Heritage first-graders impersonate famous Americans

First-graders in Ann Iott’s class at Heritage Elementary School traded book reports for live personifications of famous Americans.

Hope portrayed Deborah Samson, who impersonated her brother in the Continental Army after his death.

Iott’s “multi-objective assignment” introduced biographies, identifying themes when reading, “peer teaching” and public speaking.

“Communication skills are invaluable for our students today,” Iott said. “This was an excellent way to give the young people a way to conquer any fears they may have about speaking in front of an audience.”

Wasn’t this assignment ambitious for first-graders? “First-graders can do just about anything,” Iott said. “A challenge was deciding information to include in their speech. I encouraged students to include (what) their audience would enjoy learning.”

Hope chose Deborah Samson, “a brave woman many people don’t know about. Her brother died so she took his place in the Continental Army and pretended to be a man.”

Javarius chose Michael Jordan because “he was best player in the game’s history.” Ava portrayed Elizabeth Blackwell, “the first female physician. She was accepted to New York medical school because they thought her application was a joke.”

Famous Americans were Cade (Steve Jobs), Natalie (Laura Ingalls Wilder), Roxy (Susan B. Anthony), Anna (George Washington), Brandon (George Patton), Trent (Johnny Appleseed), Walker (Dr. Seuss), Princeton (Martin Luther King Jr.) and Harshi (Helen Keller).

Olivia portrayed Thomas Jefferson, while Tamaira was Rosa Parks. Other impersonations included Jake (Walt Disney), Vrinda (Abe Lincoln), Dorion (President Barack Obama), Camden (Bill Cosby), Aysiah (Michelle Obama) Brett (David Ortiz) and Kacie (Alexander Graham Bell).

Practicing was “an interactive process” with work in small groups and mutual suggestions and encouragement, Iott said. Students put together costumes with household items, like Trent’s pot for Johnny Appleseed’s hat and Walker ‘s wig and “Thing 2” outfit from a Dr. Seuss book.

“Now, the students know about many important people from American history versus writing a report about one person,” Iott said.

The first-graders enjoyed being “experts” on their famous American. “Students enjoyed their few minutes in the spotlight on speech day. There’s nothing like a room full of people applauding your efforts,” Iott said.

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