March is Women's History Month. A month to recognize and celebrate all the influential women from the past and in the present. A month to focus on these remarkable female leaders and to share the importance of their accomplishments with our students.
In the upper elementary grades, reading books about influential women and having students complete research projects to share with their classmates are great ways to highlight these important women and their contributions to our society.
One of my favorite activities to assign to my students is the "Purse" research project. It not only gives students the opportunity to research an influential woman, but it encourages them to think a little further and allows them to get creative which most of them really enjoy.
1. Assigning an influential woman
To start off the project, students are assigned an influential woman. I try REALLY hard to match them with a woman who matches their interests. For example, if a student plays tennis, I may assign Serena Williams or Billie Jean King. If a child is particularly interested in the Holocaust as I had one year, I may assign Anne Frank or Irena Sendler. Matching a student with someone they can relate to makes a huge impact on what they take away from the research and what they share with their classmates.
Next, students research and read about the influential woman assigned to them.
- They can use books from the media center or from your classroom library.
- Give them access to online books such as those found at Epic!-Books for Kids which has a selection of biographies and is FREE for teachers and librarian. (Talk about THRIFTY!!) Another online book resource available to teachers is Vooks. Teachers receive a FREE one year trial.
- Reliable online resources such as online encyclopedias can also be very helpful. Just be sure to share with students that Google is a search engine and not a website. Teach them how to find reliable websites.
3. Assign the "Purse" Project
Once students have read up on the woman they have been assigned, they can now begin to synthesize the information and create a "purse" for the woman. You may have noticed that each time I have used the word purse above, it is written within quotation marks. That is because not every woman will have a purse. Students need to think about what the woman may be carrying around. It could be a sports bag, a satchel, a backpack, a medicine, bag, etc. Whatever the bag is, it must reflect what the woman would carry.
Students then fill it with a birth certificate, pictures, and objects.
Students then present their project to the class and justify all of the pictures, objects, and the bag they created. It is AMAZING to see the creative ideas students come up with.
As part of the presentation, students who are watching the presentation take notes on the women being presented. I usually have them write just one fact about the woman, but I do ask them to pick a "WOW" fact. This eliminates them choosing something like the date she was born.
Hopefully, this gives you a new and unique idea to implement with your students that will get them really thinking about what was most important to the influential woman, and what her biggest contributions and achievements were.
If you'd like to take a closer look at the resource I use with my students, you can click on the image below.