Building Cro-Magnons to Better Understand the Ice Age (3-4)



Text:  Sunset of the Sabertooth

  Objective: Students will build knowledge about the Cro-Magnons of the Ice Age to comprehend the novel and the individual chapters studied.

  Grade Level:  3-4 graders reading at an independent reading level of about 2nd grade

  The Magical Treehouse Series is a high interest reading series for students who are older in age, but lower in reading level.  In order for my students to fully grasp the vocabulary and overall comprehension for Sunset of the Sabertooth, we would perform the chapters almost immediately after reading them. 

            Because the skills and memory of these students were lower, I decided that after reading a chapter, they would dramatize it as I reread a chapter word for word, pausing in appropriate spots to allow movement and action.

            I would simply ask for volunteers to play the main/minor characters.  Then we would come up with ways the other students could participate. 

            Before we started doing this, we created large caves, mountains, and landscapes with our bodies (just like we did in Drama).  This was so students who didn’t play a particular character or animal in the story, could be the wind, a rock, a joining cave or mountain.  The more we did this, the better they were at creating parts for themselves.  Further more, it strengthened the scene as well. 

            They would shout out, “I could be a large rock next to the cave!” “I could be a hawk flying in the sky!” They realized that one doesn’t need to be a person or a living thing in order to become something or partake in the joy of drama.

            Another part to this lesson involved getting students to understand the various tools that the people of the Ice Age used.  Teaching this novel before to a previous group was not nearly as concrete or successful.  I started to understand how important movement and going through the motions of the plot were.  Students created a giant cave with their bodies, hands, and heads.  I would then call on a student to enter into our man-made cave.  He or she would go into the cave as a Cro-Magnon to take out something that would be found in a Cro-Magnon cave. They would be expected to hold the object and treat the object as though it was the true object.  We would then discuss the importance of the tool, game, or other associated objects that were mentioned through the book and our study on the Ice Age.

            They had so much fun with this and always wanted to bring out something that hadn’t been done before.  It was humorous when a student pulled out what was to be a saber tooth tiger and actually died while doing it.  His name is Alex and he always keeps me laughing.  They really comprehended the foreign objects and tools that were once used in the Ice Age.  Their test scores and overall interest really progressed.  To tell you the truth, I wouldn’t change a thing really, except do more of this during the school year.


Lesson 2


            As the year begins, I usually start out with some fun writing activities to get them motivated about writing and being writers.  The activity is called “Life Maps,” in which students think about important, exciting, or tragic events that stand out in their lives.  They begin with the year they were born and work their way up to the current year.  Usually, students pick a memory for each new year, but others choose two events that occurred and skip other uneventful years. 

            After they choose their events (and figure what year they were born in) students design their own lifelines or maps in any fashion they please.  They are also to draw a symbol to represent that event as well.  In the past, I had them partner up and present a peer’s timeline.  This year, since I’ve completed this class, I changed the latter part to students pantomiming their 10 events in order.  Each student then presents his/her life map to the class through pantomiming, along with showing their symbols as they went along.

            However, before I did this, we worked on different pantomiming activities including the number (0-9) pantomime within a group, signing a gesture for their names, and the magic box, in which we did in the Lesley Drama class.  Therefore, they felt comfortable doing this and understood what was expected in the Life Map assignment.

            I couldn’t explain in words how well it went and how great the lesson went.  Students got to know each other better, and I personally felt it created a sense of community and togetherness.  Some were so humorous, touching, and meaningful to us all!  What a wonderful assignment to begin the year with.  A few students ask me if we are going to do more things like we’ve done with the Life Maps.  I tell them, “Most definitely!  Wasn’t that fun?”  The smiles and questions prove to me that indeed it was!


*Just to add on.  I’ve started to use the signing symbols for reading vocabulary words in my reading class, which are lower skilled students. It really helps them remember the meaning of the words.  They at first were nervous but are finally getting into the swing of things. 






































Making an effort to increase student learning by integrating  drama will help children gain meaningful context to their lives.