This post is by Teresa St. Angelo, the 2016-2017 Library of Congress Teacher in Residence.
What’s one topic that’s usually of great interest to young learners? Toys! Tap into this interest and offer a primary source lesson that will inspire learning.
Provide each student with a copy of this toy catalogue page, published in January 1887, and let the engagement begin.
Students can describe what they see or what they noticed first. Teachers can enhance learning by asking questions that include position words, such as “What do you see above the violin?” or “What do you notice on the top shelf?” Students might describe their favorite item on the third shelf, for example, or count the items on the fourth shelf.
They can work with a buddy and ask each other to describe their favorite toy from the page or take turns giving clues to help their partner discover their favorite.
For a comparison between past and present, give students the 1887 primary source image and a present-day toy advertisement. The students will jump right into discussions on the toys they like or dislike. To help young learners to develop their knowledge of the terms “past” and “present,” ask:
- What toys could children buy in the past?
- What toys can children buy today?
On chart paper, teachers can record questions that students have developed and are curious about. Researching to find answers to some of the questions would make an engaging future lesson.
Add a discussion about the cost of toys. How much did a doll cost a century ago? Search in Chronicling America to learn more. For example,this page from the December 10, 1920, El Paso Herald lists a variety of toys and their prices.
- Ask students to compare prices to a present-day toy sales flyer or Web site.
- They might calculate the difference between the price of a doll from the past and a doll today.
- Students can list toys from least expensive to most expensive.
- Ask students to pretend they each have $50 and to write or draw what they would buy.
To involve parents in the learning, send home the toy catalogue image, a short explanation of how students engaged in analyzing the image in class, and instructions on how the family can analyze a primary source together. Consider sending a sheet for parents to record what they noticed first in the image and what their child noticed first. Include space for feedback about what they learned from their child. Asking parents to note if they liked the activity, and to briefly describe what they liked, can inform future lessons.
Toys can be fun for everyone and a learning experience enjoyed by all!
In the comment section below, please write ways you would use these primary sources in your classroom and tell us your favorite toy from the advertisement.