We are in our second week of our sixth grade Medieval Block and this time around I have done very different things than I did with my first student so I thought it would be a good time to update some notes on this block. If you are interested as to what we did the first time around, you can see here and here.
This time around, we finished our Roman block by reading the book, “The Dancing Bear” out loud and our sixth grader completed a report about Attila the Hun in between our Roman and Medieval history blocks. I also had our student read, “Favorite Medieval Tales” by Mary Pope Osborne and Troy Howell and have her pick her favorite story and re-write in her own words. I think this can be a great exercise for children who struggle with writing. Usually what the children who don’t like to write will do is make a numbered sort of list of plot points and then you can work with your student on turning the plot points into good descriptive sentences. We also started the book “Son of Charlemagne” as a read aloud between blocks as well, and finished that book the first week of our block.
Our first week included a look at the Byzantine Empire, with special emphasis on the following: Constantinople as a strategic location, Justinian I and Empress Theodora and their biographies, the Hagia Sophia, icolonclasm, and the structure of Byzantine society. This is important information for laying the groundwork for the Ottoman Empire, and in understanding the schism in the Catholic Church.
We also spent time last week and this week talking about knights and chivalry, advances in horseback riding that made being a knight possible, the manor and how these grew into castles and the feudal system, and monks and monasteries. Biographies covered included Pope Gregory the Great, a mention of Pope Leo the Great (also mentioned at the end of the book, “The Son of Charlemagne,”), St. Benedict, St. Hildegarde, and St. Francis and more. We have painted, and drawn, listened to Gregorian chants, looked at illuminated manuscripts, worked on calligraphy, and we will be working on rose windows and a cathedral drawing this week and into next week. I wish I knew a stained glass artist for this block, but I don’t, so tissue paper will have to do! This week we will finish up with an in-depth look at castles and the role of women and children in the Middle Ages, and re-iterate the life of the peasant. I also want to highlight some of the technological advances of the Middle Ages (we have already talked about stirrups and horseshoes for knights but for the peasants the heavy plow was an advance). I have plans for a writing assignment here as well. We have been reading the book, “Castle,” by David Macauley. We will spend one day at the end of this week talking about the Ancient Puebloan civilizations, and I have a little kit to make an Anasazi bowl.
Plans for the third week and into the fourth week since we will have a short week due to travel: Mohammed and the Islamic World. We will be talking about the symbols of Islam, the difference between Sunni, Shiite, and Sufi branches, studying the construction of the mosque and hopefully visit a mosque, make rice and date pudding and Seviyan, and talk about the wonderful scholars of the Muslim world and the arts of calligraphy, Islamic geometry, paper making, the pointed arch in architecture, the wheel/the crank/the rod – lots of projects here! And we will end with the biography of the Father of optics, Abu Ali al-Hasan ibn al-Haytham, and the pinhole camera. I also have plans for a writing assignment here, and to read the book, “Mosque,” as a read aloud. I also have several biographies of Mohammed ready to read and look through.
Week Five will include a look back at Charlemagne with some primary source readings , the Vikings and the impact on the British Isles (did you see one of the most recent National Geographic issues had Vikings on the front cover? I just got a copy of it; it proves to be interesting reading!), William the Conqueror, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Richard the Lionheart, and Saladin. I have a little game ready about the life events of Eleanor of Aquitaine that I found on the Waldorf Inspirations website – have you all seen that?
Week Six will continue with the Crusades, and end with the Magna Charta. We will also look at the Maya in Mesoamerica and since we just returned from a whirlwind Central American trip, we have some experiential things already in place for this endeavor.
Things happening in other parts of the world during this time period which includes the great kingdoms in Western Africa (my personal favorite), and feudal Japan. I have plans written out for all of these areas, but we will see what we can get to before the end of the school year. Whatever we do not get to, I will probably start there as our first block of seventh grade. Look, some seventh grade planning done already! LOL.