The Enlightenment was a period of time in history when things shifted. People began to express and use new ways of thinking to make changes in society and the current way of living. What began in France, spread to the United States when our Founding Figures began to embrace and apply some of these ideas. Natural rights, individual freedom, human freedom, and ideas of liberty were highly popularized and accepted during this time and key figures in our country used these principles to form the USA on. Check out these 19 Enlightenment activities!
1. Enlightenment Philosophers Chart
Learning about philosophers of this time is a great way to learn more about this time period. The thinkers of this era helped shape political authority, the law of nature, and European history, which eventually helped shape U.S. History. Students can learn about key figures and philosophers, like John Locke’s ideas with this activity.
Learn More: Education
2. Four Corners Enlightenment Edition
Four corners is a great activity for any topic! This could be done by telling about the contributions of philosopher figures of this time. Students will pick a corner and go to it to match the idea with the philosopher, like James Stacey Taylor. This could also be done with the types of ideas from this time period, like issues of race, human freedom, economic freedom, or political authority.
Learn More: Kristin Hock’s Teaching Portfolio
3. Gallery Walk Readings
Gallery walks are tons of fun and a great way to learn while incorporating movement. Groups of students can work together to read on certain topics from the Enlightenment Era. Then, they can create summaries and drawings to teach classmates about their topic. Students can then walk through and read about each topic. This is a great way to break down broad topics, like political power or economic freedom.
Learn More: Student-Centered World
4. Scavenger Hunt
Students enjoy a task that gets them actively involved, and they will likely retain the information learned much better! By designing a scavenger hunt, online or on paper, students will be able to search primary sources to find answers to needed information. Be sure to include vocabulary and key figures like James Madison and James Stacey Taylor.
Learn More: History Teaching Institute
5. Enlightenment Period Timeline
Creating a timeline can be a fun way to turn learning into a hands-on activity. Students can use books or internet resources to construct a timeline of events from this era. They can build a digital timeline or construct one on paper.
Learn More: Core Knowledge
6. Stop and Jots
While students are learning through videos, lectures, or any research on their own, they can do a stop-and-jot. Making quick notes about their learning is a great way for students to take ownership of their learning. Encourage them to write about any important contributions of philosophers, founding figures, and changes brought into human society during these times.
Learn More: DBQ Focus
7. Main Idea Project
Using passages is a great way to give a shortened version of a text and follow up with comprehension questions. Working to identify the main idea in nonfiction passages like this is a great practice. You can provide passages about people like James Stacey Taylor or even just events.
Learn More: The DBQ Project
8. Mock Resume Project
Introduce your kids to important philosophers of the past and present with this informative activity. Split your class into groups before encouraging them to research different aspects of various philosophers. Once they’re finished, prompt them to organize all the information they’ve gathered into a resume for their specific philosopher.
Learn More: Teachers Pay Teachers
9. Quotes Match Up
Playing a quote match-up is a great sorting activity that will allow students to learn more about important thinkers, like John Locke’s ideas. They can learn about U.S. history and the founding principles. This can be done in groups or alone.
Learn More: Bill of Rights Institute
10. Who Am I?
Another great way to learn more about the important thinkers of this time is to play a Who Am I game. This historian lesson will help students learn more about specific thinkers and specific topics of European history and U.S. history.
Learn More: Teachers Pay Teachers
Writing an essay is a way to see students express their thoughts and show learning in a very concrete way. Students could pick a specific topic from the Enlightenment times and write about it. Topics may include; human freedom, ideas of liberty, political authority, or human society.
Learn More: The Classroom
12. Interactive Notebook
Interactive notebooks help students express thoughts and show learning in a nontraditional way. You can get creative with the templates or outlines used, but students should be allowed to be expressive as well. There are many internet resources for pre-made templates as well.
Learn More: Students of History
13. Scenario-Based Writing
Using an essential question as a starter, you can design scenario-based writing. This could be done at the end of class and can be presented in the form of a journal. This is also a great way to conclude mini-lessons.
Learn More: Amped Up Learning
14. Digital Presentation
When wrapping up your unit on the Enlightenment Period, you may choose to do an end-of-unit project. Students can create a digital presentation to showcase their learning about this important time in U.S. History.
Learn More: Resources for History Teachers
One-liners are powerful tools when summarizing and wrapping up a unit or mini-lesson. Have students craft one-liners, short sentences, or statements to pack powerful understanding. They must choose words carefully to convey ideas of liberty and other topics of comprehension.
Learn More: CMS Curriculum Companion
16. Mini Books
Another great way to end a unit is to have students create a mini-book. Have them design the layout by sorting different topics, like individual freedom and law of nature, and political philosophy. Students can use words and drawings to show new learning.
Learn More: History
In this digital age, creating a movie is a simple task. Students can create their own videos to showcase learning from a unit or mini-lesson. Students can add voice-overs, photographs, and diagrams to demonstrate their learning.
Learn More: History
Whether you want to create the puzzle or allow students to create their own puzzles to swap with their classmates, creating content-based puzzles is a great idea! This website has some done for you, but you can create your own puzzles for students as well. Great idea for a vocabulary review!
Learn More: Puzzle Monster
19. Role Play
Having your children role-play for scenarios is a great way to really get them involved in bringing history to life. Give each of them a role to play in re-enacting different scenes from history or take things a step further by challenging them to write their own scripts!
Learn More: MiddleWeb