ALEX Lesson Plan

Can You Dig It?

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  This lesson provided by:  
Author:Ginger Boyd
System: Geneva County
School: Samson Middle School
The event this resource created for:Alabama Department of Archives and History
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 35093


Can You Dig It?


In this lesson, students will define archaeology. Students will make inferences from observations by sorting through garbage to analyze clues about the people who left the garbage. Students will compare and contrast two artifacts looking for clues from the past. Students will write a narrative story of an artifact.

This lesson was created in partnership with the Alabama Department of Archives and History.

 Associated Standards and Objectives 
Content Standard(s):
English Language Arts
ELA2015 (2015)
Grade: 3
24 ) Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences. [W.3.3]

a. Establish a situation and introduce a narrator, characters, or both; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally. [W.3.3a]

b. Use dialogue and descriptions of actions, thoughts, and feelings to develop experiences and events or show the response of characters to situations. [W.3.3b]

c. Use temporal words and phrases to signal event order. [W.3.3c]

d. Provide a sense of closure. [W.3.3d]

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
ELA.AAS.3.24- Compose narrative texts by introducing characters or a narrator, organizing events in sequence, and providing an ending related to the event sequence.

English Language Arts
ELA2015 (2015)
Grade: 3
29 ) Recall information from experiences or gather information from print and digital sources; take brief notes on sources and sort evidence into provided categories. [W.3.8]

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
ELA.AAS.3.29- Distinguish whether information (text, illustrated, and/or digital) is related to a given topic.

Social Studies
SS2010 (2010)
Grade: 3
Geographic and Historical Studies: People, Places, and Regions
13 ) Describe prehistoric and historic American Indian cultures, governments, and economics in Alabama. (Alabama)

Examples: prehistoric—Paleo-Indian, Archaic, Woodland, Mississippian

historic—Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, Creek (Alabama)

•  Identifying roles of archaeologists and paleontologists

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
SS.AAS.3.13- Identify American Indians that have lived in Alabama for many centuries; identify key aspects of American Indian cultures in Alabama.

Local/National Standards:

D2.His.10.K-2. Explain how historical sources can be used to study the past.

D2.His.10.3-5. Compare information provided by different historical sources about the past

D2.His.9.3-5. Summarize how different kinds of historical sources are used to explain events in the past.

Primary Learning Objective(s):

The students will be able to:

1) define the role of an archaeologist.

2) make inferences based on observations by sorting through garbage.

3) compare and contrast 2 artifacts looking for clues from the past.

4) write a narrative story about one of the pottery artifacts compared during the lesson.

Additional Learning Objective(s):

 Preparation Information 

Total Duration:

31 to 60 Minutes

Materials and Resources:

  • pencil/paper
  • Archaeology Narrative Writing Directions & Rubric (located in attachments)
  • Compare & Contrast Artifact Pictures (located in attachments)
  • Garbage Can Archaeology Worksheet (located in attachments)
  • Ancient Archaeological Sites (located in attachments)
  • Before the lesson, the teacher should collect several plastic bags of clean, safe trash: no food, cans, or glass.  Each bag ideally, will come from a different location.  Examples: office, family home, or movie theater.


Technology Resources Needed:


For the Students:  This is an introductory lesson.  No prior knowledge needed.

For the Teacher:  Before the lesson, the teacher should collect several plastic bags of clean, safe trash:  no food, cans, or glass.  Each bag ideally, will come from a different location.  Examples: office, family home, or movie theater.

Teachers need to be familiar with the Woodland Period in Alabama and with archaeology. 

  • Teachers may want to read pages 36, 39, 40, 41, and 239 in The Alabama Guide:  Our People, Resources, and Government for detailed information about archaeology and the Woodland Period.

 Williams, Randall, and Christine Garrett. The Alabama Guide: Our People, Resources, and Government 2009. Montgomery: Alabama Dept. of Archives and History, 2009. 36, 39, 40, 41, and 239. Print.       

  •  Teachers may also wish to read pages 10-13, and 26 & 28,  in Alabama: The Making of An American State.

 Bridges, Edwin C. Alabama: The Making of an American State. Tuscaloosa, Alabama: U of Alabama, 2016. 10-13, and 26 & 28. Print.   

  • The following links may also be helpful:   
  • Creeks in Alabama article from the Encyclopedia of Alabama
  • Woodland Period article from the Encyclopedia of Alabama 

Before: Ask students, "If someone sorted through your trash, what clues could they find about you?" Have students brainstorm a list of items that could be found in someone's trash that could give "clues" about the people who left the trash.  Then lead a discussion about how archaeologists use the "evidence or trash" they find to piece together information about human cultures.  Show the following video: Archeologists: Career Spotlight by 

During:  Explain to the students that archaeologists are able to learn about the lives of prehistoric peoples by studying the remains of the things they left behind. (Before the lesson, the teacher should collect several plastic bags of clean, safe trash: no food, cans, or glass.  Each bag ideally, will come from a different location.  Examples:  office, family home, or movie theater.) Group students into groups with 3 students per group.  Give each group a bag of trash and the Garbage Can Archaeology worksheet found under attachments.  Explain that each group will assume the role of archaeologists and analyze the contents of each trash bag to determine the location the garbage came from.  They will also make inferences about the people who left the garbage. Give groups 15 minutes to sort through the garbage and make their inferences.  Then discuss their findings. 

 After:  Explain to students that pottery is generally the most common type of artifact found at prehistoric sites because pottery and stone do not deteriorate as easily as other remains. The types of clay people used to make their pottery and the different patterns and methods they used to decorate their pottery indicates the age of the pottery and the culture from which it came. These are all clues archaeologists use to gain information about prehistoric people.  Show students the picture of the 2 artifacts: Woodland Duck Pot - Artifact B and Creek Water Jar - Artifact A, both located under attachments.  Ask the students, "Are there similarities between the two?  Are there differences?  What can these two pictures tell us about the people who used them?  Are these objects similar to anything we have or use today?"  Complete a Venn Diagram together on the board to compare similarities and differences.

Have students choose one of the two objects (Woodland Duck Pot or Creek Water Jar) and write a narrative story from the picture about the artifact.  Students will write a scene explaining its origin, how it ended up buried in the dirt, or what happened once it was excavated by an archaeologist (the student).  They can write the scene from the point of view of an archaeologist, a character, or the item itself. 

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Assessment Strategies

Formative assessment strategy for this lesson is the Garbage Can Archaeology worksheet (found under attachments) used in the Garbage Can Archaeology Activity (during part of the lesson). 

Summative assessment strategy for this lesson is the Rubric for the Archaeology Narrative Writing (found under attachments) used in Archaeology Narrative Writing (used in the after part of the lesson).


Students can choose one of the sites from the ancient archaeology site from the list under the attachments, research the site via the internet, and design a travel brochure for that site using a template from Microsoft Word.

Suggested Reading List:                     

  • Currier, Richard L., and Michael Avi-Yonah. Search for the past. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications, 1974. Print.                                                 
  • Duke, Kate. Archaeologists Dig for Clues. New York: HarperCollins, 1997. Print.                                                 
  • Freed, Stanley A., and Ruth S. Freed. Man from the Beginning. Mankato, MN: Creative Educational Society, 1967. Print.                                                
  • Jackson, Donna M., and Charlie Fellenbaum. The Bone Detectives: How Forensic Anthropologists Solve Crimes and Uncover Mysteries of the Dead. Boston: Little, Brown, 1996. Print.                                                 
  • Lewin, Roger. In the Age of Mankind: A Smithsonian Book of Human Evolution. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian, 1988. Print.                                                 
  • Logan, Claudia, and Melissa Sweet. The 5,000-year-old Puzzle: Solving a Mystery of Ancient Egypt. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 2002. Print.  


Students who need extra support should be placed in groups with teammates sensitive to the needs of that student. The teacher may need to more closely supervise groups that contain students who are struggling with the concepts of this lesson. Students may also need additional time to complete their Narrative Writing Activity. 

View the Special Education resources for instructional guidance in providing modifications and adaptations for students with significant cognitive disabilities who qualify for the Alabama Alternate Assessment.