Saturday, January 6, 2024

2024 Story of Written Language Booklist

The Montessori Fourth Great Lesson -- How Writing Came to Be -- is the first topic for the Bongos in January. From there we will move into Structured Word Inquiry (SWI), which is a spelling curriculum that takes a linguistics-infused approach, blending phonology, morphology, and etymology into how you explain spelling to children from the very beginning of their instruction.

For more on SWI, I highly recommend Fiona Hamilton over at wordtorgue. She sends out weekly lesson ideas tied in with a picture book you can read (#engagewthepage).

I've taught the Fourth Great Lesson many many times, so I have notes all over the place. Here are the stories and activities we did this time around:


Cave Painting / Picture Writing

    introduction to the Story of Written Language!

    read How the First Letter Was Written
    from the Just-So Stories by Rudyard Kipling (this is just for fun)

    activity - draw a picture message and trade it with a partner and see if they can follow your instructions

    bonus book - some children also read The First Drawing by Mordecai Gerstein


    describe life in Ancient Mesopotamia, the Sumerians, and cuneiform

    find the Mediterranean Sea on a globe, discuss "Cradle of Civilization"

    look at a picture of a clay tablet
    (History of Language card set from Clocca Concepts)

    look at Nebuchadnezzar's name in cuneiform
    (chapter 18 of A Child's History of the World by V.M. Hillyer, online at Project Gutenberg for free)

    activity - use play dough and a popsicle stick to make a cuneiform-inspired "clay tablet"

    bonus books - some children also read the Sumerian section of The History of Counting by Denise Schmandt-Besserat and the "Marks in Mud" section from the Childcraft book, pp.142-149


    describe life in Ancient Egypt
    (excerpts from chapters 5, 6, and 7 of A Child's History of the World)

    look at Cleopatra's name in hieroglyphs
    (chapter 6 of A Child's History of the World)

    look at a picture of the Rosetta Stone
    (1975 Childcraft Annual, The Magic of Words, p.163)

Just a note about this vintage Childcraft book which Zac got from his sisters and I had never read (he jumped up and excitedly brought it down from his room as soon as I said the words "Rosetta Stone"). It is well worth tracking down if you're teaching this topic!! I couldn't believe how wonderful it was.

The chapter "From Sounds to Letters" is an excellent resource for the Fourth Great Lesson, and "The Tale of the English Tongue" is perfect for SWI!


Ancient Egypt Bonus Week!



    read sections from the Childcraft book:
    "The Wonderful Invention," pp.164-167
    "The Alphabet Goes to Sea," pp.168-169
    "New Sounds and Shapes," pp.170-173
    "More Changes," pp.174-179

    read There's a Monster in the Alphabet by James Rumford

    for the MLB, we added this map of Ancient Phoenician travels around the Mediterranean Sea with the four versions of the letter "L" beneath it (Sinaitic, Phoenician, Greek, Roman) from Ox, House, Stick: The History of Our Alphabet by Don Robb

    bonus book - some children also read chapter 13 (The People Who Made Our A B C's) of A Child's History of the World

Illuminated Manuscripts

Printing Press

I absolutely love James Rumford's work and very happily own all of his books (see Dec 2021 post, James Rumford, My New Favorite Author).

I was thrilled to find that not only did he write an EXCELLENT book about the printing press (From the Good Mountain) but he wrote a detailed companion book that would be amazing for a Montessori teacher doing the Fourth Great Lesson, although I don't think he knew that's what he was writing (From the Good Mountain: A Companion Guide for Adults & Children: How Books Were Made in the Fifteenth Century). It includes paper making, tanning, gold beating, ink making, type casting, press making, typesetting, letter press printing, book design, illumination, and bookbinding.

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