Anecdotes from Artifacts: Hearing When Clay Sings
Teacher: Patsy Hamby

Overview:  This pre-reading activity encourages analytical thinking and appreciation for diversity.  This method of inquiry transforms students’ interpretive abilities, challenging them to think more broadly about the meaning of a text.  It also encourages both individual and group work through an interdisciplinary approach.

Click here for extended version of this lesson with student artifact and teacher reflection.


  • Copies of “Symbols: Tribes of the American Indian Nations”
  • Modeling compound (available—and inexpensive—in the craft sections of department stores).
  • Stylus.
  • Desk protector (waxed paper).
  • Unlined white paper.

Time:  One to two hours.

Instructional Sequence:

  1. Distribute “Symbols” and additional materials.
  2. Instruct students to shape the clay representing a meaningful aspect of their lives.
  3. Fold a sheet of plain paper into six sections.
  4. Leave the artifact and the paper on the desk.
  5. Move in a designated pattern to another artifact.
  6. Student responds to an artifact by writing a sentence interpreting an aspect of the artifact in one of the six squares.
  7. Student moves to another artifact, repeating this action in the second square.
  8. Once all squares are complete, the original creator of the artifact returns to it, reads aloud how others have interpreted it, and shares their own creative motivation for the artifact.
  9. Students discuss the implications, accuracy, and nuances of the various interpretations.
  10. Students write reflective pieces relating the reading of the text to their experiences with interpreting the artifacts.

Evaluation:  Works as a community builder early in the semester.  Formative observation.

Click here for extended version of this lesson with student artifact and teacher reflection.

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