Chris Adcock
English Language Arts
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
  • Exhibits
  • Grade 11 ELA
  • Museums
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial

    Museum Exhibits & The Imagination

    Museum Exhibits & The Imagination


    In this lesson, students will consider the ways good museum exhibits make use of a hook, an extraordinary artifact with the power to capture the imagination. Then they'll work independently on their exhibit.


    • Read the lesson and student content.
    • Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.
    • Find the online exhibit Lakota Winter Counts on the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History website ( ). Share it with your students.
    • Find the American Stories online exhibit on the Smithsonian Museum of American History website ( ) and share it with your students.
    • If you do not have Internet access in the classroom, you can print and distribute the exhibits.

    Lakota Exhibit Exploration

    • Introduce the idea of a hook artifact, a particularly interesting artifact that can act as a way to draw an audience into the exhibit.
      • SWD: For some students, creating a hook artifact may be more challenging (abstract) if it is done before they have finished planning out their claim and talking points. If some groups' exhibits are not yet firmly planned, allow students to work on tasks in the order that best meets their learning needs.
    • Lead a brief discussion in which students share their thoughts about the use of winter counts in this exhibit.


    View the exhibit on the Lakota and consider the idea of a hook artifact. A hook artifact is a particularly interesting object that draws an audience into an exhibit.

    The creators of the exhibit use the winter counts as a way of connecting the audience to the history that the rest of the exhibit discusses.

    Since the winter counts were part of the Lakota’s own way of tracking their history, they become an ideal object for a museum to introduce Lakota history to non-Lakota people.

    In your Notebook, complete a Quick Write on this question.

    • Why do you think the creators of the exhibit decided to start with an explanation of the winter count instead of beginning with an overview of the Lakota people?

    Open Notebook

    Then share your ideas with the class.

    Winter Counts Exploration

    • Let students explore for a few minutes and then encourage them to move to a brief conversation together about what the site does well—or poorly—before moving to the next activity.
      • ELL: ELLs may have more insight into the power of nonverbal elements of English-language museum exhibits than their fluent peers. If they are comfortable with it, encourage them to share the techniques and approaches that they think work particularly well.

    Work Time

    In your museum teams, explore the exhibit and judge whether the winter counts work as a hook to draw in an audience so they’ll be engaged with the rest of the story.

    Discuss these important issues and make notes on your ideas before moving on to the individual work time.

    • How well do you think the hook worked?
      • Did it help you get engaged with the exhibit?
    • If you felt it worked well, how did it accomplish that?
    • If you felt it didn’t work well, what can you do to make sure your exhibit has a better hook?
    • How can one key artifact be used to create engagement with the story of the exhibit?

    Open Notebook

    American Stories Exhibit

    • Use this time to move from team to team to gauge student understanding of the concept of a hook artifact, and help them move from appreciation of the hook artifacts of other exhibits to a plan for hook artifacts for their own.
      • SWD: Some students may need to meet with an adult instead of their group to help them clarify their ideas. Others may be able to plan with the group, but may need help in getting their ideas down on paper, so they may need someone (a fellow group member or adult) to do the writing. Students should leave the Work Time with a set of actions on their planning sheet so they have a clear plan for developing a hook artifact.
    • You don't need to spend more time on this exhibit after examining the two artifacts—Kermit the Frog and Ben Franklin's walking stick—because students will return to this exhibit in Lesson 21.

    Work Time

    Staying in your museum teams, turn your attention to the American Stories exhibit. Instead of using a single hook artifact for its exhibit, it uses a series of hook artifacts to bring the audience into a particular period of history.

    For example, the exhibit of an original Kermit the Frog puppet is used in order to discuss the way that television changed popular culture after 1945.

    It also uses Benjamin Franklin’s walking stick as a hook to connect the audience to the revolutionary era of 1776–1801.

    Now jot down your group’s ideas on the following questions.

    • How can physical artifacts such as these help an audience connect to a separate period of history?
    • What kinds of objects in use today could be used as hook artifacts for future generations?

    Open Notebook

    Work Plan 2

    • Let students know if you want them to share their work plans with you when they finish.
      • ELL: This is a good opportunity to check in with ELLs again to make sure that they are working at an appropriate pace. If necessary, you can conference with individual students during this task or the next.

    Work Time

    Before you begin work, take 5 minutes to glance at the options in the next task and write a plan about what you will do during the work session in this lesson.

    As you did in previous lessons, make notes on the following questions.

    • Will you work together with other students? Who?
    • What do you plan to accomplish in the work session?
    • What do you think will be the hardest element of the tasks you’re setting for yourself? Why?
    • What do you think will be the easiest element of the tasks you’re setting for yourself? Why?

    Open Notebook

    Share your plan with your teacher.

    Group Exhibit Work

    • Remind students of the due dates for their annotated articles and for their artifact(s) and placard(s).
    • If students have access to the Internet, they can look at more articles and exhibits.
    • Help students decide on useful tasks based on the resources available.

    Work Time

    You have options for this independent work time.

    • Develop artifacts for your exhibit
    • Plan your exhibit’s structure
    • Write placards for artifacts

    Open Notebook

    Exhibit Status Update 2

    • These plan updates offer students an opportunity to reflect on their progress thus far, and they also offer you daily opportunities to assess and influence student progress.
      • SWD: Monitor the participation level of students whom you know can find group work or ongoing projects challenging. If they are struggling to articulate their ideas, or if this reflection makes it clear that they are being less effective with their work than you’d like, you can address that based on this status update.


    Before the lesson ends, assess your work for the day by answering these questions.

    • Whom did you work with?
    • What did you accomplish during the work session?
    • How accurate was your plan?
      • If you had to adapt and do something other than what you planned, why did you change your plans?
    • What turned out to be the easiest part? Why?
    • What turned out to be the hardest part? Why?
    • What is your top priority for the next work session?

    Open Notebook

    When you finish, share your answers with your teacher.

    Independent Exhibit Work

    • Remind students that the first of their two annotated articles is due in the next lesson.


    • Work on any part of your exhibit that is best accomplished outside of class, such as taking photos, conducting interviews, or creating artwork.

    You will submit one of your two annotated articles in the next lesson.