Students will rotate through stations with what might appear at first glance to be random artifacts. Each station has story behind it that connects the items to a story. For example, one is from a teenage sleepover where they were playing video games all night, drank a lot of soda and made a mess. You can set this simulation up in your classroom and have students rotate through each area, or, you can buy some paint sticks and string, and set up archaeological “dig sites” outside (see pic below). Lastly, if you’d like to incorporate technology, set up a backchannel* discussion online (TodaysMeet is usually what I use) so students can type their thoughts concerning each station while they are looking at it so others can discuss with them online. Instructional link provided, or...seek out your district’s tech person, you’ll probably get a lot of credit for doing so!
This lesson can be delivered at the start of any social studies unit or year, or, within the context of a unit on archaeology, prehistory or early humans. The major idea to get across is helping students to understand how we “know” what we “know” about history, and how they can make inferences to begin to unpack situations. So often students take what they read and simply accept it. That characteristic is not terrible, for at a stop sign, I would hope they would all just accept the sign and stop their car. With history, however, understanding how the information was gathered or determined is important. If you conduct this lesson at the start of the year, you can always refer to it to show how even more recent history might be built more off inference than concrete fact.