the children.
  4. Make sure all the children understand the story. Ask them periodically about what is going on in the story.
  5. Assign children characters in the story.
  6. Again, read the story and have the children act out the people in the story this time.
  7. As you read the story out loud, give them time to act out the situations.
  8. Using President Kennedy's speech regarding a man to the moon as an example, you feed the main points of Kennedy's speech, and the student repeats them. The students don't have to have it literally.
  9. Pay more attention to the action of the situations than the significance.
  10. Encourage the children to act out the action. Validate them often.
  11. Change character assignments so everyone gets a chance to play a role.
  12. Create an audience if you have more children than characters with an understanding of rotation.
  13. Once you are done and depending on how old the children are, ask them to draw a picture of what they did or write a brief report of what they like about learning the historical event.


Making History Come Alive

Making History Come Alive

Play the Roles in History

Continue the program with a complete reenactment of the historical event based on the students' age.

  1. Take the reenactment up a notch and encourage the students to speak some of the story's lines.
  2. Take the words between the quotation marks, and the students say those as lines in a play.
  3. Keep the story exciting. Listen to what the children have to say about acting out history. Share their enthusiasm.
  4. Dress up the children for each role. You can get hats, ties, jackets, vests, or scarves.
  5. Add props to the story.
  6. Run the story one more time with dress-up, props, and children acting out the story without you reading the book.
  7. As a bonus, perform the reenactment to the parents or other people.
Mountain Man

Mountain Man

Ask them questions like:

What is the weather? How much food do you need to gather for your family? How long will it take you to grind the corn? What's it like to be on the moon? Is there air on the moon?

Visit Locations

Field Trip to Historical Reenactment

Take a field trip to a location where students can "see" history. Your children become Indians in an Indian village. They can be gathers, corn grinders, or teepee builders.

Let them decide what they want to be and have them act out their roles. Ask them questions like: What is the weather? How much food do you need to gather for your family? How long will it take you to grind the corn?

Create History in Your Home

Homeschool Reenactment

Take a moment and figure out what they can reenact in your home. If you have many girls, reenacting doing the laundry in the early 1800s would be a fun project.

Search the Internet, find what you need, and collect the items. List the different hats each woman wore when they did community laundry. Assign those hats to your children and let them shine.

If you have some boys around, ask them: What were men doing while women did the laundry? Have them reenact what men did in the 1800s. Mend fences hunted for food, checked on the farm animals, and so forth.

Scroll to Continue

Being Apart of History

Each time you and your kids act out a critical moment in history, the experience will become more comfortable and manageable to perform. Being part of history through role-playing is the most engaging way to learn and understand history.

Don't be afraid to push the envelope and go all out with a crucial historical moment. Follow the tips I shared in this article. Have fun, and learn.

© 2016 Kenna McHugh


Kenna McHugh (author) from Northern California on July 13, 2017:

I will give my daughter the tip. Thanks. I hear Will Durant books are pretty awesome. They would keep any researcher busy for years.

Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on July 13, 2017:

Get a general history book (one with an ambitious title such as "History of the World") and let it fall open. Start on the first full left-hand page entry where the page settled and work your way back to what you think you know. Might be an eye-opener.

Tell your daughter to book a ticket at the Tower of London box office near the Tiger Public House, for the Ceremony of the Keys in the evening (about 9 pm start, about half an hour duration but it's better than fighting through crowds in the daytime)

Kenna McHugh (author) from Northern California on July 13, 2017:

So much ponder? Perhaps, I have to do a bit of research instead of thinking about it.

History is more than one can truly fathom. Where does one start to research?

Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on July 12, 2017:

It's only the European migrants to the Americas - including Leif Eiriksson in the 10th Century - that date back to their entry to the American mainland. As mentioned, Leif Eiriksson recorded the 'skraelings' who lived in the same area that later became part of Canada. 'Skraeling'' meant wretch in Old Norse. If you included their presence in American history you'd probably get back to BC, well before England became a single kingdom in Aethelstan's time. The ones that reached the Andes arrived in the Americas well before the Sioux, Cheyenne or Seminole tribes, who probably established their tribal areas at the time the Aengle [Anglian] King Ine of Northumbria pressed into Pictland north of Dinas Eidin (Edinburgh) and wedded the Pictish Baebba, naming his stronghold Baebbanburh after her. That was around the end of the 5th Century/early 6th.

So it all fits into perspective. These 'Indians' left eastern Asia via the Bering Sea well before Christ was even born, possibly when the Romans first came here with Julius Caesar in 55BC. Some of the South American tribesmen look similar to their Chinese cousins, others like Indians (as Columbus thought they were when he landed in the West Indies).

I'll leave you to mull it over (take a look at how Kamchatka might fit with Alaska before the northern ice sheet melted 10,000 years ago).

Kenna McHugh (author) from Northern California on July 12, 2017:

My 16-year-old daughter is traveling in the UK, right now. Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and England. I am sure she is learning and experiencing similar tales.

Being in the States, our history only goes so far, unlike Europe and Asia.

Wherever kids learn about History, reenactments are so much better because it balances the significance against the actual doing it and being it.

Who cares about dates and what not. Let's find out how they actually lived. You mentioned travel and communications took so much longer. Or, what did they wear, eat, and take care when ill.

There is so much to learn by visiting the places in history as well.

This particular article doesn't get many views, so thank you for visiting and sharing.

Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on July 12, 2017:

Here's a positive way of doing things. Kenna you've started these kids on a long road of learning. With luck they'll take it beyond role-playing, start asking questions. There might be minefields ahead in some instances, but can all be dealt with tactfully.

Over here a lot of re-enactment goes on that involves kids from nursery to juvenile. For instance the first time I went to Battle Abbey (the site of Harold's stand, 14th October, 1066) on the anniversary of the battle I saw a class of schoolkids re-enact the 'Battle of Hastings' (the town is six miles away to the south, on the coast) with lots of loud yelling. Next time I went I was there to sign my books and give short talks along with other authors, fact and fiction. The event - nearest weekend to 14th October - sees thousands of children who are initially mystified until it's explained to them that transport was by horse and cart or ship, and that it took a week for Harold to return south from York, and a further week to send out messengers for men before setting out on the road south from London.

At York during the Jorvik Viking Festival in mid-February I saw children being addressed by enactors to wear helmets, hold swords and axes, even playfully 'attack' the jarl or his huscarls...

Fast forward to the late 19th Century at Scruton Station on the Wensleydale Railway, children dress up in Victorian outfits and interact with railway volunteers to 'go to school' as their great grandparents might have done.

If kids learn to understand what went on, they'll understand their own situation better, how much better off they are now to the days or yore. Most days the museums are full of kids taken by teachers. Incidentally, at Battle Abbey William still gets booed and Harold cheered...

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