Monday, February 16, 2015

World History Shorts -- a middle school history framework

When studying history, it's really helpful to use a "framework" or backbone type of resource-- some people choose a book series, such as Susan Wise Bauer's The Story of the World, or Joy Hakim's A History of US, for this.  They read aloud, or assign reading, in these books to provide a continuing, overall story, and supplement with historical fiction and other resources that greatly enhance and enrich the total learning experience.

While reading aloud is wonderful, and both of the series mentioned above are well-written and interesting for either group reading or individual silent reading, there are situations that may come up where a certain child needs to do his own history studies, at his own pace and level, and doing a lot of reading just does not fit into his/her learning style.

This has happened several times in our own family's homeschool journey, and we were thankful to have found a great resource that has world history broken down into short, easy-to-read vignettes, just to cover the main events in chronological order.

It is called, World History Shorts (volume 1 and volume 2), by Kristina M. Swann, and published by Pro-Ed/PCI Publishing.

Volume 1 covers ancient history (Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, Greece, Rome) and progresses on through the Middle Ages and Renaissance, ending with Japan's culture in the 1600's.

Volume 2 begins with the Scientific Revolution and Age of Reason, and covers major wars and politics as well as the Industrial Revolution and other social/cultural changes over the time period of 1600's through the 21st century (ends with the concept of terrorism, with the Twin Towers attack).

What I liked about this resource is that not only does it provide a short reading selection (one page-- about 6 paragraphs) for each topic, but it also has copy masters for reviewing the material; each topic has one page with info to read, one page with multiple choice questions, one page with a crossword puzzle, one page with a map or chart activity, one page with suggestions for extension activities that use writing, and one page with a short quiz.  This turned out to be a "perfect" fit for older kids (middle school) who were wanting or needing to do much of their work independently.  They could get an overview of world history, supplemented by reading some historical fiction (also independently), with very minimal direction/help needed from me as a teacher (just giving the assignments and looking over their written work was all that was required).

I found that the review pages could be assigned in different ways, depending on the situation-- for some kids doing one topic per week was a good pace, others might cover the same material faster-- there are six pages per topic, but we usually did reading on one day, then combined some of the other pages on 2-3 other days.  Because all these pages were about the same topic, the student's attention was brought back to what they had read about on the first day, helping to retain the information.

I liked that this history study resource included all parts of the world -- not just Europe and the United States, but also topics on some Asian countries, Latin America, and Africa.  It truly gave an overview of world history, and also the information was presented in a fairly "neutral" manner regarding politics and religion; the readings didn't appear to be slanted strongly in favor of certain ideas.

When I purchased this 2-volume set many years ago, it was only available in printed form, which meant I had copy masters and needed to make lots of copies . . . but now this resource is available in ebook format, as well, so you can have computer files that are printed out (and this takes no space on a shelf!) which is very convenient, as everything in these sets is presented in work page format (there is no actual book to read).

With our younger kids, we did lots of history related read-alouds, and there are many great series and individual books for this.  But when some of our older kids desired or needed independent world history materials, we were really happy to discover World History Shorts !

Note-- for some more curriculum recommendations, please see the "links" page at Gentle Shepherd: LINKS

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Bugs in the house . . .

Here are some felt bugs I've been making . . .  some have pin backs and some have magnets. Their legs are made with crochet, and the eyes are small beads.

This one is a curtain climber . . .

This one likes to stay on the refrigerator . . .

Besides being around the house, these two are also up in my Etsy shop, Fuzzlemania.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Super and Simple Primary Grades (Creative) Writing

Do you sometimes wonder what assignments to give your younger students for writing? After all, they are just starting to gain proficiency in doing handwriting and spelling, and if you tell them to "write a story" they may look up at you with a blank stare.

But, on the other hand, asking them to "tell" you a story will probably produce a lot of imaginative ramblings.

What I found worked the best in our own homeschool was to give a topic (so there is something to focus the creative energy toward), and listen to my 1st or 2nd grader tell about it while writing down the words.  Then, over several days, the young student would copy his own story over, using nice penmanship.

I set up a whole series of topics, so it was easy to just pick the next one after finishing a writing piece.

And now, this extensive list of topics is part of a small ebook about how to teach writing in the primary grades.

There are some other creative writing ideas, too, and a writing journal template printable. These ideas are for 1st and 2nd graders, PLUS a section for 3rd graders. There are some sample pages up on the Gentle Shepherd website, HERE.

So if you're looking for an easy-to-use creative writing program that gives great results and can bring much joy to both the creators and to you, this small idea ebook may be just what you're looking for . . .