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Home | Education | Classroom Resources | History Lab | Sew What! Samplers as Part of American History

Sew What! Samplers as Part of American History

Grades 4 to 8


Samplers can teach us about the domestic arts, societal beliefs, and women's education. During this unit, students will analyze samplers and other primary sources, including school records, advertisements, and photographs, to understand the connection women have had over time to the domestic arts, especially sewing. Students will learn about the process of and purposes for creating samplers, how to interpret the symbols found on samplers, and come to understand the skill necessary to make these pieces of art and history.


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Lesson 1: A Sample of What?


This lesson introduces students to samplers and the connection between women and sewing across different eras. Students will work in small groups to interpret a primary source and make a presentation of their findings to their classmates. Students will then analyze a sampler, answer written questions about it, and graph their names in a cross-stitch pattern. The lesson culminates in an imaginary scenario: students have found a sampler in their attics or basements. Their assignment is to write to a friend about the sampler expressing what it represents, who made it, and why it is an important piece of history.


Download the teacher and student materials for this lesson.



Lesson 2: What Does It All Mean?


This lesson further explores the purposes of creating samplers and the meanings behind the symbols that appear on them. Students will work in small groups to analyze a specific sampler and present their findings to their classmates. Following specific guidelines, students will then design their own samplers. Students will exchange the completed samplers with a partner and attempt to decipher the meaning of the other's sampler. After a series of exchanges, a class discuss will occur about the personal meanings present in the samplers and the experience of interpreting them. This lesson culminates in a journal writing activity.


Download the teacher and student materials for this lesson.



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