The Question Box – a lesson plan you can use over and over!

fun idea for any unit

I am not sure where it came from or where it went, to be honest, but we used to have a small, shoebox-sized square box.  It had large red and green paisleys running around the outside and at one time probably held a yummy food gift.

But this was no ordinary box—this was the Question Box.  Using it MADE EACH UNIT MORE FUN by:

  • getting my kids excited about what they were going to be learning
  • starting our school day/history study with a fun, challenging activity  
  • helping our kids actually see how much they were learning as the unit progressed

Win-win!

After morning devotions, our routine was to head to the schoolroom and start the academic day with the kids taking their turns excitedly pulling a question pertaining to our unit study from the box.  Here’s how it worked.

How to do it.

Customarily, I would make up numbered history and science fill-in-the blank and short answer questions on the computer and print them out, making them different colors.  

I also made myself a key on a separate sheet of paper. Don’t forget that. 

I cut the questions apart and into the box they went.  I coded them so we knew which were the ‘younger student’ questions and which were the ‘older.’ 

We would have a new boxful at the beginning of every unit, and a big box full of new questions was always something my kids looked forward to.

Typically, at the start of a new unit they wouldn’t know many of the answers. (If they did not know the answer, the question went back into the box.)

But they had fun guessing and, at the same time, became more interested in what they would be learning. As we progressed through the unit, they were jazzed about how they were getting more and more of the questions right, and how I had to throw in some harder questions just to keep things interesting. 

By the end of the unit they usually had all of the questions, even the hard ones, answered correctly. We also had contests and sometimes received prizes (like a piece of gum or an M&M) for answering, for example, three questions in a row correctly. 

This simple idea could be adapted in a variety of ways:

·The kids could create and decorate the box

·Older students could make up questions for the younger ones

·Kids could pull a ‘seat work’ assignment out of the box, such as a verse to copy or memorize, a sentence with errors to edit, a short word problem to figure out, etc.

·An older elementary, middle or high school student could pull out a person, place or event to research, write about, and present to the group (or to you)

·Even household chores for that day could be chosen from the box.

As I have been slowly cleaning my way through the school room this summer, I came across some of our Middle Ages questions that would be appropriate for late Primary (K-2nd), Intermediate (3rd – 5th) or early Preparatory (6th-8th) students. The last five or so would be suitable for Preparatory and/or Secondary (9th-12th) students.

Sample Middle Ages Questions and Answers

The answers are in bold type and in parentheses after the questions:

1.  What is the name of the part of a castle that is a tower, often round, with many stories?  There, nobles slept, ate and planned.  Soldiers lived on lower stories with the dungeon below.  (keep)

2.   Between 1100 and 1300 AD, large groups of knights, nobles and even some peasants (and children!) traveled from Europe to the Middle East to try and take possession of the Holy Lands from the Turks.  These trips were called the ___________.  (Crusades)

3.  What are two popular games played today that originated during the Middle Ages? (chess and checkers)

4.  During the Middle Ages, craft _________ were set up to make sure their members were properly trained as apprentices and produced high quality goods. (guilds)

5.  From what disease in the 1300’s did about a third of all the people in Europe die? (the Black Death or Bubonic Plague)

6. What was the name of a legendary king who ruled a Kingdom where people were peaceful and content? He came to represent the ideals of justice, peace and honor.  (King Arthur)

7.  Large, rural estates were called _________.  (manors)

8.  A craftsman who made tools, weapons and cooking utensils from iron was called a _______. (blacksmith)

9.  Books were copied by hand, one by one, usually by ___________.  (monks)

10.  In manor houses, people used ___________ to cover walls, to keep out drafts, and/or to divide rooms.  (carpets and tapestries)

11. What were musicians called who traveled around the country, played, sang and told stories at special feasts and other events? (minstrels)

12.  ________ traveled great distances to buy and sell goods. (Traders or merchants)

13.  A special design each knight carried on a shield or his clothing that helped knights tell each other apart in battle was called a  _____ __ ____. (coat of arms)

14.  What were pictures called that were painted directly onto wet plaster?  (frescoes)

15.  What was a mechanical device called that hurled heavy objects into the air, at or over castle walls during an attack?  (a catapult)

16.  The ________ ________ was a survey completed in 1086 of nearly all the lands in England and was conducted by officials of King William the First (also known as William the Conqueror).  (the Domesday Book)

17.  Dried plant seeds, roots and/or leaves that were used to flavor foods or make not-so-fresh meat taste better (and were quiet expensive) were called ________.  (spices)

18.  The _________ was one of the most highly skilled craftsman of the middle ages, combining the jobs of architect, builder, engineer, and sculptor today, working on all stages of a building project.  (mason)

19.  Many ________ and _________ were used as medieval remedies for sickness and disease.  (plants and herbs)

20. What was depicted by the famous Bayeux Tapestry? (The Bayeux Tapestry depicts the famous Battle of Hastings in 1066, when the Norman invader William, Duke of Normandy, challenged Saxon King Harold.William’s forces won the battle; henceforth, he was called William the Conqueror.)

21.  Briefly describe the feudal system. (Vassals gave loyalty and service to lords in exchange for land and military protection)

22. Describe the concept of chivalry. (Chivalry is a group of character qualities thought to be exhibited by the perfect knight, including loyalty, honesty, courage, and courteousness—especially towards women.)

23. Describe the Magna Carta and its significance, as well as the circumstances under which it was signed. (The “Great Charter” was the first document in English history that forced a monarch to be subject to the law and provided for the creation of a strong parliament.King John, a wicked and greedy king who had levied incredibly high taxes, was forced to sign it by his rebellious barons in 1215 in Runnymede, England.Once it was signed, the barons again swore fealty to King John, not realizing the king had no intention of keeping the agreement.)

24. Name at least one key character from the Middle Ages and describe why he or she was historically significant. (This has many possible answers! Among them:

  • Alfred the Great: a noble and wise ruler who bought about an educational revival in England; 
  • King John: [see above]; 
  • Joan of Arc:a young French girl who rallied the French against the English and who victoriously led the French army in battle.She was eventually captured and burned at the stake as a witch; 
  • Charlemagne: French ruler, Charles the Great, who controlled most of west and central Europe and presided over what was called the Carolingian Renaissance; 
  • Genghis and Kublai Khan:Grandfather and Grandson, these Mongolian leaders ruled over much of Asia and almost to Europe.Although Buddhist, they were tolerant of most religions other than Islam.Kublai did much to encourage literature and the arts.)

25. Who were the Moors? (A nomadic people from Northern Africa, the Moors descended from Arabs and Berbers who had moved into the Holy Lands and spent many years fighting the English during the Crusades.They are known for their goal to spread Islam across the world and for their magnificent, unusual architecture.)

Please feel free to use these questions in your school, and have fun making up some of your own!  (And if anyone wants to send in their questions, we will post them.  Many hands make light work, you know.)

How do you think your kids would do at this? Do you see how it could spark some interest in what were studying?

 

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Poetry Study: Anne Bradstreet, Puritan Poet

Literature is hardly a distinct subject, so closely is it associated with history, whether general or English…and it is astonishing how much sound learning children acquire when the thought of an age is made to synchronise with its political and social developments.

 A point which I should like to bring before the reader is the peculiar part which poetry plays in making us aware of this thought of the ages, including our own.                      —Charlotte Mason, Vol. 6

 

Our history and literature study, including poetry, is intertwined. As Charlotte Mason suggests, poetry helps illuminate history for us by letting us peek over the shoulder at the thoughts of those who came before us.

Please take advantage of this rich primary source material by including poetry — the very words of those living in the particular time period you are studying  in history — into your homeschooling.

 Anne Bradstreet, America’s First Poet

The first woman to be published in the U.S. and considered by many to be America’s first poet, Anne Bradstreet was actually born in England. Two years married, Anne braved the Atlantic and moved with her young Puritan family to Massachusetts Bay, where her husband and father were eventually each governors of this new United States colony.

Anne’s vivid, beautiful poetry is a window into the intentional strength and faith of the Puritan soul in response to the hardship of life in Colonial America.

Below is one of Anne’s poignant poems followed by lesson plan ideas to use for your elementary to high school-aged students.

Here followes some verses upon the burning of our house, July 10th, 1666.

by Anne Bradstreet

In silent night when rest I took,
For sorrow neer I did not look,
I waken’d was with thundring nois
And Piteous shreiks of dreadfull voice.
That fearfull sound of fire and fire,
Let no man know is my Desire.
I, starting up, the light did spye,
And to my God my heart did cry
To strengthen me in my Distresse
And not to leave me succourlesse.
Then coming out beheld a space,
The flame consume my dwelling place.

And, when I could no longer look,
I blest his Name that gave and took,
That layd my goods now in the dust:
Yea so it was, and so ’twas just.
It was his own: it was not mine;
Far be it that I should repine.

He might of All justly bereft,
But yet sufficient for us left.
When by the Ruines oft I past,
My sorrowing eyes aside did cast,
And here and there the places spye
Where oft I sate, and long did lye.

Here stood that Trunk, and there that chest;
There lay that store I counted best:
My pleasant things in ashes lye,
And them behold no more shall I.
Under thy roof no guest shall sitt,
Nor at thy Table eat a bitt.

No pleasant tale shall ‘ere be told,
Nor things recounted done of old.
No Candle ‘ere shall shine in Thee,
Nor bridegroom’s voice ere heard shall bee.
In silence ever shalt thou lye;
Adieu, Adeiu; All’s vanity.

Then streight I gin my heart to chide,
And didst thy wealth on earth abide?
Didst fix thy hope on mouldring dust,
The arm of flesh didst make thy trust?
Raise up thy thoughts above the skye
That dunghill mists away may flie.

Thou hast an house on high erect
Fram’d by that mighty Architect,
With glory richly furnished,
Stands permanent tho’ this bee fled.
It’s purchased, and paid for too
By him who hath enough to doe.

A Prise so vast as is unknown,
Yet, by his Gift, is made thine own.
Ther’s wealth enough, I need no more;
Farewell my Pelf, farewell my Store.
The world no longer let me Love,
My hope and Treasure lyes Above.

How to Read Poetry

No matter the age of your students, there are basic steps to reading poetry, as presented in How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading. (This is a classic that should be read by all homeschooled high school students, in my opinion!) :-)

First, read the poem through the first time without stopping. Even though there are unfamiliar words and phrases, you will glean much more by first reading the poem through without stopping to figure out  the vocabulary.

Then, read the poem through a second time, but this time read it aloud.

Poetry’s inherent rhythm brings the words and phrases to life.  Now, you may start asking what the poem is saying.

The more you read it, the more the poem can speak to you.

For Younger Students

In true Charlotte Mason fashion, resist the urge to “teach” this poem. Instead, allow the poem to speak directly to your student. And this particular  poem will be more suitable for older elementary children than younger.

For elementary students, just focus on reading the poem. If you anticipate your student becoming frightened about your house burning down, remind him that during colonial times candles were used for light and most household items were of wood, so house fires were much more common than today. (Although we ALWAYS have to be careful of fire, etc…)

For an older elementary or middle school-aged student, read a stanza aloud, one at a time, and have your student narrate (tell back) what s/he has heard.  Record your student’s thoughts for each stanza.

After the narration is complete, you may ask your student to describe how the author feels about what happened, especially if this was not included in the original narration.  Your student  may also ask you questions about the poem, which is fine, but try to be brief in your answers. If your student shows particular interest in any poem, encourage questions, re-reading and further observation.

Of course, younger students will  miss the biblical allusions and will focus on the more ‘concrete’ aspects of this poem, as is normal for their stage of development.

You may choose to read other poems by Anne Bradstreet while studying the American Colonial period, as Charlotte Mason advocated reading one poet at a time, for six weeks or more.  For the younger set, focus mainly on reading and enjoying the poems.

For High School Students

High school students should initially approach the poem in the same way recommended earlier: first by reading the poem  in its entirety, without stopping; then reading the poem a second time, aloud, again without stopping.

Most high school students would benefit by reading this poem through every day for a week or more. As it is rich in biblical allusions and principles and Puritan theology, there is much here to be gleaned by the discerning student.

Assignment Possibilities (High School)

These are written to the student.

  • As you read through the poem, note at least eight examples of the dialect of the time period. Draw a line down the center of a piece of notebook paper and write the phrase or word on the left, as gleaned by your examination of the poem, and the meaning or spelling of the sample on the right, as it might be expressed in today’s language.
  • Read through each stanza of the poem, then write a summary of each in your own words.
  • As you read through each stanza, note any biblical allusions/principles. (There are several.) Make sure to identify and explain the allusion and for extra or Honors credit – add a Scripture reference.

Additional Assignment Ideas from our American Literature course:

  • Read an additional book of poetry by Anne Bradstreet, such as To My Husband and Other Poems.
  • Read at least one poem from each of the sections of the book and be prepared to discuss with your teacher what you learn about Anne from the sample of poems that you read.
  • After reading at least five of her poems, write two to three paragraphs about what you learn about Anne as a person. What is important to her? What did she believe? What did she love? What kind of person do you think she was?
  • Research Anne Bradstreet’s life and compare what you learn to what you discovered from her poetry. Were your observations accurate? How did they differ, if at all, from what you learned through research? Write two to three paragraphs discussing how your research compares to your observations from reading her poetry.
For additional reading on Anne Bradstreet:
For excellent reading concerning the Puritans, consider reading:

 

Is poetry something you enjoy reading at your house, or do you struggle to include it?

Christian literature based homeschool curriclum

 

 

 

 

What’s Labor Day all About?

Child labor
“Addie Card, 12 years. Spinner in North Pormal [i.e., Pownal] Cotton Mill. Vt.” by Lewis Hine, 1912 – 1913
Picnics and barbecues. Parades. Weekend beach getaways. Last days by the pool. These are what most people think of when the words “Labor Day” come to mind — enjoying time with friends and family as most people have that day off from work.

However, Labor Day has a greater and richer meaning than that. Keep reading to see why we honor this special day.

 

History

More than 100 years ago the labor force was completely different than it is today. Men, women, and even children of five and six labored ten to twelve hours a day for little pay, seven days a week. There were no weekends. No sick leave days. No vacation days. No over-time pay. Working conditions were often dangerous and unsanitary.

In 1872, a New York City carpenter by the name of Peter McGuire rallied over 100,000 workers to go on strike and march through the streets of the city, protesting these conditions. Many people have credited McGuire for the idea of Labor Day. McGuire fought for a decade to earn rights for workers.

Workers began organizing into labor unions to fight for higher pay, shorter days, and rights for children. They fought to set an age limit on the children who worked to prevent them from injuries. Finally, in 1882, McGuire had the idea to designate one day as a special holiday for workers.

On Tuesday, September 5, 1882, ten thousand workers once again joined together in the streets of New York City. However, this time it was for the first Labor Day parade. The Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York by also celebrating a “workingman’s holiday.”

Labor Days in the late 1800s typically consisted of street parades followed by festivals for workers and their families. Elected officials used the opportunity to speak, and picnics and celebrations abounded. Then, in 1894 Congress passed a federal law declaring the first Monday every September as Labor Day.

 

Labor Day Ideas for Children

Preschool

  • Have children create an “Occupation Collage.” Provide magazines and newspapers for children to look through and find workers. Cut out pictures of various workers in our country. Glue and display the pictures onto colorful, patriotic paper.
  •  Thank You Cards. Show your children how to write/stamp the words “Thank You.” Allow them to stamp the words onto paper. The children can decorate cards then deliver them to community helpers (Library, Fire station, Bakery, Post Office, etc.).

Elementary

  • Have children choose an occupation. They can draw a picture of the specific worker then together brainstorm a list of the responsibilities or things a person must do for the job. See the link for a helpful worksheet.
  • Thank you cards are also perfect for elementary students! Also consider the folks that pick up the trash and deliver the mail (but nothing inside the mailbox, please!) Consider adding some freshly baked cookies to your thank you!
  •  Interview. Children can select a few jobs that interest them or that they want to know more about. Schedule interviews with people in the community and allow the children to conduct the interview after first working together on listing appropriate questions.

 Middle School

  • Build a Resume.  Middle school students can research what skills and education are necessary to obtain  jobs they might be interested in. Have them create a “future” resume of what they would need to accomplish in order to be chosen for a job in that specific field.

Secondary

  • Volunteer. Have your high school students choose a job that they would like to pursue. Have them arrange a day where they can volunteer or shadow someone in that profession to experience the responsibilities and commitments that are necessary for success.

Note: The little girl pictured above worked in a mill. She told the photographer she was twelve, although her coworkers all said she was ten. 

How are you planning on celebrating Labor Day this year?

 

How to Combine High School and Elementary History Study

How HS and Elem Students can Study History Together

It makes sense to have all of your children study the same period of history at the same time. But what if you have a high school student and two elementary students?

Sounds challenging.

This is the question recently addressed by our Info Desk:

Hi-

        I have a few questions regarding your curriculum that I’m considering for my kids next year.

        My oldest daughter will be entering high school, 9th grade, next year.  I also will have a 5th grader (my son is pretty smart but also severely dyslexic which hinders his independent reading and writing), and a 1st grade daughter.

        I am trying to figure out how I can keep them all within the same time period for history.  I see your curriculum could accommodate some of that possibly, but what I’m considering is the American History I for my oldest.  Would there be a way to incorporate that for my younger 2, or would I need to consider the unit programs for all 3?  Quite honestly, that seems a bit overwhelming.  I guess I’m just looking for some recommendations.  The kids are all spread apart just enough age-wise that I have a hard time planning things together.  I know my oldest needs more high school level work and I don’t want to frustrate my younger 2 either.  It’s a bit hard to coordinate :)

        Also, from what I understand- the Secondary Unit Program is book lists and ideas to incorporate into the school year (I hope I’m not over-simplifying it), yet the American History I is more of a complete- not necessarily day by day- but more broken down and more in-depth study of a certain time period?  Is that correct?

Thanks for your time and input- it is greatly appreciated!!

Grace and peace,
Cheri

Hi Cheri!

Thanks for your inquiry!

You do have a spread of ages — I can see that could be challenging, but our curriculum can easily accommodate.  Our American History I covers four units:

  • Colonial Life
  • Revolution
  • Westward Expansion, and
  • Civil War

Our Unit Programs include the same four units. You may easily have everyone study the the same historical periods/topics at the same time by using American History I for your 9th grader and our Unit Programs for your 5th and 1st graders.

I recommend you order the Primary Unit Program  for your 1st grader,  the Intermediate Units  for your 5th grader, and American History I (scroll down a bit) for your 9th grader.

Then, follow the schedule of American History I for your family and spend nine weeks on each of those four units using your unit programs.

Additionally, I would recommend one more thing for your rising 9th grader.  Has she taken a high school level composition course yet? If not, I would recommend she take our Essay Styles  course along with her American History I course.  That would allow her to become familiar with the high school level essay styles she would be asked to use in the American History course.

In awarding high school credit for our Essay Styles course you have two choices: you could award her  credit for an English elective, or use Essays for a 9th grade English credit, if you study some literature along with it.  (Ask if you need more information about that.)

Your thoughts about the  Secondary Unit Program are correct. It contains quite a bit of information about teaching from sixth through twelfth grades, along with many book selections arranged by time period and topic, but it is an unstructured program. In other words; it is like a lavishly appointed salad bar with lots of choices, but you put together your meal among all of the options available.

American History I is more like a sumptuous dinner delivered right to your table. It is structured,  specifying what books to read, yet giving you some assignment choices for each book, along with evaluation tips of what to look for as you grade your student’s assignments.

If you have further questions, Cheri, please feel free to write again! We would love to help.

Hi Dana-

Thanks for your thorough response to my questions.  You make it seem NOT overwhelming :) I had forgotten to ask about the Essay Styles course and you answered it – thanks!  I would be interested in making it into an English credit class.  How would I go about that with the literature?  Pick a few titles to have her read and write about?  I’m such a newbie when it comes to planning high school!  Thanks for your help!

 Thanks again,

Cheri

Our next post will answer Cheri’s question about adding literature study to Essay Styles to make it a well-rounded 9th grade English course. In that post I will list several excellent high school level book options for American History as well as give you several assignment ideas that would fit almost any high school level book.

Stay tuned!

Have a great week!

Dana Wilson at Train up a Child Publishing

Using this Simple Graphic Tool Will Make You a Better Teacher

Tools-by-Grant-Cochrane-via-freedigitalphotos.net
Tools-by-Grant-Cochrane-via-freedigitalphotos.net

No matter what type of homeschooling curriculum or methodology you use, this simple graphic tool will help you be a more effective teacher and your student a better learner.

The Rubric

This is my favorite graphic tool because it is SO helpful, on so many fronts, for both me and my students! Maybe this is something you have never done, but I have been guilty of quickly throwing an assignment at a student, without really thinking it through, let alone sufficiently explaining it. And then I would wonder why it wasn’t at all what I was expecting when it was done!  Especially if you are a newbie at homeschooling, I bet you have struggled with this, too.

A simple rubric often eliminates this problem by:

  • helping you think through the assignment before you give it.
  • giving you a clear, concrete way to explain exactly what you want your student to do.
  • providing a written reminder to your student of what he’s aiming for as he works on the assignment.
  • offering you the perfect tool to evaluate and discuss your student’s work with her.

Rubrics work equally well with written assignments, oral presentations, hands on projects or anything else you might dream up, for history, science, language arts and many other subjects you teach. You can make your rubric as simple or complicated as you want, depending upon the age of your student and your grading criteria.

Sample Rubric

 

Sample Rubric from K-5 Manual

 

 

 

 

 

 

This rubric is a simple one suitable for a story written by a late elementary student.

 

 

 

 

 

Personally, I did not grade my children at that age, but I did use a rubric to insure that we both understood what was expected in an assignment.

How to Make Your Own

  1. View and download this sample of  of a (blank) basic rubric.
  2. Decide which skills or concepts you want to evaluate.
  3. List the most important ones in the first column on the left.
  4. Create a table in Microsoft Word or software similar, or use the blank grid provided on the Train up a Child Publishing Tools CD if you happen own one of our Unit Programs. Type or write in the criteria under the numbers with the highest number being the best score. Notice the wording on the sample criteria to help you develop your own.
  5. You may add rows or columns if you would like a more fine-tuned system.
  6. Share the rubric with your student to explain your expectations for the assignment. Encourage her to check the rubric while she is working on the assignment to make sure it is completely finished before  it is turned in.
  7. Evaluate the assignment using the rubric and calculate the points if you are giving your student a grade for that assignment.
  8. As the teacher, you determine the grading scale depending on the number of elements and whether certain elements are more important than others. With our example, a possible grading scale would be:

9—12 points                Passing

below 9 points          Reteach

Another possible scoring system could be:

10-12                  A

8-9                      B

below 8           Reteach

I actually waited as long as I could to begin formal grading; I didn’t begin until half way through middle school. But whether you decide to grade earlier or not, rubrics will still go a long way to ensure you and your students are on the same page with assignments and evaluation.

Have you used rubrics with your students? When did you start using them and how have they worked for you?

Dana Wilson at Train up a Child Publishing

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