Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Story of the World: Vol 1: Chapter 1: The First Nomads

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Since my son has a short attention span we did each sub-chapter of Story of the World on a separate day, and sometimes even broke that up into small parts.   I decided to break up "The Earliest People - The First Nomads"  into two parts, then did a special activity on the third day.  We used Stone Age People, a book we found at our library, to supply the pictures Story of the World was lacking.

Stone Age People is part of the Make It Work Series, which has a lot of crafts and projects kids can do related to the time period, as well as a lot of great historical information.  We mainly used it for the pictures, but might do some of the crafts later.

It does have info about human evolution.  If you're concerned about that, it's easy to skip when using the book piecemeal as a backdrop for the Story of the World reading, as we did.


On the first day, we read the first four paragraphs of the section "The First Nomads" in Story of the World.  We were doing this as part of "play school" today  (I teach a lot of my lessons pretending to be a dinosaur teacher, and my son pretending to be a number of toy students in a pint size works for us).   So some of the other toy "students" answered the questions along with my son.  My son said that he slept in the same place every night, but his toy "Lion" slept in a different place every night...we even talked about why that might be (ie, because lions needed to follow the prey).  That made a great segue to paragraph two.

At paragraph three I pulled out Stone Age People and turned to the page where they have a scene with hunter gatherers that made a perfect illustration for what we were reading.  As we read the paragraph I asked him to find some of the things it talked about, like people gathering berries and hunting.

Then we turned to the next page, where they had pictures of various types of homes and shelters, and I asked him which ones you could take with you or set up quickly if you were traveling around, which ones you could build a fire in, and which ones would be nicer when it was cold vs. when it was hot.  Then I read the last paragraph and we looked at the cave pictures later on in Stone Age People (pg 36 - 37).

Later  we read The First Dog by Jan Brett, a beautifully illustrated story about a boy and a wolf who befriended him, and became the first dog.

Day 2

On the second day we read the story of Tarak and her brother in Story of the World , looking again at page 16 - 17 of  Stone Age People.

Afterwords we started a book about Tarak and her family using a cave printable I made (free to download).  

DAY 3 - Hunter Gatherer Hike

For our activity we decided to do a "hunter gatherer" trek on a nearby hiking trail.   I invited another homeschooling family to come along, and discovered that they were doing Story of the World too!  

I made some really simple toy bows and arrows and spears.  SERIOUSLY SIMPLE.  Those are branches from our tree and some weed stalks (we have some really vigorous roadside weeds here in Texas...I suggest wild goldenrod if it lives near you). The string is just brown yarn, and the tips are cardboard.

The bows actually sort of  worked (they could shoot the "arrows" a few feet...not fast enough to hurt anyone, but far enough to be "cool."

I attached the tips of the spears by splitting the top of the branches and inserting the cardboard ...then binding yarn around to make it tighter.  If I had thought better I would have cut a "shaft" on the tips and wrapped the yarn around that.  They might have stayed on longer that way....but they worked well enough.  The kids were happy about their weapons.

We didn't know that the trail had been decorated for Halloween, so we ad-libbed and wondered who had made these strange statues (of minions and other such things), and what they might mean.

One of the kids found snails and we talked about how that would be great in our soup that night (No, we didn't really eat wild escargot for us!).

We stopped for a break of seeds and berries my friend had brought (um..."gathered earlier"), and then hiked down to a small stream.  I had hoped to find animal prints near the muddy bank...we did find one dog print (um...I mean..."wolf" print), and lots of tiny fish we pretended to catch for supper.  AND, my friend found an edible plant, purslane, which we tried, with mixed reactions (her daughter hated it so much she drank her whole water bottle washing the taste away...but I liked it.  It sort of tastes like lettuce.).

So, if you are trying this, it might be fun to see if your library has a book on common editable plants to familiarize yourself with beforehand (in case you don't have a friend with who just happens to know of some).  Be your research well, but you should be safe with common, easily recognizable plants like dandelion (purslane actually has a poisonous doppelganger, spotter spurge, so make sure you study up on look alikes and know how to tell the difference before sampling).  Also, you want to make sure to wash anything well before sampling n (you can rinse with a water bottle), and to avoid collecting anything where pesticides or herbicides might have been sprayed (our purslane was found well off the beaten path so should have been safe).

Overall the nomad hike was a great success!  The kids enjoyed it and it really made what they had read come alive.


During Reading:  
Stone Age People (for illustrations)

Supplemental Reading:

Cave Book Activity:

Nomad Hike Activity:
  • Straight Branches (and something to cut them with)
  • Yarn or Twine
  • Cardboard 



Friday, September 16, 2016

Story of the World Vol 1: INTRO - What is Archaeology

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We did separate lessons for each section of the introduction of Story of the World - Ancient Times.   For this lesson I prepared some visuals to illustrate the text using the book Stone Age People and found something outside to "discover" as well related to archaeology.

Since we had previously done a lot of study of dinosaurs, I introduced the concept of archaeology by comparing it to paleontology, like this...

 "Paleontologists are people who study dinosaurs and look for dinosaur fossils.  There are other people that also dig in the dirt looking for very old things, but they are not looking for dinosaur bones, they are looking for things that people left a long time ago.  They are called archaeologists.  They can find out things about history even if it wasn't written down."

Then we watched the 1 minute video National Geographic Kids:  Archelogy Part 1.  It's short, and leaves off like it's going to go to the next video, but that was sort of ideal for this lesson (I couldn't figure out which YouTube video  was next in that series anyways.  There are some other videos about the Egyptians and Mayans that were probably part of that film, but I'm saving those for when we get to those parts.)

Then we turned to Story of the World.  I skipped the first paragraph (since the video and my intro had covered that).  I asked my son to close his eyes and try to imagine things as I read...but after the first couple sentences he was saying he couldn't.  So, impromptu, I grabbed some blank paper and a pencil and drew out a couple houses and a river, some scratch marked grass and some stick people from the story, and continued.  He was able to listen then, and even asked some of the stick people to talk to him (that's his thing...we rarely read a book where SOMETHING on the page doesn't have a conversation with him).

When we got to the place where the grain dried up and the people moved, he got really sad about them, and I ended up adding another impromptu part where the family found a nice place to live with lots of rain further down the river, and the little boy grew up and had a family of his own.

 Then we got to the part about the archaeologist finding the place the family had left.   After reading the first few sentences I pulled out the book I had borrowed from library, Stone Age People and turned it to the page where there was a picture of an archaeological dig.   I only needed to tweak the SOTW text a little bit to fit the picture (for instance, in OUR STORY he didn't just come back with tools...but brought people to help him).  My son asked about the round object with a hole in it towards the bottom of the picture and I told him it was an oven and that that's how they knew they had found the kitchen of the house.   The broken pottery on the table I said were pieces of the pot the mother in the story broke.

This worked really son was able to pay attention much better with the pictures in front of him, and he asked lots of questions about what he saw. 

THEN, I had a surprise for my son.  Earlier this week I found some broken bricks in a corner of our yard...probably something the builders had left before we came.  So I told him that I had found something in our yard...something from people who were here before we were, just like the archaeologist in the story.  He got excited about that, and  we went and looked at what I'd found and tried to figure out why it might have been there.

If you don't have any real life "artifacts" for your children to find in your yard the archaeology dig suggestion in the Activity Book sounds like great fun (though a bit time consuming to set up.) 

Suggested Resources
Some of these I used in our lesson, and others we didn't,
but they would also make wonderful supplements.


National Geographic Kids:  Archelogy Part 1 - INTRO (1:02 min) - Video I Used
(See all videos in this series here.  Some you might want to save for later....or could view now as a preview of what's to come.  Egypt, China, Pompeii)

Bible Adventures in the Holy Land:  Archaelogy (13:26 min)
Talks about how archaeology is used to learn more about the Bible.  (NOTE:  There's an appeal for donations at the end you can skip (starts about minute 11:20), but it has a lot of neat pictures of the Holy Land in the background so you may just turn the sound down and keep watching.


Broken Pot Activity
Many things archaeologists find are broken. You can decorate a terra cotta pot with paint or markers, then break it in a pillowcase and try to put it together.  You could also write on it with any ancient script, as broken pottery was the "paper" of commoners in many ancient society.  You could combine this with the activity suggested in Story of the World for a fake "archaeological dig" with area divided by ropes by putting the pieces of the pot in this area (maybe even tossing the pot into the area to break it, then covering with dirt), but to simplify you could do this activity inside if you prefer, just doing the reconstruction and not the "finding."  If you are using the Stone Age People book, as I did in the lesson above, it also has a section that explains techniques archaeologists use when reconstructing pottery (pg 60-61).

AIA Lesson Plans
There are some wonderful lesson plans with great activities at the Archaeological Institute of America.


Stone Age People
We used this book to illustrate this chapter and the following one "The Earliest People."   It has excellent information about what we have learned about the daily life of early peoples from archaeology, illustrated with dioramas and children in costumes, and has many great crafts and even a recipe for kids to make.   Only a couple pages are specifically about archaeology though.

NOTE:  The beginning of this book covers evolution.

The 5,000 Year Old Puzzle
While we saved this book for a later chapter (it also fits well with the chapters on Egypt), this book would make a great supplement for this chapter as well.  The story  about a boy who accompanies his family on an archaeological dig draws on real records from a 1920's dig by famed Egyptologist Dr. George Reisner, and includes both drawn illustrations and photographs related to the actual historical events this story includes.


Friday, September 9, 2016

Story of the World Vol 1: INTRO - What Is History?

I knew that Story of the World would be a little challenging for our 7 year old.  My son is a visual/tactile learner, with a short attention span.  The first section on history...well, it's a lot of just listening for him to take in, without any good pictures to accompany it (even in the workbook).  Up to this point he had struggled to focus when listening to more than a paragraph without pictures.   So, I decided to do each section of the introduction on a different day, and see what other ways I could break it up.

The text included a lot of questions which helped to break up the reading as we stopped to answer them.   When it asked how we could find out about  what mom and dad were like as a baby, we talked about how we could call Grandma and Grandpa on the phone and ask them about it.  But my parents passed away several years ago.  So how could we find out about what I was like as a baby?

That's when I brought out my Baby Book.  My mom had collected all sorts of things in my baby book (clippings of my baby hair, my identity bracelet from the hospital, so many pictures).  She had written so much in it, and we talked about how, even though we couldn't call Grammy on the phone and talk with her any more, that reading my baby book was sort of like listening to her tell stories.  I had brought his baby book too, and my dad's, and we spent a while looking through them.  I explained my baby book was a history book about me, and his baby book was a history book about him.

I tried to go on and read the rest of the chapter but honestly I should have stopped right there.  It really was too much reading for his short attention span, and the details of someone else writing a letter about some hypothetical baby really confused him (I think if I had asked a question then pulled out a real letter which had the answer, that would have worked better).   By the time we were done reading the section he was burnt out and disinterested and didn't want to do the timeline activity I had planned...but he enjoyed looking at the pictures of himself at different ages.

Still, compared to how he usually does with pictureless text, this was good.  The props really helped. 


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

13 TIPS For Reading Story of the World to Wiggly Wompus Learners

I love Story of the World.  It's such an engaging way to present history to younger children.  I love how it weaves the stories of different civilizations together, and presents gritty history in a manner that's gentle, but not sugar-coated.  But, I wasn't sure how it would work with my child, who has a very short attention span for text without pictures.  People kept telling me the sections were very short, but I knew that even a short page of text without any pictures would be hard for my kiddo.   But, for the other reasons I mentioned, I still wanted to give it a try.

Here is how we made Story of the World work for a visual/tactile wiggly wompus 6 year old with a short attention span. 

1.  Split it Up
I broke up some sections into smaller parts by doing a single section over two or three days.  For example, in Chapter one in the section about Nomads, we read the informational part (paragraphs 1- 4) on one day and read the story of Tarak and her family the next day.

2.  Pause and Ask Questions
This is pretty easy, since there are some questions built into the text and others suggested in the activity book.   I wrote questions in pencil in the margin where I wanted to ask them, and underlined ones already in the text. This helped pull wandering attention spans back into place.

4.  Use the Activity Pages
There are pages in the activity book that you can show your child and have  them color while you read Story of the World to them.  If you didn't get the activity book, you can look up printables online to use in stead, or purchase the pdf of just the consumables here.

5.  Borrow Pictures
I checked out books from the Library on the same era, and look for pictures that could be used to illustrate Story of the World.  Sometimes I would also go online and print pictures.  I'd often pause the reading and ask questions to connect the pictures to the text (Do you see anyone hunting in this picture?  Can you find the canals in this picture?  Who do you think is the king in this picture?)

6.  Draw Your Own Pictures
I know of some people who have made their own illustrations for the story.  I did this only once so far (too much work to do it for every chapter).    You could also have your child try to draw the story as you read it.

7. Use Props
I would look for tangible objects related to the section to let my child look at and play with during the reading.  For example, during the "What is History" section I brought out old baby books for my child to look through while I read.  When reading the story of Joseph, you might have grain for the child to run their hands through.  There are so many options for making this more hands on.  Montessori types might want to make a sensory bin related to each chapter's subject.

8.  Have a Snack
Having a snack during the reading keeps the mind awake and the hands busy.  You can even make the snack something related to the reading (like, during Mesopotamia, we had pistachios and pomegranates, two foods from the area.

8.  Break Up the Reading With Activities
In stead of waiting until the end of the reading to do activities, you can pause and do an activity half way through, then return to the reading after it's done.  This is a great way to break up the reading into smaller bits.   Or, in some cases, you can have your child complete the activity DURING the reading.  This works especially with with activities that take a long time but only need a little instruction in the beginning, like making a pyramid with Legos, or wrapping a doll with cloth to make a mummy.

9.  Keep Hands Busy With Non-Related Activities
Actually any quiet activity during the reading can help...such as doing a puzzle, building with blocks,  or "story threading."  (Of course, if you have a puzzle related to the period that's even better...but non related quiet games can help).  Children can often listen better when their hands are busy.

10.  Use Alternative Books
Since I wasn't fond of the "tweaks" made to some of the Bible stories, I decided to use other Bible storybooks we have for those sections.  You could do that with some of the other sections too.  Usually it's not hard to find library books that cover the same material.   I don't do that much because for the most part I like how  Story of the World presents things, but it's definitely an option.

11.  Use Video
I've replaced sections of the text with a video about the same subject (usually on my iphone, so we could still sit at the table).  You could at times find YouTube videos that would replace a whole chapter completely.

12.  Puppet/Paper Doll Theater
I haven't tried this one yet, but I can see using paper dolls to act out some of the story sections.  It's not hard to find historical paper dolls online.  Though it would be harder/more expensive to get historical puppets or dolls with historical costumes, those would work too.  Both have the advantage of becoming play-toys afterwards, increasing engagement.

13.  Readers Digest Condensed Book Style Editing
That's right...I just went through and with a pencil crossed out sentences and sections I thought we could skip, shortening it (don't hate me SOTW purists...I promise I left the best parts in).

How do you help your child listen through longer reading passages?