Friday, March 2, 2018

Montessori Fourth Great Lesson... and More

The Montessori Fourth Great Lesson is the Story of Written Language, and it's one of my favorites to teach!

Day One:

    discuss early humans briefly (this is a review of the Third Great Lesson)

    read the very humorous "How the First Letter Was Written" from Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories

    consider the question... how do we know about early humans if they didn't write anything down?

    watch Journey of Mankind - The Peopling of the World to see our best guess of the path of early humans based on the fossil record and cave art

    write picture messages for each other -- no words and no talking -- which direct the person reading the message to follow a series of steps and complete a task

    trade them and see if the people you give your message to can understand your picture message and correctly complete the task you've indicated

Day Two:

    review yesterday

    read three chapters of the 1951 edition of V.M. Hillyer's A Child's History of the World:

    • Ancient Egyptians
      (chapter 6, The Puzzle-Writers)
    • Ancient Babylonians
      (chapter 8, A Rich Land Where There Was No Money)
    • Ancient Phoenicians
      (chapter 13, The People Who Made Our A B C's)

    explain that we still call the shelves in a library "the stacks" because of those long-ago stacks of clay tablets in Ancient Babylonian libraries

    draw Queen Cleopatra's name in hieroglyphs (Hillyer, page 31) and King Nebuchadnezzar's name in cunieform (Hillyer, page 99) on the chalkboard

    explore hieroglyphic writing (remember, it is phonetic) using the Fun with Hieroglyphs stamp set by Catharine Roehrig

    stamp messages in hieroglyphs on long scrolls of paper and roll them up and tie them with yarn (I like rolls of fax paper better than rolls of adding machine paper because they are wider)

    explore making clay tablets and punching wedge shaped marks in them with self-hardening clay and flat toothpicks; let dry overnight

Day Three:

    review yesterday

    read Marguerite Makes a Book by Bruce Robertson

    explore inks (we have homemade black walnut and pokeberry ink) as well as cut dried daylily stalks, quill pens, and modern fountain pens and an assortment of nibs

    Note: Ox, House, Stick: The History of Our Alphabet is a valuable book to have for those students who are curious and want to find out more, but it is far too long to be a read aloud story to a class.

Day Four:

    review yesterday

    read Johann Gutenberg and the Amazing Printing Press by Bruce Koscielniak

    explore examples of stamping (collection of rubber stamps and a stamp pad)

    carve letter stamps out of potatoes -- remember to make them in reverse -- and print a message

Day Five:

In other news, I realized that I neglected to share last week's Philosophy lesson on Time, as well as our Kitchen Chemistry session. In Time we read sections from Betsy Maestro's The Story of Clocks and Calendars (pp.3-12, 14-18, 24-26). I have several materials I've prepared for this lesson.

Finger Knitted String

The first material is something I invented after years of having students NOT understand why a lunar calendar isn't the same as a solar one, and why it gradually gets out of step. This is a finger knitted string consisting of 4 yards of yarn, in four different colors. Each color represents a season. A large green button is tied onto the string where the first day of Spring would be. Since the lunar calendar gradually gets out of step with the seasons, 11 days each year, I have a series of white buttons. These represent the lunar calendar and where it says the first day of Spring should be. We lay the buttons down, moving the lunar calendar's supposed "first day of Spring" further and further into Winter, showing how the calendars get out of whack a little bit at a time. This starts to make a big difference after a while! The cumulative effect of the 11 days adding up is clear to students because they can SEE it, and I leave this out in the middle of the floor and keep reading. Every time I get to a culture which had a lunar calendar and had to keep making adjustments to it (the Ancient Egyptians were the first to switch to a solar calendar), I point to the little white buttons. And it seems to work!

Colored Index Cards

In the middle of the yarn circle I placed my second demonstration. This is ten colored index cards with the original Roman months on them (Marius, Aprilis, Maius, Junius, Quintilis, Sextilis, September, October, November, and December). I have already prepared four more index cards of a different color which will show the changes to the calendar (these are Januarius, Februaries, Julius, and Augustus). When I explain that the Roman calendar, which was originally a lunar calendar borrowed from the ancient Greeks, got more and more out of whack, and that they had to add two months to the beginning to bring it back in step with the seasons, I lay down Januarius and Februarius, and when I explain the egos of Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar, I replace Quintilis and Sextilis with Julius and Augustus. This is very satisfying for me because I remember as a child being puzzled that October has a prefix which means 8 but it is month #10 and December means 10 but it is month #12! Knowing that they had to do a +2 and chuck two months on the beginning of the calendar at some point makes it so much more clear.

Last Tuesday we also did the first step (painting the green background) for the Tree Weaving activity from Cassie Stephens. I think the idea of creating a display of a bunch of colorful trees changing over time is a relatively good fit in with our philosophy topic, and I love this weaving idea! We used blue paper plates and painted the white part before the Story of Clocks & Calendars; we painted the green grass afterward. Next time I will read the class Thomas Locker's Sky Tree: Seeing Science through Art. We will add more details to our tree scenes, and then the weaving can begin!

In Kitchen Chemistry we finished up our study of Starch with a few activities in the classroom on Friday and then had a Science Club field trip on Sunday to The 2018 Maple Syrup Festival at SIU's Touch of Nature Environmental Center. We got to taste sap from the buckets hanging on the trees, see workers boiling the sap down, and taste the final product.

Finishing up Starch, we tried observing the change of Starch into Sugar with Saliva, chewing on Triscuit's "Hint of Salt" crackers and holding the masticated cracker and the saliva in our mouths to see if we observed the sweetness happen. The we did activities 10a and 10b from Eric Fairman's book Food, Nutrition, and Health. The girls were surprised that they could feel the difference between powdered sugar and the different starches! I gave them both cornstarch and tapioca starch to explore.

We could also clearly see that starch acts differently in water than sugar.

I then told them the chemical formula for starch (C6 H10 O4) and we compared it with glucose (C6 H12 O6) and realized that starch is glucose minus one water. This makes it easy to see that the plant can convert between them without any difficulty. We noticed that saliva is mostly water, and so presumably this water gets added back into the starch to make it sugar again. We also considered that saliva must have some other chemical in it which allows those bonds to be broken and a new molecule to form. The starch we put in the glass of water didn't poof! turn into sugar.

We read the white bread / wheat bread portion of Fairman and then tried one more (unsuccessful) experiment before we began to write the Starch summaries in our Science binders.

Harmless Flour is an Incredibly Explosive Substance
article and science experiment

This experiment requires safety glasses, a tin can with a lid, a candle, matches, a long straw, and fine white flour. We did it outside. The girls were VERY excited because they thought we would get to see an explosion! We did not, but the article was still very interesting and they added the diagram of the unsuccessful experiment to their binders along with the rest of the notes. I DO think that if we used a safety can opener that this experiment would work. Our lid was just too loose and the flour flew up and out when we blew into the straw, instead of staying in the can where the candle was.

Our new topic is Cellulose!

I read paragraphs 1, 2, 4, and 5 from page 148 of David Mitchell's The Wonders of Waldorf Chemistry.

Then we discussed how wood, cotton fibers, and linen fibers are all examples of cellulose, and I used this as an opportunity to teach my two students who had never learned before... how to knit! I gave them wooden needles and explained that I had plenty of colors of cotton yarn. Yet, one girl decided to make a pink chicken!! I couldn't figure out why until she told me that the pink is for Breast Cancer Awareness. It will be a gift for a friend's relative who has breast cancer. I was touched. That is such a sweet idea.

This post contains affiliate links to the materials I actually use for homeschooling. I hope you find them helpful. Thank you for your support!

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