Thursday, August 28, 2014

Shakespeare/Renaissance Unit Schedule and Lesson Plan

I've been wanting to have a unit on Shakespeare for a long time. My parents took me to Shakespeare plays from the time I was about five years old, so I think I just got a taste for his language early, and I have only learned to love and appreciate his writing more as I've gotten older. I'm certainly not an expert on Shakespeare (I know almost nothing about most of the history plays, or the more obscure plays) but I just love his work and I knew I could share that, at least, with the children.

During our Architecture Unit we had spent some time on the Renaissance, and we'd touched on it during our Solar System Unit too, so we were familiar with some of the main accomplishments and events of that time period. But of course, there is always so much more to learn. I went a little more in depth for this unit–we spent the first week or so talking about the Renaissance; main philosophies and new inventions, and some other famous people (Galileo, Queen Elizabeth, etc)–and then we learned more specifically about Shakespeare's life and work. We did some language study on things like rhyme schemes and wordplay, and then ended by just going through several of my favorite plays in more depth. The plays we covered were:
A Midsummer Night's Dream
Twelfth Night (my favorite---I especially love this movie version)
Much Ado about Nothing
The Tempest
Romeo and Juliet
(by the way, for our Romeo and Juliet day we also watched some of Prokofiev's ballet Romeo and Juliet, which is my favorite ballet and some of my favorite music ever. We saw it in Moscow when we were there last year and it was amazing, but I've seen some amazing productions here too. It's gorgeous in every way. Here's a clip of one of the fight scenes, but you can find other parts, and even the whole ballet, online. Totally worth watching, if you like that sort of thing).

We didn't do King Lear, which I also really like, or Othello, which is perhaps my favorite of all the tragedies–well, maybe except Hamlet. We just didn't have time. But we'll definitely revisit those, and some other comedies, sometime. Othello is probably better for older children anyway.

The Bruce Coville books were probably our favorite Shakespeare picture books---lovely pictures, a taste of real Shakespearean language, and just the right amount of detail. There are lots of good Shakespeare adaptations for children, though. We especially liked this one.

We found several of these animated Shakespeare DVDs at the library and enjoyed them. They are about 25-minute long adaptations of the stories, using mostly actual lines from the plays. Some are better done than others.

This is a really funny chart, and the children liked referring to it after reading the tragedies.

They liked this, too.

This was an interesting clip about how Shakespeare's English would have sounded.

Also interesting–a list of common Elizabethan names.

We watched this video from the library because it had the Veggies doing a Hamlet-like play called "Omelet." Some really funny lines. :)

Oh! And let's not forget my favorite video, this one with Patrick Stewart. The children laughed and laughed.

And here is my Shakespeare Pinterest board.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Final Revolutionary War Celebration, and Apple Pie

Apple pie! A fine and verifiable American tradition, and thus the perfect dessert to accompany our final celebration. Here are a couple good links about the history of pie in America:
We've never made a lattice-crust pie before, so that was fun
The sparkling sugar we sprinkled on top of the pie burned in a strange splotchy way, but otherwise, we thought it looked quite beautiful!

For our celebration, we watched my favorite history movie: A More Perfect Union. I probably watched it in school five or six times, but I still love it every time. (And we had watched it before as a family, during our Government Unit.) It's a production done quite awhile ago by BYU, and it has aged remarkably well—no embarrassing or dated parts, great music, great characters. I love it. It tells the (miraculous, really!) story of the Constitutional Convention. It really makes the events understandable and clear. I looked around to see if you could watch it online, and it doesn't look like you can, but it's totally worth buying. I could watch it every year! The children really liked it too.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Battle of Trenton and Crossing the Delaware Re-enactment

The Battle of Trenton (and of course George Washington crossing the Delaware River) is one of those things I feel like I've always heard of but never really understood. I think I just hadn't ever read or learned about it before, or maybe I've just forgotten. Anyway, it was such an important battle and significant time during the war that I was really hoping we could do something memorable when we learned about it. My boys show great capacity for remembering battle-related stuff, anyway (much better than I do) because they really love it. So I decided we'd have school outside by the stream so we could do a re-enactment.

After reading several books describing the battle, we readied our soldiers. (We only have Civil War Soldier toys, but they sufficed.)
Here are the poor, cold, sick American soldiers standing in the snow. As you can see, some of them have bandages around their bare and bleeding feet. There's George Washington in the back with his powdered wig. :)
The American soldiers got into their boats and started to cross the Delaware. They had to fight through the chunks of ice floating in the river. It took them hours to get everyone across.
The British army, or more specifically their German Hessian mercenaries (who, if there's one thing I remember from my AP US History class in high school, "wanted booty, not duty") were fast asleep, snuggled under their nice blankets. Pretend that one guy with the musket is asleep too. :)
The Hessians are tired because of their raucous Christmas celebrations that day. Oh dear, they've only left one guard on duty, standing by their lovely snow-covered Christmas tree (with a blue spiny star on top)!
The exhausted Americans surround their camp. Taken by surprise, the Hessians surrender after hardly putting up a fight! A stunning victory for the ragtag Americans! And just in time for the new year!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Spinning and Weaving Field Trip

This field trip was so awesome. I have a friend that is an expert spinner and weaver (she's even in Guilds and things) and she agreed to let us come over and see how it's done! The children had been curious about spinning and weaving ever since we had talked about how long it might take someone during Colonial times to complete one homemade shirt—after shearing the sheep, carding the wool, spinning it, weaving it into cloth, and sewing it up. We talked about how careful you would be to mend the shirt and patch it and make it last as long as you could, and then reuse the cloth for baby clothes or quilts or in any way you could! Anyway, when I told them we were going to get to see a real spinning wheel they were very excited.

First, my friend let us feel some different types of wool. The sheep wool was kind of coarse and fluffy, and we loved the alpaca—so soft! Then she let the children try carding the wool by hand.
They liked doing that. It was pretty hard work! Like combing tangly, tangly hair (but without all the crying and ouching that usually goes with that task, of course) :)
Then she got out her drum carder, which does the same job in much less time! That was a big hit, especially with Sebby, who kept going back to it and carding more and more wool the whole time we were there.
Then we stretched out the carded wool in preparation for spinning. I've forgotten what this process was called. Maybe drawing?
The spinning wheel was so cool! It was amazing to see it in action. I had thought it would be too delicate for us to do anything but watch, but Cayenne let all the children have a turn at spinning! It was a pretty complicated process, and took a lot of coordination to feed the wool in, keep the tension right, and push the treadle at the same time. They got on much better when Cayenne worked the treadle and they only had to concentrate on feeding in the wool.
Here is Sebby's little ball of yarn which he made all by himself: carding and then spinning (well, you know, by "all by himself" I mean that Cayenne did all the treadling and helped him hold the yarn steady). Now if he just crochets it or knits it into a little tiny blanket, he will have really accomplished something! :) He was SO, SO, proud of himself. He kept the yarn in his pocket for the next several days and kept pulling it out and admiring it. Cute. :)

It was a wonderful field trip and we learned so much!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Toilet-paper tube cannons

Another soldier activity! I told you my children loved military stuff. I wonder if this will be different in a few years, when I'm teaching the Revolutionary War to all my girls? Who knows---Daisy loves weapons too, for now!

Air vortex cannons (this also has a good video link on how cannons are loaded)
Abe's Civil War Final Project about artillery
This was a simple craft we just made up as we went along. Toilet paper rolls with cardstock wheels attached. A long tail on one end to weight the cannon. (That part has a name. I've forgotten it. Trail! I think it's the trail, not the tail.) Cotton balls for cannon balls. A straw for launching the cannon balls, and which can double as a ramrod. We made a whole battery of cannons and then launched volley after volley at each other. Lots of fun!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Thomas Jefferson's Vanilla Ice Cream

Did you know Thomas Jefferson is the source of the first known American recipe for vanilla ice cream? Yet another reason to love the man. Daisy's birthday fell on one of the days we studied Thomas Jefferson, so we made Jefferson's homemade vanilla ice cream to celebrate. You can find the recipe (along with modern updates/instructions) here.

Yum! (And here's my favorite vanilla ice cream recipe too, just for fun.)
Speaking of Thomas Jefferson, the children also really liked it when I let them sign their own names to the copy of the Declaration of Independence we have. This would be a great time to use a quill pen, which we didn't do this time, but I did let them use my fountain pen, which they thought was very exciting!
We concur. :)

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Betsy Ross's five-pointed stars

I know Betsy Ross is one of those semi-apocryphal characters that books always feel inclined to give you caveats about ("of course we have no proof that Betsy Ross did indeed make the flag, or even knew George Washington" etc etc)—but come on, how can we leave out Betsy Ross and the flag from a study of the American Revolution? I love her story and have ever since I was little. And there were some great pictures books about her at the library.

Anyway, my favorite little detail (yes, yes, probably also apocryphal) is that George Washington wanted 6-pointed stars because he thought they'd be easier to sew. So little Betsy got out her scissors and showed him how she could cut out a five-pointed star with just one snip! Awesome, right?

Here are the instructions for how to do it yourself. Or this animation is good too.
I thought it was cute how pleased with themselves the children were after mastering this simple little thing. It IS pretty cool!
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