Teaching History with Children’s Literature: …If You Lived in WILLIAMSBURG in COLONIAL DAYS

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…If You Lived in WILLIAMSBURG in COLONIAL DAYS by Barbara Brenner is an informational book which describes the everyday life of colonists living in Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia.   This story is set up in a Question and Answer format, beginning with an introduction.  While this book could be read straight through, it has a table of contents at the beginning listing the highlighted questions in the book, so that if a child wanted the answer to a question without having to read the entire book, they could easily find the answer.  Each page has a question about colonial life in Williamsburg at the top, and a page or two of description answering the question and describing life in the colony.  The questions are very accessible, and can help children relate to the colonists, by asking questions like “Did girls and boys learn the same things?” to help them see the differences between today’s experiences and the children of Colonial Williamsburg.  The book also asks questions highlighting important facts and vocabulary, such as:

“Who shopped in Market Square?  Housewives came to buy groceries.  Slaves came to shop for their masters.  Sometimes, a few Pamunkey Indians would show up with pottery to sell… Occasionally black people were brought to Market Square for a terricle reason – to be sold at auction as if they were horses or cows.  Inagine how you would have felt, seeing your father or moher bought by a stranger.  You would have known that you were likely to be separated from your family, perhaps forever.”

Curriculum Connections:

This book can be used to support Virginia Studies SOL VS.4e, as it helps to describe colonial life in Virginia.  By showing some of the colonial norms, such as the clothes the colonists wore, where they lived, and the types of food they grew and ate, students can begin to see the differences between life then and life now.

Additional Resources:

Library Thinkquest provides a variety of online games and activities for children to explore Colonial times further.

The Colonial Williamsburg website provides games, activities, as well as information for parents and teachers about visiting Williamsburg.

PBS provides a lesson idea that helps students “translate” Colonial English to Modern Day English to help them understand the differences between the two languages.

General Information:
Book:  …If You Lived in WILLIAMSBURG in COLONIAL DAYS
Author:  Barbara Brenner
Illustrator:  Jenny Williams
Grade Range:  4-6
Pages:  80
Publisher:  Scholastic Paperbacks
Publication Date:  October 1, 2000
ISBN-13:  978-0590929226