For Part One: Introduction
For Part Two: Why History?
For Part Three: Era, Person, Dress Up, Geography, Explorer study
This part will cover the history of writing, reading and our literature studies
History of Writing
I cover this briefly as an interlude before teaching the literature of the time. I love seeing how writing has evolved, and how the different cultures have taken a basic form of communication and each have made it their own. In Mesopotamia we learnt about cuniform:
In Egypt Hieroglyphs:
And we made Viking rune stones:
And just recently when we were in China we studied Chinese characters:
And its development:
We have looked at the writing of all the cultures we have studied. In the new year we will be studying Chaucer and will once more be shown some of the very old English. Love it!
This study of writing leads us nicely on to the books that are made up of it!
Books, glorious books
You may have noticed a common thread throughout my blog – namely all of our love of books. I am so blessed to have three older children who love, love, love to read. I can not keep up, financially or otherwise. But what a problem to have! I create very heavy reading lists which are devoured in days and then I am begged for more. This is handy because a whole heap of learning goes on in those reading times.
Fiction or non fiction?
Why choose? We read it all and blog posts, news articles, primary evidence, secondary evidence, historic fiction and lots of non fiction. I have a few heavier non – fiction to hand and if I think the children might struggle with them, I read them aloud a few minutes at a time. If they lose interest I don’t continue. There is just no point in my eyes. Why waste time reading a book that the children are probably day dreaming through? If I think it is very important, I will read it and then give them a précis or photocopy certain pages for them to read.
This variety in their reading allows the children to learn heavy subjects with no teaching from me. This is useful, because I am actually a very poor teacher. My strength is facilitation and reading is a great way to facilitate learning with very little effort on my behalf.
I love picture books and will always seek to have some on hand regardless of the topic. I am fairly snobby as to the picture books I choose. There are some out there that are atrocious and fit only for the lining of our rabbit hutch. In the main, though, I have been pleased with those recommended by curriculum companies such as Sonlight.
This book about the Passover was fabulous:
Whilst the book we read on Champollion the children loved so much they all (including T11) rewote the book in their own words!
‘I am the Mummy HEBNEFERT’ by Eve Bunting was a fabulous book, which I used to tackle the tricky subject of the morality of keeping mummies in museums:
I do love a good picture book, and they are fabulous at tackling otherwise less interesting subjects.
Oh, how I love our literature studies. It’s funny, because this would have been a weak area of mine at school and one in which I had little interest. But time changes all things including Claire and I now thoroughly enjoy them. I think if I needed to forgo everything to save money, literature would be the last thing to go.
I am going to reiterate my thoughts on good quality picture books, even for literature study. As we have tackled literature meant for older readers, I always have the children read the children’s version first. For example, we studied Gilgamesh when the children had just turned 7, so they read these versions:
When we studied Homer, we used Sutcliff’s excellent, true to the original, retellings:
We would then use the original text to carry out passage study, like when we studied the Trojan War in detail.
Currently we are studying Dante and I am using a young person’s version:
however, we will use the original version when we do our Canto V study next term. I have written about my views on picture books for literature studies here.
I have been asked why I tackle literature like this at such a young age. There are many reasons, the main one being the sheer learning potential of each book we read. For example, there was no need to do a separate study on Greek Mythology, we learnt more than enough reading the Odyssey and Iliad. Shortly after reading these books I had the children write a descriptive passage, in the style of Homer, about their own encounter with the Cyclops. They were short but so funny.
Having already read Gilgamesh, we were then able to seek for the elements that go into making an Epic poem and compare them. When we read Beowulf the children were able to compare the burial described there with the Anglo-Saxon burial they had learnt about at Sutton Hoo, which we had built using Play Mobil:
Through Homer, the children learnt about similes, metaphors and alliteration which stood them in good sted to understand the Anglo-Saxon literary device of kennings found in Beowulf. This year we are studying Dante’s Divine Comedy, another epic poem. This is an allegorical poem written in terza rime (a three line rhyming scheme). Chaucer also wrote in terza rime, which will be handy for the children to understand and appreciate as it is the forerunner to the Iambic pentameter that Shakespeare used in his work (to be studied next year).
Even though literature is by its very nature a study of writing, I still try to make it as hands on as possible. During our Beowulf study we made a newspaper outlining Beowulf’s feats and called it the Geatish Guardian:
In addition, I had the children make up tomb stones for Beowulf out of air drying clay, complete with Runes as an inscription:
During our study of the Trojan war the children made reliefs of the horse:
In our recent Dante study we built a diorama of the Inferno. This was a huge project, over which I lost the little sleep I do manage to get. The children however, talk about it fondly and really enjoyed the whole process:
I think my most favourite activity to date was our board game based on Homer’s Trojan war, complete with a plaster bandage Trojan horse which held all the discs (soldiers):
That was immense fun to create and encouraged all sorts of learning from strategy to building to recall when they made up the question cards. So much learning without the children even realising!
Tomorrow I will write about how we cover writing in all its forms – narration, summation, essay writing and the like.