7 Colonial Virginia Classroom Ideas

Hi, again! It’s Meghan from Vestal’s 21st Century Classroom. I’m back to share more hands-on ways to teach Virginia Studies throughout the school year. So far, we’ve explored ways to creatively teach regions of Virginia, American Indians of Virginia, and Jamestown. In this post, we’ll continue our journey through the Virginia Studies curriculum by investigating seven colonial Virginia classroom ideas your students are sure to love!

Use Virginia Colony Economic Activities

As part of SOL VS.4d, students are supposed to describe the role of bartering in colonial Virginia. Rather than just having students describe bartering, get them to actually barter! I like to use a fun barter bag activity where I give each student a brown paper bag filled with different objects. Each bag has a different number of items and different types of items. Then, I give students a goal of getting specific items through bartering within a certain amount of time. My students usually ask to play this game several times throughout our colonial Virginia unit.

Create Colonial Virginia Scrapbooks

To help students better understand how the culture of early Virginia was a reflection of different cultural groups, I have students create scrapbooks of colonial Virginia. Each student selects a group that was represented in colonial Virginia such as American Indians, Germans, English, etc. Then, they create a scrapbook with drawings and descriptions to show what daily life would have been like for that group of people in colonial Virginia. If you are short on time to teach Virginia Studies, this can also be integrated into a writing lesson by having students write the image descriptions during their writing block.

Research Virginia Cities

Did you know the names of many Virginia cities are heavily influenced by the cultural groups that started Virginia? Have students select several Virginia cities to research. Then, look up the origin of the name of each city. For example, Nottoway is an American Indian name, whereas Bedford is an English name. This lesson can also be integrated with math by having students graph the origins of the city names they researched. Which cultural group is most represented in the names of our state’s cities?

Research Virginia Colony Tobacco

Agriculture was a huge part of colonial Virginia and the success of tobacco farming is what helped Virginia grow economically. The process used by early Virginians to grow tobacco was fascinating. It took over a year to grow, harvest, and ship a tobacco crop. A small mistake could ruin a whole crop, causing the farmer to lose his income for the year. As students learn about the process, have them create a timeline or sort, which will also help them work on sequencing skills.

The age level when Virginia Studies is taught is a good time to introduce the negative effects of tobacco use. When teaching my colonial Virginia unit, I like to integrate a research and writing activity during my ELA block about the negative effects of tobacco use. Students can record their findings in an essay, brochure, or slideshow. This also helps to ease any worries you or parents might have about teaching students about tobacco crops.

Visit Colonial Williamsburg

By far, one of the best field trips I have ever taken my students on is Colonial Williamsburg! Colonial Williamsburg is the world’s largest living history museum. In the life-size replica of an early Virginia town, students are able to visit shops to learn about different colonial jobs, tour colonial homes, participate in the General Assembly, and interact with Virginia’s early settlers. Best of all, tours are aligned to the SOLs and do an excellent job of bringing Virginia Studies to life. When I took my class to the Colonial Williamsburg, I was even able to speak with a representative beforehand about the specific standards I hoped they would cover. Our tour guides did a great job emphasizing the standards I requested throughout our tour.

Create an Early Virginia Colony at School

Based on your location and resources, Colonial Williamsburg may not be an option for your class. If you are unable to travel to Colonial Williamsburg, I recommend hosting a colonial day at your school. Be sure to dress up for the event and encourage students to dress up too. I have found colonial days work best when there are activities in different classrooms or places around the school. Then, divide students into groups and have the groups rotate through each station.

There are so many fun learning activities you can use as part of a colonial day. Here are a few of my favorites:
  • make butter
  • play colonial games
  • make three-sided hats
  • complete a weaving activity
  • make candles
  • complete a cross-stitch activity
  • sample colonial foods
Another option, if you are unable to visit Colonial Williamsburg, is to have students create their own living history museum. Students can research specific people or colonial jobs. Then, students can dress up in character and answer questions as that person. There are still many ways to bring colonial Virginia to life even if you cannot visit a place like Williamsburg!

Make a Fun Colonial Virginia Review

Having great review activities at the end of each Virginia Studies unit is key! These activities not only help students prepare for the upcoming test, but they also help students retain the information they have learned. I have several fun activities that I incorporate into my colonial Virginia review. My students’ favorite review activity is a colonial Virginia scavenger hunt I have created using task cards.

For this activity, I write numbers on index cards that match the numbers on the task cards. I fold the index cards and place them in a large basket. Each student draws a number from the basket and finds the task card with that number. After finding the task card, the students write their responses on worksheets. Then, they repeat the process until they have found all the task cards. This is a great way to get students up and moving as they review colonial Virginia. There also lots of other ways to use task cards to review.


Using a variety of hands-on activities is a great way to get students excited about colonial Virginia and Virginia Studies. Remember, the more fun students are having while they learn, the more likely they are to retain the information. The activities described in this post can easily be replicated in your classroom, but if you are short time, I’ve got you covered! My Colonial Virginia Unit and Virginia Studies Bundle each have most of the activities listed here and LOTS more. My Colonial Virginia Task Cards also can cut down on the amount of time it takes to plan your review activity.
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Virginia Studies is one of my favorite things to teach and here at Virginia is for Teachers, I share lots of tips for making Virginia Studies hands-on and engaging for students. Be sure to join me again next month as we explore strategies for teaching the role of Virginia in the American Revolution. Until then, I hope you and your students have fun with these colonial Virginia activities!

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