Lesson from the Past: Reading and Writing

Lesson from the Past:  Reading and Writing


Level:  Moderate: Day 5 – Follow-up activity

Time:  40 minutes

          The American Spelling Book, (Noah Webster Speller)
The words under Pronunciation Table XXI can be done as a vocabulary lesson if the lesson is to be expanded.
Proverbs – Counsels – and Maxims
From Pronunciation Table XV: ere, pig in a poke, spy a mote in his eye
From The Boy that Stole Apples:  faucebox, heartily, chap
From The Description of a Good Boy:  diligent, scorns, peevish, fretful, piler, wrangler, lamented, acquaintances
From The Description of a Bad Boy:  undutiful, ill natured, slothful, sullen, obstinate, folly
Students will:
1)     learn the nature of schooling and learning to read in 1800;
2)     experience what school was like in 1800;
3)     compare and contrast schooling in 1800 to the present;
4)     examine some vocabulary words from 1800; and
5)     analyze how ‘Olde World’ English is reflected in the readings.
How do we learn how to read?

Discuss with the students that when Isaiah started working as an apprentice at the printing shop, he did not know how to read. But he understood the importance of reading and taught himself how to do it. 

Set up the classroom like a one-room schoolhouse.  The room should be divided in half, boys on one side and the girls on the other, with rows in each group to represent the age-based levels of learning (young, middle, and old).  Hand out the copies from The American Spelling Book that fit the appropriate age group.  The youngest receive the cover, The Alphabet, Table I, and Of the Boy that Stole Apples.  The middle group receives the cover, The Alphabet, Table XV, and The Description of a Good Boy.  The oldest group receives the cover, The Alphabet, Table XXI, and The Description of a Bad Boy.

Ask the students if they know how a one-room schoolhouse works, filling in any details they have left out.  Start the reading lesson by asking one of the older students to demonstrate how to say the names of the letters from The Alphabet page.  Start the youngest group on Table I and have them read and memorize Lessons I – VI.  The middle group is to read Table XV and memorize two of the Proverbs, Counsels, and Maxims.  The older group is to work on their pronunciation by practicing Table XXI.

Give the groups a few minutes to do this and then ask the youngest group to stand up and call on students to say out loud what they have been working on.  Do not forget to use punishments, e.g. nose on the chalkboard; holding arms out straight with books resting on each hand; telling them how upset their parents will be by their misbehavior; threatening to use the paddle on them out in the hall.  Punish tattletellers as well as those who misbehave.  Go through each group, having some students show off how much they have learned.  Depending on time the middle group can explain some of the proverbs, counsels, and maxims that they have read.

Start the second lesson by going on about how important it is for them to learn how to read.  Especially so they could learn to read the Bible because, in that time period, they believed that it taught them the basic principles of how to live their lives.  Assign Fable I, Of The Boy that Stole Apples to the youngest group.  Have the middle group read The Description of a Good Boy, and the oldest group read The Description of a Bad Boy.  When they have finished reading their stories, have a student from each group stand up and describe their story and what the moral of the story was.  Why was the moral for the youngest group given?  Do we still have stories like these today?  What are they and what do they teach?  Why is/was moral learning important?

Homework assignment:

Compare and contrast school in 1800 to school today.  If needed, remind the students about what the 1800 schools looked like, the punishments, the ‘books’, how they were seated, and any other hints for writing their answer.

Other activities:
  • Use a quill and ink to practice penmanship based on the charts from The Instructor.
  • Have students bring in the advice books of today, Teen Magazine, Sports Illustrated for Teens, and others to see what advice is given today.
  • Have the students examine different versions of Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, and other children’s stories that have advice in them.
Field trip to Old Sturbridge Village
  • The One-Room School House
  • Isaiah Thomas’s Printing Shop  (This is the actual shop that belonged to Thomas.  It was moved to Old Sturbridge Village.)