You and your students will discover what education was like in a one-room school house. What topics did students study? How did multiple grades all learn at the same time? Who was the teacher? How important was getting an education?
Activity 1: Introduction
A photograph can tell you a lot about a person, time, and place. Search for historic school houses. Share the photograph along with the date that it was taken. Explain how this school compares to schools you know. You can use a search engine or check out the digital collections that many libraries and universities have.
See photos of the students who attended our School House built in 1912.
Activity 2: Student Lessons
Students of the 1800s were expected to complete many of their lessons without their teacher’s help because he or she was frequently very busy, what with teaching 8 grade levels at once. The textbooks that students used came in many varieties, but the best remembered today is the McGuffey Reader. First published in 1836, each book was made for a particular grade level, from 1st through 6th. The man who first wrote and compiled the McGuffey readers, William McGuffey, first became a teacher in 1814 at 14 years old, teaching 48 students between the ages of 6 and 21 all in one room together.
Here’s an activity straight from a late 1800s primer!
Activity 3: Arithmetic
Rural students in the late 1800s learned arithmetic in school: Arithmetic is math that deals with addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Math was a very practical skill for these students because they used so much of it on their homesteads. This arithmetic worksheet gives examples of some ways students would have been using multiplication and division in their real lives outside the schoolhouse; can you think of ways that they would have used addition and subtraction in their daily lives on the farm and in the home?
Activity 4: Elocution Challenge
Correct pronunciation of a word was as important as correct spelling in a 1890s one room school house. As a way of practicing elocution, tongue twisters were often employed. In what ways do you now practice proper pronunciation in school today?
I think we all know that peter piper picked a pail of peppers, but do you know what his friends did? Try out your tongue twister skills! Time yourself as you read all the photos out loud. Then share your time with your teacher.
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