Early Humans for Teachers
Activities and Projects
These are free activity and project ideas for kids and teachers to use in your unit study of early humans. These activities can be adjusted for any grade. We hope you'll find some ideas you can use.
Teacher Activity (Donn): For early humans, I put a brown arch around my door with heavy construction paper, like the entrance to a cave. I have a sign above my door that says: THE STONE AGE. I staple pertinent things on the cardboard around my door like the outline of a hand, a saber toothed tiger, a wooly mammoth, a stone tipped wood spear, a bush with berries, a campfire - anything to do with early humans. That way, each time the kids enter my classroom, they enter the Stone Age. It's silly, but it helps to keep them on track.
Cave Painting for the Classroom. My favorite is to teach cave art is to bring back the posterboards from our First Day of School Activity - Map Reading (Donn) and not take the time to mess with paper bags. If you team teach, this activity can make sense. Talk about daily life first. Then do the art for this activity in art class. Post the results in the hallway with the school's permission. If not, post them both in art and in social studies classrooms. New teacher tip: Never make anything unless you are going to put it to work. First make it, then use it. All over the web I see ideas for arts and crafts in the classroom for teachers. Here's hoping these people are not actually teachers. Simple rule: Use it or lose it. This is not summer camp. This is school. If you make something crafty, that's great as long as you then set it to work. Ditto with worksheets. First do the worksheet. Then set what they learned on the worksheet to work with a related activity, a simulation, a debate, a class discussion, a quiz show, something.
Preparation Materials: : Charcoal or chalk, tape, brown paper bags (1 or 2 per student)
Preparation Instructions: If using Option #1, the day before this activity, tell kids to wear slacks or jeans the next day.
Day of Activity Instructions:
Option #1: Darken the room. Have the students wad up a paper bag and tape it to the bottom of their desk. (Wadding the bag will give the surface a rough feel, like a cave wall.) If anyone needs help wadding, get the kids to help those who are having difficulty. Have the students crawl under their desks. Then have them draw local animals on the paper bags. Once they have created their "artifact", display the bags on a bulletin board, putting them close together like one wall of a cave.
Option #2: Darken the room. Give each student a paper bag. Tell them to open it up and rip a side or two to make it bigger. Then instruction them to wad it up loosely to create texture, like the wall of a cave. Then have them draw local animals on the paper bags. They can also include an outline of their hand print. Once they have created their "artifact", display the bags on a bulletin board, putting them close together and even overlap, like the wall of a cave. Or simply use Option #2 because some of the kids will forget to wear slacks, or choose not to. Rather than comment on it, simply switch to option #2.
Discovery of Fire, A Play for the Classroom: The Discovery of FIRE!
Analyze Artifacts (Donn): Become an anthropologist and analyze artifacts. Small group activity. Each group receives a piece of paper headed Artifact Identification, but it has no other information. Say: Today, we are going to be anthropologists and analyze artifacts to see if we can figure out what these items were used for. Use your best guess and be creative, but sensible - your guess has to make some sort of sense. One box of "artifacts" are delivered to each group. Give them some time. Then rotate the artifacts from group to group. These artifacts are usually not old because I can't find anything. I use things like a single sneaker. A toothbrush. A baby rattle. Things like that. Once the kids have their Artifact Identification sheets filled, have them share some of their "discoveries" with the class. The open boxes and their "Identification" sheets posted above them make a display. But do not post of course until all your classes have had a chance to identify the "artifacts". One group identified the sneaker as an artifact that once pointed the way, a path to follow to fresh water. I prefer wood boxes to hold groups of "artifacts" when I can find them at yard sales and at Goodwill. I have a stack of wood boxes I use for various activities. I haunt Goodwill for oddball things I can put in these boxes. It's amazing what you can find at Goodwill! The great thing about this lesson is that once you have prepared your boxes, you can conduct this lesson at any time.
A Day in the Life: I personally think this activity demands too time for lesson learned. However, I can see value in it as a team teaching idea. The timeline is a mix of text and illustrations. Using the same timeline paper, social studies can provide time to create the text. Art can bring it to life with illustrations. The Lesson: Timeline, group activity: Use rolls of brown paper. Size of timelines will depend upon where you place them after completed to display them. You can run a diorama around your classroom, one timeline after another. If the school approves, you can also place these on hallway walls on both sides of your classroom. Instructions: Working in groups, each group is assigned a different primitive human - boy, girl, man, woman - and role. Each timeline is for one 24-period in their human's life. Groups may be assigned the same primitive human. Tell the kids all humans will be dressed. Time period: It's the Stone Age, during the late fall. The timeline must include time they got up, dressed in what, food, weapons, activities during the day, roles within the community, any fears and concerns their human primitive might have. Tell them to include what kind of berries, what kind of animal(s).
Eras: Eras Scavenger Hunt using stations you set up around the classroom.
Online Game Day (Donn): Early Humans - Games and Interactive Learning Sites for Kids. Create a scavenger hunt sheet of things for kids to find in the sites listed on their exploration sheet. Check the sites you selected a day or two before the assignment before you run off copies to hand the kids. Sites come and go. I set this to work by telling the kids they have to site the source for each scavenger find for verification. They will need instruction on how to site sources. I use the backside of my scavenger hunt sheet with an example of how to site a source. I do not go over the backside with them. I do tell them it's there.
Prehistory Activities - Voc Quiz, Early Language Activity, Illustrated Booklets
Science and Social Studies Team Teach the difference between artifacts and fossils (Donn)
Sticks and Stones, prehistory technology - you might want to team teach this one with your science teacher. It's also a great way to show the difference between fossils (science) and artifacts (social studies), by pointing at the science teacher who bows when the kids shout "fossils", and the pointing at the social studies teacher who bows when the kids shout "artifacts".
After or Before you complete your unit on early humans, you need a week or so for a mini-unit on archaeology with activities. That's when you set up a dig. I like doing the archaeology before early humans. That way I can move from early humans to agricultural societies smoothly, starting with ancient Mesopotamia. But either works - before or after, but - for new teachers - you do want to include your archaeology unit towards the early part of the school year.
Choose Your Own Adventure from over 70 different classroom activities and possible assignments
New Teachers: Easy desk arrangements for the classroom - I move my desks around all the time, depending upon the activities I'm doing that day. It took me forever to realize I can have the kids move their desks after I mark the spots with masking tape. You don't want to have the kids moving desks into formations all the time, but occasionally it's a smart thing to do. Tell them you need their help prior to movement. That's trust. They will want to help you.
See Also: Lesson Plans for Early Humans