Teaching Strategy

Artifact Add-ons

Grade Level
Community Inquiry


Artifact Add-on asks students to select and share real-life objects that illustrate concepts and ideas from the central text.


After reading


Artifact Add-on brings texts to life and establishes speaking and listening norms during class discussions. The strategy allows students to take on a teaching role. Students gain an understanding of themselves and their peers as active learners, and gain insight into the importance of effective speaking and listening norms. The artifacts also provide concrete manipulatives for students to handle during the discussion. The neuron stimulation from physical movement creates Total Physical Responses that help students recall ideas and themes from the text in later discussions.



  1. Select a previously read central text. Determine what themes, messages, information and facts are being communicated through the text.
  2. Establish speaking and listening norms as a class. Post these norms in a visible location.
  3. Define “artifact” for students. Discuss how a text could have artifacts associated with the events, characters and themes.
  4. Using the familiar central text, as a class brainstorm a list of possible artifact that could accompany the text.
  5. Model talking about one of the artifacts from the list (while observing the speaking and listening norms) and identify how it relates to the text. Use specific textual evidence to support your ideas.
  6. Ask other members of the class to contribute to the artifact discussion. Prompt students to make specific connections to the text, with references to page numbers.
  7. Model this process several times to ensure students have the necessary skills to:
    • Independently identify artifacts;
    • Lead a discussion related to the artifacts.
  8. Select a new central text for students to read independently, in small groups or as a whole class.
  9. Charge students with the task of finding an artifact to connect with the text. If the object a student selects is too large to physically bring to the class (e.g., a vehicle), he can present a picture of the object.
  10. Establish a rotation for students to share their artifacts.
  11. Instruct each student to facilitate a class discussion about her object and the central text using the established speaking and listening norms. After the initial introduction, pass the object around and allow each student to hold and manipulate it during the discussion. The discussion should include textual evidence with specific references to the text for each object.
  12. Help students touch on the following questions during their discussion, and be sure to prompt students to use textual evidence to support their ideas and claims:
    • How is the object related to the text?
    • How does the object represent the characters in the text?
    • How does the object relate to the speaker of the text?
    • What is the text's message or theme? How can the object help you remember the message or theme of the text?

English language learners

This strategy elicits Total Physical Response, which lets English language learners engage the text by moving, touching, pointing and role-playing. It also provides the opportunity to practice active listening skills in a setting that isolates and clearly defines speaker/listener roles. Modify for English language learners by providing appropriate preparation time and example discussion stems.

Connection to anti-bias education

Artifact Add-on asks students to analyze multiple points of view associated with various texts. Contributing to speaking and listening norms encourages students to think about their personal communication needs and learn about the needs of their peers. The strategy also encourages participation from kinesthetic and visual learners. Students directly associate their comprehension to the objects; manipulating the object solidifies their understanding of the text’s message.

Sample speaking and listening norms:

Create speaking and listening norms as a class before Artifact discussions begin. If you have already established norms in the classroom, revisit and reinforce them during this strategy.

  • Whoever is holding the “talking stick” is the speaker.
  • When you are not holding the “talking stick,” exhibit body language that indicates you are listening (e.g. eye contact, no crossed arms, sitting “open” to the speaker, not talking).
  • When speaking, use a voice loud enough for all members of the class to hear.
  • When a listener wants to speak, signal to the speaker with a “thumbs up.”
  • If you are the speaker and you see a “thumbs up,” pass the “talking stick” to the listener giving the signal.

Sample Artifact Add-ons:

Text Artifact Add-on
Eat My Fine Coat Plastic food, table cloth, crown, gold coins, dinner table, platter with a turkey, stew pot
Freedom Riders Bus, tire, bus ticket
Z and Vielpunkt Eggs, nest, zoo animals


Sample discussion stems:

I understand … from the text and that reminds me of … because …

This is … and it is related to the text because…

Some other objects that are similar to this artifact add-on are…