I had an unexpected treat yesterday. A 4th grade teacher sent out an invite. Her students were performing monologues as an American history figure. The event was titled The Library of Living Books. Of course, I accepted the invite and took my 3rd graders.
As we entered the library, violin music filled the space. The music seemed to transform us and settle us. We were told to mingle and things would start in a few minutes. “Hi, I’m Benjamin Franklin,” a student dressed in 18th century-like clothing said. Immediately, we could tell this was going to be fun! I gathered my class to the left of the library steps where the violist was playing and told them to look at their program. It taught us that across three parts, 7-8 presentations would take place and the last page of the program had a map of the library numbered to show the performance spaces. “I want to meet Martha Washington!” I heard. “She’s in Session Two over there in he 4th area.”
Then we were formally greeted and Session One began. The teacher in me was a little nervous. I was hoping my students would figure out that they were to move from place to place throughout the library and listen carefully to the prepared speeches. I soon realized, I had nothing to worry about because of the 4th graders – I mean, because of the various historical figures. Each spoke in such a manner that they immediately had their audience’s attention. They spoke, telling their story of a life during the American Revolution. They were dressed just as they would have dressed in the 18th century. They had their prepared speech written on their iPad to refer to but they spoke loud and clear with passion and expression in their voice. King George’s words made me wonder why the colonists weren’t more appreciative of all he had done to build them a new colony and Deborah Sampson had me cheering for her, a women who fought as a man in the Revolutionary War!
For three sessions, we meandered through a 21st century library, from station to station, but feeling like we really were back in time! We had the chance to meet important players in America’s early history. Then, after gathering back to the stage area and clapping for the performers, the violin music played once more and we drifted back upstairs to our 21st century 3rd grade classroom.
Yesterday, I had the best time studying American History because, thanks to the extensive research and writing and preparation by a group of 4th graders, history came alive for me!