Category: Ancient Civilizations, Societies Then and Now

Ancient Civilizations, Societies Then and Now #5: Illuminated Letters

Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, students learn how to make illuminated letters just as scribes and artists did in ancient times.  Using handmade books from the last lesson, students will create an illuminated letter decorative cover and fill the book with unit vocabulary or a story based on their new understanding of ancient civilizations.

Lesson Plan:

Suggested Grades:

2-5

Objectives:
  1. To learn to make illuminated letters.
  2. To begin to fill the handmade books with unit words, each of which will begin with an illuminated letter. (Fill the book in whichever way makes most sense for your class.)
Suggested Time:

45-50 minutes

Success Criteria:

Each student will decorate their book cover with an illuminated letter.

Lesson Outline:

1. Introduction:

Remind the students about Mr. Gutenberg’s books.  Ask what the thin, gold material was called.  (Answer:  Gold Leaf.)  Remind the students that gold was used to decorate books to make them look beautiful!

Using Google Images, show the children a few illuminated letters.

Ask what the children notice about the letters.  They might come up with the ideas that the illuminated letters are:

  • A bright, gold color.
  • Larger than other letters on the same page.
  • Decorated

2. Main:

Explain to the kids that there are five steps in making an illuminated letter.  Have these steps written on a screen, board, or flipchart paper at the front of the class.

How to make an illuminated letter:

  1. Choose a letter.
  2. Write a block letter (practice first on a piece of scrap paper!).
  3. Sketch in a design, usually with a pattern or motif from nature.
  4. Add color.
  5. Add “illumination” – an outline, highlight, or bit of gold or silver to make the letter beautiful!

Keep these steps visible during the lesson.

Demonstrate how to make an illuminated letter by making a simple one on the board or screen at the front of the class.

Then, show this short video, “How to Draw Illuminated Letters,” by “Made by Marzipan.”  Cue the video so that the children do not have to watch the advertising at the beginning.  Stop the video after the kids get the idea of what to do.

Insist that children practice before working directly in their handmade books.  You don’t want a lot of erasing in the books.  The most difficult part for them seems to be getting the sizing of the letters to fit the book cover.

Give the children time to complete an illuminated letter cover on the handmade books. The letter should connect with the unit.  For example, the students could do:

A:  for Ancient or Aztec

C:  for Civilization

E:  for Egypt

R:  for Roman

C:  for Chinese

I:  for Indus River Valley or Inca

Some children want to use their first name initial, and that is fine as well.

No one will fill the entire book during this lesson, but they can work on their books when they have free time or during indoor recess.

3. Conclusion:

Ask the children to show one another their illuminated letters.  Share with elbow partners.

Emphasize that making illuminated letters wan an ancient technique that they now know how to do!  Encourage the children to finish their books and to keep them as some of the evidence of learning for this unit.

Resources:
  1. Handmade books from the last lesson
  2. Scrap paper for practicing
  3. Colored pencils, pens, and markers
  4. Rulers
  5. Device to show the video, “How to Make Illuminated Letters” by “Made by Marzipan”
  6. Access to the YouTube Video, “Made by Marzipan,”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMi5g3OPO-Q
  7. Handout copies, samples of block letters. (Attached)
  8. Handout copies, samples of illuminated letters. (Attached)
Notes:

Kids REALLY enjoy this activity.  Be prepared for a lot of questions, but let them use their own creativity.  I’ve had kids make lovely rock, wave, feather, and vine patterns.  Students are also good at geometric patterns.  If anyone gets stuck for ideas, just show a few illuminated letters from Google Images to jump-start their imagination.

Key Terms:

Bookmaking, Upcycling, Handmade Books, Crafts, Publishing, Weather

Block Letters

Illuminated Letters

Ancient Civilizations, Societies Then and Now #4: Gutenberg and Bookmaking

Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, students learn about Johannes Gutenberg and the first books printed with movable type. They also have the chance to make a book using upcycled or recycled materials. In the next lesson, they will learn the ancient technique of making illuminated letters and begin to fill their books with unit vocabulary.

Lesson Plan:

Objectives:

1. To understand that Johannes Gutenberg was the first person to make a book using movable type.
2. To learn to make a simple book using recycled materials (Can also be an Eco Week Project.)

Suggested Grades:

2-3

Suggested Time:

40-45 minutes

Success Criteria:

Each student will make a book from recycled materials.

Lesson Outline:

1. Introduction:

Ask students how many parts of a book they can name. They should be able to identify: front cover, back cover, spine, and pages. Point out the binding with thread or glue, and mention ink for words and images.

Introduce the idea that books have changed over time. Hundreds of years ago, books were all made by hand. In modern times, we have eBooks! Today we will make a book with our hands using recycled materials. Next week we will decorate the cover using an historical technique with illuminated letters.

2. Main:

Teach From the Good Mountain: How Gutenberg Changed the World, by James Rumford. The text will be quite difficult for second or third graders, so you will need to paraphrase and summarize key points. The way the book is written is essentially a guessing game. Simplify the language and let the children guess the major parts of a book including the paper, ink, glue, leather covers, movable type, and gold leaf. You may need to show pictures of gold leaf as many children have never seen or heard of it before. Sometimes I do not finish the book because it ends with the importance of movable type and, for this lesson, you’re really focusing on the idea of a handmade book.

After you finish teaching the text, explain to the children that they will have a chance to make their own books. They won’t be making paper, but they will be using scrap paper and materials on hand to make their own books. Next week they will work on filling the books with their own stories or information.

Demonstrate how to make a handmade book. Prepare by watching and using the technique in Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord’s video here:

Help the kids make the books. I usually use terminology like this:

  • “Fold each sheet of paper in half so that it is long and skinny, a ‘hot dog fold.'”
  • “Make sure that any marks on the scrap paper are on the inside of the fold.”
  • “Fold the long skinny pieces in half, ‘sandwich folds.'”
  • “‘Nest’ the folded pages inside each other. Be sure that all folded edges are UP and all loose edges are DOWN.”
  • “Match corners and then punch two holes in the left-hand side. The holes should be about 6 cm apart.”
  • “Push the rubber band through the holes and loop it around the stick/pencil/crayon on both ends to complete the binding.”

The rubber band is the hardest part for kids to manage on their own. It will take about one adult for every eight kids to ensure that the books are put together correctly.

Ask the children to write their name on the back of the book once the book itself is complete.

3. Conclusion:

Make sure that every child has a completed book and that the child’s name and class are on the back cover.

Resources:
  1. Two sheets of scrap paper per child. If the books need to be a bit longer, use three sheets of scrap paper per child.
  2. One stick, old pencil, or crayon approximately 8-10 cm in length per student (If you can’t find enough old pencils, you can use a craft stick).
  3. One rubber band per student.
  4. Hole punch.
Notes:

Kids REALLY enjoy this activity. Be prepared for them to want to make more than one book, or to make their books longer or larger. I usually let them make one to work on at school and one to take home for fun as long as the materials hold out.

Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord is an expert on bookmaking with children. She has published a book herself that contains bookmaking techniques from around the world. I have purchased her book and found it to be a valuable resource. If you would like to have a look at it, you can find it either on Amazon or Etsy.

recommended books for this lesson:
  1. From the Good Mountain: How Gutenberg Changed the World, by James Rumford
  2. Handmade Books for a Healthy Planet, by Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord
Key Terms:

Bookmaking, Upcycling, Handmade Books, Crafts, Publishing, Johannes Gutenberg, Gutenberg Press

 

Ancient Civilizations, Societies Then and Now #3: Anansi Stories

Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, students are introduced to Anansi stories, trickster tales from Africa.  The children learn quite a bit of new vocabulary as well as something of the colorful patterns common to the culture.  They then use this new knowledge to build a word wall with Anansi-inspired spiders!

Lesson Plan:

Suggested Grades:

2-3

Objective:

Introduce children to Anansi tales.  Have the children make a class “Word Wall” with new vocabulary.

Suggested Time:

45-50 minutes

Success Criteria:

Each child will listen to two or three Anansi tales and make two or three “spiders” for the Word Wall.

Lesson Outline:

1. Introduction:

Review characteristics of folktales from the lesson on “The Drum, A Folktale from India”.  They are:

  • The author is not known. Folktakes come from an oral tradition.
  • Folktales are also very old stories handed down from generation to generation.
  • Folktales reflect and pass on the culture and values of the community they come from.

Present the vocabulary list for this lesson.  The kids won’t understand the words, yet, but have the words on a flipchart-sized piece of paper or on the board.

2. Main:

Teach Anansi the Spider: A Tale from the Ashanti.

Begin by reading the foreword and having the class check off words from the vocabulary list as they hear them.   This helps them “tune in” to the vocabulary they will hear throughout the lesson and that they will need to discuss the Anansi stories.

Teach Anansi and the Bag of Wisdom.

Teach Anansi Does the Impossible.

Discuss and check for understanding.

Tell the children that they will make a word wall using some of the vocabulary.  But, their word papers need a colorful, patterned spider!

Teach the children how to draw a cartoon spider.  Be sure to use simple language as shown in the YouTube video (link below).  “Two V’s” for the teeth.  “Number three” for the tongue.  Eight “L shapes” for the legs.

Put up the web and let the kids place their spiders on the web.  The web will be filled in no time!

3. Conclusion:

Let the kids admire their work.  Emphasize how much fun it is to read folktales.  Challenge them to read folktales from other cultures and share their learning with you in the next class.

additional Resources:
  1. Anansi vocabulary word list. (Found below)
  2. Three Anansi tales. (See Recommended Texts below.)
  3. Spider web made from a garbage bag. (Follow the instructions in the link below.)
  4. Word Wall slips of paper prepared for the children. On the front, draw a dark black line below which they will write one of the vocabulary words.  If you want to be sure that all the words are used, lightly pencil in a word on the back of the first set of papers.  Children should rewrite the word on the front, in dark ink, below the line.  That way, each word will be used once.  For their second and third spiders, the kids can choose which words they want to use. (See photo of spiders with their vocabulary words.)
  5. Pencils and colored pencils
  6. Pictures of Ghanan Kente cloth with colorful patterns (optional)
Notes:

You must learn how to draw a simple spider before this lesson.  I like this one:  How to Draw a Cartoon Spider – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qk1Z-mcaRlQ

You also need to make at least one, but preferably two garbage-bag spider webs.  You can make a spider web out of yarn or other materials, I just found the garbage bag webs the fastest.  Find instructions here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVtO1-yRkDQ

Be prepared for a lot of enthusiasm.  Kids love making the spiders!  Try to teach this lesson in the classroom or near a display board.  If the teacher is not in the lesson, the kids will have a fun time covering the wall in spiders as a trick on the teacher.  That works well, because Anansi is a Trickster and his stories are Trickster Tales.

Key Terms:

Anansi, Ghana, Trickster Tales, Spiders, Ashanti, Weavers, Kente Cloth, Patterns

RECOMMENDED TEXTS:
  1. Anansi the Spider: A Tale from the Ashanti.  Retold by Gerald McDermott.
  2. Anansi and the Bag of Wisdom. Retold by Leslie Sims.
  3. Anansi Does the Impossible. Retold by Verna Aardema.
Vocabulary for Anansi Lesson:
1 story 13 culture
2 folklore 14 adventure
3 oral 15 wisdom
4 Africa 16 weavers
5 spider 17 traditional
6 retold 18 web
7 art 19 Ashanti
8 folktale 20 patterns
9 trouble 21 Ghana
10 symbols 22 trickster
11 Anansi 23 mischief
12 rogue
STUDENT WORK SAMPLE:

Anansi Spider Words

COMPLETED SAMPLE ANANSI WORD WALL:

Anansi Word Wall

Ancient Civilizations, Societies Then and Now #2: The Drum, a Folktale from India

Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, students learn an ancient Indian folktale.  They also practice story mapping, identify the story pattern, and write their own class folktale.  It’s a fun, engaging, and interesting lesson for the children with a multicultural element.

Lesson Plan:

Suggested Grades:

2-3

Objective:

To map an Indian folktale, “The Drum”.  To experience folktales from world cultures as part of the ancient civilizations unit.

Suggested Time:

40-50 minutes

Success Criteria:

Each student will successfully map the circular folktake, “The Drum”.  Students will then, working together as a class, craft their own folktale using the same pattern.

Lesson Outline:

1. Introduction:

Review the three main characteristics of fables from last week’s lesson.

  • Very short
  • Have a moral
  • Use animals or sometimes objects as characters (personification)

Folktales are slightly different.  For folktales:

  • The author is not known. Folktales come from an oral tradition.
  • Folktales are also very old stories handed down from generation to generation.
  • Folktales reflect and pass on the culture and values of the community they come from.

2. Main:

Part 1:  Read/Teach “The Drum”.  Each student will make a capture sheet to show that they understand the circular structure of the story.

Scribe the story map so that the children have a guide for their own maps.  Emphasize that the drawings should be quick and simple sketches, just to capture the idea.  (See photo).

Ask the children the following questions to check for understanding:

  • When the story started, what did the boy want?  Answer:  A drum
  • When the story ended, what did the boy have?  Answer:  A drum
  • Looking at the story map, what is the structure of this story?  Answer:  A circle.   Point out that many stories do have a circular or “chain” structure.
  • What elements of the PYP Learner profile can you see in the boy?  Answer:  Will vary, but definitely Caring.
  • The old man said that the stick might have magic in it.  What do you think?  Was the stick magic?  Answer:  The boy received his wish because he was kind, caring, and giving to others.  The “magic” was his kindness.

Part 2:  As a class, quickly brainstorm a new folktale with a circular structure.  Here is an example of one that one of my classes came up with in about three minutes:

  • There was once a poor girl who wanted a new dress. Her father could not afford one, but on his way back from market he picked up a stone from the side of the road.
  • The girl took the stone and went out to play. Soon she came to a family building a fire pit.  They needed a stone to complete the job.  She gave them her stone, and in return they thanked her by giving her a fish they had caught in the river early that morning.
  • The girl took the fish and continued on her way. Soon she came to a family with a hungry child.  She gave them the fish to feed the child, and in return they gave her a mat they had woven.
  • With the mat, the girl continued on her way. She met a family with a baby.  They needed to lay the baby down for a nap, but they did not want to place the baby on the dirt floor of their home.  The girl happily gave them the mat.  They thanked her by giving her a pair of trousers.
  • Arriving in the next village, the girl noticed a seamstress in a shop working feverishly to make trousers. The girl asked her why she was working so hard to sew trousers. The seamstress said that the men of the village were building a school and that their work clothes were worn.  The girl gave the seamstress the trousers.  To thank her for the trousers, the seamstress gave the girl a new dress from her shop.

Story Circle:  Dress – Stone – Fish – Mat – Hat – Dress

3. Conclusion:

If you looked at your notes, could you tell either of the stories again?   Look for the circle pattern in other stories.

ADDITIONAL Resources:
  1. The Drum: A Folktake from India.  Retold by  by Tom Wrenn and Rob Cleveland
  2. Flipchart paper and markers to scribe the story map for the class
  3. Clipboards
  4. Pencils
  5. Blank Paper in a literacy or writer’s notebook
Notes:

Kids quickly pick up on the pattern of receiving and giving.  They like to guess what is coming next, and they are very proud when they can look back at their story map and retell the story.  This is really an excellent lesson for literature (folktales) with a strong Unit of Inquiry tie.  Many folktales can be story-mapped, but my schools have always had a sizeable population from India, and so I like to use the Indian folktale.

Key Terms:

India, Folktales, Indian Folktales, Kindness, Caring, Drums

RECOMMENDED TEXT:
  1. The Drum: A Folktake from India.  Retold by  by Tom Wrenn and Rob Cleveland.
STORY MAP:

Drum Story Map

Ancient Civilizations, Societies Then and Now #1: Aesop’s Fables

Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, students will have an introduction to fables.  They will learn what a fable is, characteristics of fables, and make a few notes and sketches so that they can retell the fables.  Many kids have heard of, for example, “The Tortoise and the Hare,” but most have not yet understood that the story is part of a special type of literature.  The kids are always eager to work out the moral!  Lots of new understanding seems to happen in this lesson, a wonderful literature tie to the ancient civilization unit.

Lesson Plan:

Suggested Grades:

2-3

Objectives:
  • To name three characteristics of fables.
  • To capture three traditional Aesop’s fables.
  • To experience folktales from world cultures as part of the ancient civilizations unit.

(AASL 4.1.3: Respond to literature and creative expressions of ideas in various formats and genres.)

Suggested Time:

40-50 minutes

Success Criteria:

Each child will make a simple sketch to capture the idea of each fable.  Each child will record the moral of each fable.

Lesson Outline:

1. Introduction:

Ask who has heard of a person named “Aesop”.  Write “Aesop” on the board.  Guess which ancient civilization Aesop lived in?  (Answer:  Ancient Greece)

Show an image of Aesop.

Aesop wrote a special kind of story called a fable.  A fable:

  • Is very short! Usually just one or two paragraphs.
  • Uses animals or objects as characters.  (Note: You can teach personification, but I usually leave that out when working with early elementary.  It is enough to say that the animals represent people.)
  • Teaches a lesson or moral.

Today we will listen to and capture three of Aesop’s most popular fables.

2. Main:

Read/Teach the fables.    Each student will make a capture sheet to show that they understand the morals of the stories.

Usually I teach:

  • The Tortoise and the Hare (Moral: Slow and Steady Wins the Race.)
  • The Lion and the Mouse (Moral: Little Friends May Prove to be Great Friends.)
  • The Crow and the Pitcher (Moral: Necessity is the Mother of Invention.)

Do not tell the children the morals.  Let them work together to figure it out.

Make sure you emphasize to the children that the sketch part of the exercise is only to capture the idea – this is not an art project!  I usually draw a “5-second tortoise” or a “5-second mouse” to show how a few, simple, no-fuss lines will help you get the idea without worrying about the art!

3. Conclusion:

If you looked at your notes, could you tell the story again?   What is special about this story?  What is the main message of this story?

Give them a challenge to read and share more fables!

additional Resources:
  1. A copy of Aesop’s Fables. I prefer Mice, Morals, and Monkey Business by Christopher Wormell.
  2. Pencils
  3. Clipboards
  4. Copies of Student Handout (see attached)
Notes:

Many children have heard at least one of the fables before, but most do not know that they are attributed to Aesop or that the stories are over 2,500 years old.  The lesson generally generates a lot of enthusiasm and the desire to learn more fables.

You can find free digital e-book and audio book versions of the fables at:  http://www.loyalbooks.com/book/aesops-fables-volume-1-fables-1-25

Key Words:

Aesop, Fables, Morals, Ancient Greece

RECOMMENDED TEXT:
  1. Mice, Morals, and Monkey Business by Christopher Wormell.
STUDENT HANDOUT:

Student Handout, Aesop’s Fables

STUDENT SAMPLe

Student Sample, Aesop’s Fables