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The Importance of Visualization
and Role Play in History Lessons

Regardless of age or grade level, visualization and role play can greatly enhance any history lesson. How do you incorporate these tools into your lessons? Easy!

What is visualization? Close your eyes and use your imagination to put yourself into your lesson. Its that simple.

For instance, you are studying a lesson on a pioneer on his way west in a covered wagon. Concentrate on sensory input (hear, see, touch, taste, etc.). Feel the hot sun blazing down from the cloudless sky as you bounce on the hard wagon seat. See the horses pulling your wagon, feel the reins in your hands. Hear the creak of the wagon wheels in the ruts that stretch out for miles ahead of you and behind you.

Visualization is that point that you aren’t just reading words on paper, but you are experiencing the picture those words represent.

What is role play? Role play is just one step beyond visualization. Role play is where you “try on” the skin or role of a character within your lesson.

Again, using the pioneering lesson above as an example, pretend you are a forty-niner, an orphan, someone on the Oregon Trail, a doctor, teacher, or preacher. Think about who (your character) are. Where did you come from? Why are you going west? What is your final destination? What do you hope to find when you get there and why? How do you feel? What are you experiencing?

What visualization and role play do is give the child the tools to bring the history lesson alive, to make it more “real” and interesting. No longer is the lesson dry memorization of dates and facts. It provides emotional and sensory stimulation thereby encouraging quicker information retrieval from memory and use of long term memory skills rather than a “remember only long enough for the test” attitude.

The bottom line is, and something you will encounter again and again in all subject areas, a child’s imagination is one of the most powerful tools and resources available to education.

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