Monday, December 27, 2010

Across Five Aprils Literature Study Questions and Related Poetry

Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt is a poignant novel for middle school age readers, although it can also be used for upper elementary and high school.  Set during the Civil War, the title refers to the fact that the war started in April 1861 and ended in April 1865.  This is a deep novel about complex issues and the different perspectives that can be taken about slavery and war. Expect to read carefully along with your student and be prepared to discuss the themes.  There is much to learn about life, courage, and decisions here! 

IMPORTANT NOTE: I have referred to three historical poems in this study guide. You can find them in the on-line study guide document which also contains all of the questions you find below in an easy-to-print Across Five Aprils Study Questions and Poetry PDF.

The novel is available from Christian Book Distributors here: Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt.
You can find the publisher's free study guide PDF file here: Across Five Aprils Study Guide by Glencoe.  You may wish to use it instead of or in addition to my study questions since it has some really great ideas, activities, maps, spelling and vocabulary words, charts, etc.  My questions for chapters 1 and 2 refer to the "Introducing the Novel" and "Meet Irene Hunt" handouts which I printed out from it. 

You can also use Spark Notes for Across Five Aprils and Book Rags for Across Five Aprils.  I have not read all the way through these, so I don't know much of what is in them.
Please note that there may be some minor typos in my study guide and that the page numbers were from the edition we used in our home school co-op class, so if a question is driving you nuts, just skip it!  :-) 

Chapter 1 

  1. Read “Introducing the Novel” handout from the publisher's study guide before reading chapter 1.
  2. Look at the first sentence (which ends with the word “road”) and tell who (names of 2 people and their relationship), what (just one main action), where (as much as you can find), and when (as much as you can find).
  3. In the second paragraph, write down and correct any words in non-standard English.
  4. Describe Jethro’s relationship with his mother.
  5. Tell what Jethro’s opinion is about the possibility of war.
Chapter 2

  1. Read the “Meet Irene Hunt” handout from the publisher's study guide before reading chapter 2.
  2. How do the ladies show hospitality to Wilse Graham?
  3. Compare Bill and John and describe their relationship.
  4. How does Jethro’s attitude toward war change on page 32?
  5. What news does Shad bring from Newton?
Chapter 3

  1. What is going on in the first page of this chapter?
  2. How does Bill respond to Jethro’s nighttime fears?
  3. What is Bill’s opinion of the war
  4. What happened between Bill and John?
  5. Read “To William Lloyd Garrison” poem by John Greenleaf Whittier. William Lloyd Garrison (December 12, 1805–May 24, 1879) was a prominent United States abolitionist, journalist, and social reformer. He is best known as the editor of the radical abolitionist newspaper, The Liberator, and as one of the founders of the American Anti-Slavery Society. You can read more at: William Lloyd Garrison 
Chapter 4

  1. On page 53, what do we find out about Jethro’s view of suffering?
  2. What method did Shad use to teach Jethro about the events of the war so far?
  3. What short rebuke does Shad give to Jethro?
  4. What plans does Shad have for Jethro?
  5. Read entire “Expostulation” poem by John Greenleaf Whittier  and copy the verse below. (See if you can memorize it, too!) John Greenleaf Whittier (December 17, 1807 – September 7, 1892) was an American Quaker poet and forceful advocate of the abolition of slavery in the United States. You can read more at John Greenleaf Whittier and his poem "Barbara Frietchie."
Chapter 5

  1. What is Jethro’s task in this chapter?
  2. What happens at the store in Newton?
  3. Describe Russ (Red) Milton.
  4. How has your opinion of Dave Burdow changed since the start of this chapter?
Chapter 6
  1. What major change occurs in Jethro’s life in this chapter?
  2. How does Jenny describe herself (two ways) on page 95?
  3. Describe the change in Matt Creighton’s personality on page 96.
  4. What makes Jethro angry in this chapter?
Chapter 7 

  1. What does Ross Milton do on behalf of the Creighton family?
  2. What happens to Guy Wortman?
  3. What is Jethro puzzled about at the end of this chapter?
Chapter 8

  1. What event happens at the Creighton’s farm?
  2. Copy the paragraph which starts and the bottom of page 123 and ends on the top of 124.
  3. Correct the grammar, punctuation, and spelling in this statement by John on page 127: “The sufferin and scenes of death was sech as to make a mans hart hate war.”
  4. What is Shad’s opinion of General McClellan compared to General Burnside?
Chapter 9

  1. What happens in the beginning of this chapter which makes everyone uneasy?
  2. What is Jethro’s dilemma after he finds Eb?
  3. What does he decide to do?
  4. What is the result of the letter which Jethro sent?
Chapter 10

1.  What does Shad’s spinster aunt request in her letter?
2.  Find and correct any incorrect words in Jenny’s letter which starts: “I go to the hospital every day…” (Note: This includes putting apostrophes in words where necessary.)
3.  Read the poem “The High Tide at Gettysburg,” and then tell who you think the author, Will Henry Thompson, might have been. 

Chapter 11

  1. Early in the chapter, the author comments: “Those who fought battles comfortably within their homes or newspaper offices had more than enough mud to spare.” What does this mean?
  2. What was President Lincoln’s offer to the Confederates?
  3. What news does Jethro’s family receive about Bill?
Chapter 12

  1. What did Sherman’s Army of Tennessee do to Georgia?
  2. What was Ed Turner’s reaction to his son’s letter?
  3. What did Ross Milton say about “peace” when the war would be over?
  4. Read this passage aloud with expression to one of your parents, and then explain what it means to them. Practice several times first! “It was the saddest and most cruel April of the five. It had held out an almost unbelievable joy and had then struck out in fury at those whose hands were outstretched. Jethro had learned to accept the whims of fate, schooled as he was in the philosophy of men who work the soil. The rains came or they were withheld, the heat ripened the grain or blasted it with scorching flame, the ears of corn matured in golden beauty of they were infested by worms or blight. One accepted the good or the evil with humility, for life was a mystery, and questions were not for the lowly. But on the last Sunday of that April, a Sunday of sunlight and bright sky, Jethro lay in the grass on Walnut Hill, and rage mingled with grief in his heart.”

Caddie Woodlawn Literature Study Questions

Literature Study Questions for 
Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink

These are very simple study questions designed to get the students to pay attention to what they are reading.  They are also suitable for oral narration if you are reading aloud.  They can be used with upper elementary and middle school students.Author’s Note 

According to the Author’s Note, what did the Mrs. Brink use as the basis for her story?

Copy the last paragraph.

Chapter 1How would you describe Caddie in this first chapter of the book?

How did Caddie meet Indian John?

Chapter 2

Why does Mr. Woodlawn let Caddie run around with the boys instead of acting like a young lady?

What do Mrs. Woodlawn and Mr. Tanner have in common?

Chapter 3What was Mr. Woodlawn’s policy about hunting pigeons? Why?

Describe Uncle Edmond.

Chapter 4

Why did Uncle Edmund choose to take Caddie hunting?

What did Uncle Edmund do to Caddie, and what was her reaction?

Chapter 5Why did Uncle Edmund want to take Nero with him?

What four kinds of food did the Woodlawns gather or raise in this chapter?

Chapter 6

Compare Caddie Woodlawn with Katie Hyman.

Why was the school only open in the winter?

Describe what happened with Caddie and Obediah.

Describe what happened with Miss Parker and Obediah.

Chapter 7

What was Caddie’s favorite part of the school week? Why?

What interesting thing did Caddie do as she was recovering from her illness after the accident on the ice?

What do the Woodlawn children find out about their father and their grandfather?

Chapter 9
What secret does Caddie keep for her brother Tom?

How does Caddie respond to the singing of the Star-Spangled Banner?

Chapter 10Why is Caddie’s mother concerned about her?

What rumor does the Woodlawn family hear?

Chapter 11

How does Caddie’s mother respond to the arrival of all of the neighbors?

How does Caddie’s father respond to the rumor about the Indians?

Copy this sentence: “A fine mist, almost but not quite like rain, hung in the air and curtained all horizons in obscurity.”

What does Caddie decide to do at the end of this chapter?

Chapter 12

In the paragraph which begins, “Carefully now, Betsy,” list five verbs that describe how Betsy moved. Note how this sets the tone for the paragraph.

What happens when Caddie arrives at the Indian camp?

Why did Caddie not want John to go back with her, and what was his reaction?

What happened to Katie when she saw Caddie return?

Chapter 13

What did Indian John ask Caddie to take care of for him?

Why is Hetty so delighted at the end of this chapter?

Chapter 14What sad thing happened in this chapter?

What did Caddie do to help the situation?

Chapter 15

Describe Robert Ireton copy the sentence on page 172 which begins, “On counting up the gate receipts…”

Why was Tom concerned after the show?
 Chapter 16

In what manner did Caddie and Warren each recite their poems on speaking day?

What happened on the way home from school? (Give some detail!)

Chapter 17

On the first page of this chapter, copy the two paragraphs at the bottom of the page, starting with “All play and no work…” If this is not enough of a challenge for you, have your parent or sibling dictate it for you to write down.

What assignment did Father give to Tom, Caddie, and Warren?

Why did Caddie and Warren like Tom’s stories so much?

What is your personal opinion of the story of Pee-Wee?

Chapter 18

What was the importance of the Little Steamer?

What good news arrived?

What did Caddie realize about her sister Hetty?

What bad news did Mr. Tanner bring?

Chapter 19

Who were the “two unexpected heroes” and why?

How did Obediah change in this chapter?

Chapter 20

Describe Annabelle Gray in your own words.

What two tricks did Tom, Caddie and Warren play on Annabelle?

Chapter 21

Compare how Annabelle responded to the pranks that had been played on her in chapter 20 with how Caddie reacts to her mother’s punishment.

What did Caddie’s father say to her about womanhood, and what did she think about it?

Chapter 22How did Tom and Warren react when Caddie showed them her new quilting skills?

What news came in a letter with a foreign stamp?

Chapter 23

What decision did the Woodlawn family need to make, and how would they go about making their choice?

Why did Caddie’s mother choose as she did?

Chapter 24What three travelers came to the Woodlawn home, and why?

Copy the last two paragraphs and tell what they mean to you.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Life of Joseph in Genesis

Dear friends,

A few years ago, when I taught a middle school English class for a home school co-op, we did a few literature units on the Bible.   We started with the life of Joseph in the book of Genesis for two weeks, and also did a week each on Psalms and Proverbs, and a couple of weeks on the student's choice of either Daniel or Esther.   (See links below.)

Here are some of the questions I used for the study of Joseph.  Since this was an English class, I incorporated some facets of language arts skills in with the inherent history and Bible.  I categorized them by Setting, Plot, Bible History, Symbolism, Word Skills, Vocabulary, Spelling, Punctuation, Grammar.  In other words, these are not the most comprehensive Bible study questions.  I also skipped some passages.

I used the New International Version for this study, so some of the words may need to be adjusted if you choose another version.

The painting shown here is "Joseph Reveals His Identity" by Peter Von Cornelius.

Reading Activities #1 for Genesis 37:1-11
  1. SETTING: What do we find out about Joseph’s lifestyle in this story?
  2. PLOT: Underline all of the possible sources of conflict in this paragraph.
  3. VOCABULARY: What does the word sojournings mean in verse 1?
  4. SPELLING: Notice that sheaf is a singular word for a bundle, which is grain in this story. What is the plural for this word? There can also be a sheaf of paper or other objects.
  5. SYMBOLISM: In Joseph’s dreams, we see the use of symbolism, in which something represents another thing. What do the sun, the moon, and the stars represent in his second dream? 
Reading Activities #2 for Genesis 37:12-24
  1. PUNCTUATION: In verse 17, we see a quote within a quote. Note that the words Let us go to Dothan are enclosed in single quotes instead of double quotes.
  2. GRAMMAR: List all of the proper nouns in these verses.
  3. PLOT: What did Reuben do and why?
  4. PLOT: The story of Joseph is full of ups and downs in the direction of his life. This is his first down, and it is in the realm of family life. The ups and downs will affect wider and wider spheres of influence as the story progresses. 
Reading Activities #3 for Genesis 37:25-36 
  1. VOCABULARY: What is a caravanWhat is myrrh? Where else is myrrh listed in the Bible? What is Sheol?
  2. SUFFIX: The suffix -ite means that a person is associated with a place, doctrine, leader or system. For example, an Israelite is from Israel. List two other words in this passage which end with the suffix -ite.
  3. PLOT: Notice that the brothers did not tell their father what happened to Joseph, either true or false, but they let him assume something that was false. In other words, they intentionally mislead their father by not telling the whole truth, even though they technically did not make any untrue statements. This is just as evil! 
Reading Activities #4 for Genesis 39:1-23
  1. PUNCTUATION: The word LORD is written with all capital letters at various places in the Bible. It translates a Hebrew word for God which means Lord Almighty. The capital letters show respect.
  2. PLOT: What do we find out about Potiphar’s wife and her character?
  3. PLOT: This part of the story shows an UP, a DOWN, and another UP in Joseph’s life. Tell what the UP and DOWN parts were. Who caused the UP parts? Who caused the DOWN parts? Was God still in control even during the DOWN parts of the story?
Reading Activities #5 for Genesis 40:1-23

  1. VOCABULARY: What does the word custody mean? What does interpretation mean?
  2. PLOT: Explain how the dreams of the cupbearer and the baker are specifically related to each person’s job.
  3. Like -ite, the suffixes -an and -ian can mean that a person is associated with a place. For example, a Brazilian is from Brazil. What word like this can you find in this passage?
Reading Activities #6 for Genesis 41:1-36
  1. PLOT: The timing makes a huge difference in the plot! Joseph didn’t get out of prison right away after the cupbearer made a promise to speak to Pharaoh on his behalf. How much later did Joseph get called to help Pharaoh? Why do you suppose that God allowed him to stay there that long?
  2. PLOT: Why did Pharaoh have two dreams that essentially showed the same thing? 
  3. PLOT: What was Joseph’s plan in response to Pharaoh’s dream?
  4. PUNCTUATION: Note in verse 34 that the fraction word one-fifth has a hyphen between the numbers. Write the words for ½ and ¾.
  5. VOCABULARY: What does the word reserve mean in verse 36?
Reading Activities #7 for Genesis 41:37-57
  1. PUNCTUATION: We use quote marks to show when someone says something. Copy down at least three quotes from this passage. Pay careful attention to how quotes are punctuated, especially when they are part of a larger sentence. Sometimes a quote is interrupted, such as in the following example: “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father's house.” 
  2. PLOT: What are some of the “perks” (special benefits) that went with the position Pharaoh gave to Joseph?
  3. PLOT: This passage represents another UP in Joseph’s life story. Besides his important position and his valuable work, he gained three family members. What are their names?
Reading Activities #8 for Genesis 42:1-38
  1. PLOT: The plot thickens! The very brothers who sold Joseph into slavery are now at his mercy, and they don’t even realize who he is! Why does Joseph question and accuse his brothers? What does he find out about their heart attitudes?
  2. WORD SKILLS: Find all of the proper names listed in this passage and write them in alphabetical order. Include the names of seven people and three places. 
  3. BIBLE HISTORY: Note that there are two names for Joseph’s father. Which one did he get at birth, and which one was given to him later by God?
  4. PLOT: Why doesn’t Jacob want Benjamin to go to Egypt?
Reading Activities #9 for Genesis 43:1-34 
  1. PLOT: What is Joseph’s attitude toward his brothers in this passage? 
  2. PLOT: What was so amazing about the seating arrangement in verse 33?
  3. VOCABULARY: What does the word abomination mean in verse 32?
Reading Activities #10 for Genesis 44:1-34 
  1. PUNCTUATION: In the second paragraph, there is a quote-within-a-quote. A pair of single quote marks (‘ and ’) are used to enclose it. Note that the ending single quote mark is right next to the ending double quote mark, so it looks like this: ’” Write your own quote-within-a-quote with proper punctuation.
  2. PLOT: What do we find out about Judah’s character in this passage? 
Reading Activities #11 for Genesis 45:1-28
  1. PLOT: What does Joseph say is the reason that all of this stuff has happened to him?
  2. PLOT: Who is ultimately responsible for everything that happens to us? What kind of attitude should we have toward our troubles in life because of this?
  3. PLOT: How does Jacob respond to the news that Joseph is alive?
Reading Activities #12 for Genesis 46:1-34
  1. PLOT: Copy the promise that God makes to Jacob.
  2. PUNCTUATION: In verse 26, you will notice that the word sixty-six has a hyphen in it. This is how most two digit numbers are written as words. What words for two digit numbers do not have hyphens in them? (Hint: There are 17 of them.)
Reading Activities #13 for Genesis 47:1-31
  1. VOCABULARY: What does the word languish mean in verse 13?
  2. PLOT: What happens to the people who have run out of food?
Reading Activities #14 for Genesis 49:28-26

  1. PLOT: Why did both Jacob and Joseph want to be buried in Canaan?
  2. PLOT: The key verses in this entire story are found in Genesis 50:19-20, as well as Genesis 45:5-8 on page 13 of this study guide. Write a paragraph telling what you have learned about how God’s providence guides each event of our life, whether it is pleasant or unpleasant.
  3. PLOT: Why was Joseph able to forgive his brothers for their horrible sin against him?

Twiddling Your Curriculum Choices: Small Changes Can Make a Big Impact

Dear friends,

Have you ever started out using one curriculum and then realized it wasn't working for you or your child?  What do you do next?  This has happened to me many times in the past two decades of home schooling.   Sometimes, I see what I can do to adjust the curriculum so we can keep using it, picking and choosing from it what is helpful and what is not.  Other times I switch to another resource to use at least for a while.  Much of home schooling is a matter of trial and error since each child can be so different from the others, and some curriculum just doesn't click!  Also, there are times when we buy something that we haven't used before and we don't know yet how it will perform in the daily scheme of things.

For about four years, our family was enrolled in a structured home school co-op where each teacher selected the curriculum that would be used by his or her students.  This was, of course, necessary to keep things in order so everyone could be "on the same page" and make it easier for the teacher to plan assignments.  However, I have always loved picking curriculum, so this was one trade-off I had to make.

However, this past spring, having decided we would go back to what my husband calls "true home schooling", I relished the opportunity to go resource hunting again.   There is a wonderful used bookstore near us that carries a lot of curriculum, and I noticed some middle school Earth Science books from a Christian publisher on clearance for $6 a piece.  I bought two identical ones, because the child who would be using them likes to read to me, and it's easier for me, as a visual learner, to follow along if I have my own copy right in front of me.  Well, we used this text for about 12 weeks, but it seemed like he was having a hard time motivating himself to read the chapters, and hunting down the specific answers to the questions always slowed the process down even more.  I asked him about this, and he said he really wanted to learn about a whole variety of science topics, especially physical science, chemistry, technology, etc.

I didn't want to buy anything new for him right then, so I started looking on my shelves for what we already had.  I hit the jackpot with a science encyclopedia (published by Dempsey Parr) which was written for his age level.  Each page spread covers a different topic, with plenty of visually appealing diagrams, charts, and photos.  There are also experiments in the back of the book.  I showed it to him and he was absolutely delighted.  Each day he reads four pages and then writes a paragraph about what he has read.  He prefers this kind of open-ended written narration rather than comprehension questions anyway, so this is perfect.  I love reading what he has learned each day.  Science has become a joy for him instead of drudgery!

One small change, one big impact!  I'm not saying we should be wishy-washy or give in to every sign of discontent in our children, but we do need to give it careful thought and see what we can do.

Don't be afraid to adjust curriculum as needed.  It is not a sign that you "failed" in picking something out the first time, but of sensitivity to your child in being willing to change!  It gives your child the message that you care. 

Oh, what happened to the two Earth Science books I had bought?  I brought them in to sell back to the used bookstore, and oddly enough, the on-line resale price had shot up to $60 each.  The store pays about 50% of expected sales price if you choose to take store credit, so I came out with $30 in credit for each $6 I had spent!  Sweet deal!

Virginia Knowles

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Islam Vocabulary and Concepts

Dear friends,

In my middle school English class at our (former) home school co-op last spring, I gave my students an assignment to read a missionary biography and write a report about it.  In conjunction with this, I taught a series on major religions and world views, explaining the vocabulary and concepts behind Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, atheism/secularism, communism/socialism, tribal religions and Judaism. You can find the Judaism list here: Judaism Vocabulary and Concepts.  

This is the vocabulary word list for Islam.  In addition to the following vocabulary words, I printed out current news reports related to Islam, plus an article about Samuel Zwemer, who was a missionary to Muslims.  We discussed all of this in class, as well as comparing Islam with the Christian Bible.  For more information on Islam from a Christian perspective, visit

Islam Vocabulary Words

  • Allah: name for God; they often say "Insha Allah" which means "if Allah is willing"
  • Arabic: the language that the Qur'an is written in
  • burqa: full coverage clothing worn by many Muslim women
  • caliph: ruler of an Islamic Empire -- or a representative
  • Crusades: the battles that the Catholic church waged against Islam in an attempt to capture the Holy Lands during the Middle Ages.
  • fatwa: religious verdict/ruling; (in 1989, the Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran issued a fatwa that sentenced author Salman Rushdie to death for publishing an anti-Islamic book but the fatwa was lifted 1998)
  • Five Pillars of Islam: the main duties of Muslims: shahada, salat, zakat, sawm, and hajj
  • Gabriel: the angel who supposedly spoke to the Prophet Mohammad
  • hajj: A pilgrimage to Mecca, the birthplace of Mohammad, is one of the five pillars of the Islamic faith.
  • imam: a leader of Muslim religious services
  • Islam: the name of the religion which worships Allah -- it means "submission to the will of Allah"
  • jihad:“striving” or “holy war”
  • minaret: a tower of the mosque where the muezzin issues the call to prayer
  • Mohammad: prophet who founded Islam, also spelled Muhammad or Mohammed
  • mosque: a Muslim place of worship
  • muezzin: a man who calls others to pray five times a day, usually from a minaret
  • mulla: a scholar or teacher of Islamic law
  • Muslim: a member of the religion of Islam, also spelled Moslem
  • Qur'an: the Muslim holy book, also spelled Koran
  • Ramadan: the month of prayer and fasting (Arabic name for fasting is sawm; it is one of the five pillars of Islam); Ramadan ends in the festival of Eid al-Fitr
  • salat: the Moslem ritual of praying five times a day after a handwashing ritual. It is one of the five pillars of Islamic faith
  • Saudi Arabia: the country where the religion of Islam started
  • shahada: the declaration of Muslim faith: "There is no god but Allah; Mohammad is the messenger of Allah." This is the first of the five pillars of Islam
  • shari’ah: system of law imposed in Muslim countries -- many Muslims are trying to get shari'ah law into European countries
  • Shi’ites: a strict Muslim sect which rejects the first three caliphs, insisting that Mohammad’s son-in-law ’Ah was Mohammad's rightful initial successor; they believe that imams are infallible (never make mistakes); 10% of Muslims (about 170 million) are Shi'ites, and they are predominant in Iran and Iraq
  • Sufi: a small Muslim sect of Iranian (Persian) philosophical mystics who have adapted and reinterpreted Islam to make it a "heart religion" rather than a system of rules; they are often persecuted by other Muslims
  • Sunni: The largest Muslim sect which acknowledges the first four caliphs as Mohammad’s rightful successors; 90% of Muslims (more than a billion!) are Sunni
  • surah: a chapter of the Qur'an -- there are 114 surahs
  • zakat: donations or charity; money given to provide education, keep up or build mosques or help the needy -- one of the five pillars of Islam
Islam Vocabulary Questions

1. What are the Five Pillars of Islam?

_____________________ (declaration)

_____________________ (prayer)

_____________________ (charity)

_____________________ (fasting)

_____________________ (pilgrimage)

2. Which three vocabulary words are names of sects of Islam?

__________________________ (biggest one)

__________________________ (strictest one)

__________________________ (mystical one)

3. Which vocabulary words are different kinds of individual people who lead in Islam?




4. How many surahs are in the Qur'an? What language is it written in? What is another spelling for Qur'an?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Great American Communicators: Sequoyah

Great American Communicators
Sequoyah: Inventor of the Cherokee Syllabary

Sequoyah, born in the 1770’s, was a Cherokee Indian. His mother was full blood Indian, and his father was probably at least half-white. His English name is Geroge Gist or Guess. Sequoyah became an excellent blacksmith and silversmith and operated a trading business. He also had a drinking problem, but he gave up alcohol when he saw how it was ruining his life.

Sequoyah wanted the Indian people to have a way to read “talking leaves” like the English speaking people did. He never spoke English, and he never understood how the English alphabet worked, although he had seen some books. Facing much opposition and taking 12 years away from his business, he invented the Cherokee syllabary. This is like an alphabet, but there is a character for each syllable, not for each individual phonetic sound. He had originally tried to do a character for each word, like in Chinese. Sequoyah used 85 characters in his syllabary.

In order to prove that his syllabary worked, he taught his daughter, Ah-yo-kah how to read. Word spread quickly of Sequoyah's invention. In 1821, the Cherokee Nation adopted Sequoyah's alphabet as their own. Within months thousands of Cherokee became literate. Thousands of Cherokee began to use Sequoyah's invention on a daily basis and the syllabary gave the nation the ability to create the first American Indian newspaper, The Cherokee Phoenix.

By 1825, the Bible and numerous religious hymns and pamphlets, educational materials and legal documents and books of every description were translated into the Cherokee language.

Read more about Sequoyah here: Sequoyah Birthplace Museum

by David J. Brown (a Cherokee)

Thou Cadmus of thy race!
Thou giant of thy age!
In every heart a place,
In history a living page;
The juggernaut chariot time,
May crush as she doth give;
But a noble name like thine,
Shall ever with Kee-too-whah live.

Orion-like thou dost stand,
In any age and clime,
With intellect as grand,
As ever shown by time,
'Twas thy hand lit the spark
That heavenward flashed its ray
Revealing the shining mark
The straight and narrow way.

Ignorance and superstitious awe
From high pedestals toppled o'er
When as the ancient giver of law,
Smiting, thou mad'st the waters pour;
Stand thou didst on Pisgah's height,
And gazed into the future deep.
But day was ne'er unclasped from night
E'er thy spirit silently fell asleep.

Great American Communicators: Benjamin Franklin

This is another handout from my series on Great American Communicators that I taught to my students in the middle school English class in a large home school co-op.

Benjamin Franklin’s Contributions to Communications

  • Benjamin Franklin was born in 1706, the 15th of the 20 Franklin children! There must have been a whole lot of communicating going on in his house when he was a kid!
  • He stopped going to school when he was 10 (his parents couldn’t afford it) but he LOVED to read!
  • He apprenticed as a printer -- but he hated working for his brother James and so he ran away.
  • His pseudonym (false name) for writing letters to his brother’s paper was “Mrs. Silence Dogood”!
  • At age 24 he started the Pennsylvania Gazette newspaper.
  • He created the Poor Richard’s Almanack from 1732 to 1757. It was a yearly book with a calendar, list of events, advice, witty sayings, weather predictions, etc.
  • He founded the first public library in Philadelphia.
  • He established the postal system.
  • He founded a college.
  • He was elected to the Pennsylvania Assembly in 1751.
  • He was sent to England several times to protest their treatment of the American colonies.
  • He went as the ambassador to France to persuade them to support the colonies in the Revolutionary War.
  • As a delegate to the Second Continental Congress, he helped write the Declaration of Independence.
  • He was the only man to sign the Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Paris AND the Constitution.
  • He wrote essays against slavery.
  • He tried to invent an easier alphabet, but it never caught on.
  • He wrote an autobiography, The Life of Benjamin Franklin.
  • I’m not even listing his scientific inventions – just the things that are about communications!

Can you unscramble these words and phrases that appear on this page? riptren, dusymepon, zegatet, clamkaan, clubip rilybar, lopast ystesm, bodarasams, easyss, tunconsittio, goubarthopyai, habalpet

Here are some of Benjamin Franklin's proverbs:  

  • An empty bag cannot stand upright.
  • Be always ashamed to catch thyself idle.
  • The doors of wisdom are never shut.
  • Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.
  • God helps them that help themselves.
  • Hunger never saw bad bread.
  • If you'd have a servant that you like, serve your self.
  • Keep thy shop and thy shop will keep thee.
  • A lie stands on one leg, the truth on two.
  • A man without a wife is but half a man.
  • Nothing but money is sweeter than honey.
  • One today is worth two tomorrows.
  • Pay what you owe and you'll know what's your own.
  • A quarrelsome man has no good neighbors.
  • The rotten apple spoils his companion.
  • Speak little, do much.
  • Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.
  • Up, sluggard, and waste not life; in the grave will be sleeping enough.
  • Visits should be short, like a winter's day.
  • Well done is better than well said.
  • A good example is the best sermon.
  • You may delay, but time will not.
  • There are lazy minds as well as lazy bodies.
  • Let thy child's first Lesson be obedience, and the second will be what thou wilt.
  • Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time; for that's the stuff life is made of.
  • A good conscience is a continual Christmas.
  • God heals, and the doctor takes the fee.
What do these proverbs mean? Can you write some of them in your own words?

Put a star by the ones that talk about working hard and not being lazy.

P.S. Benjamin Franklin spent many years in Philadelphia, including a lot of time working in the building that is now known Independence Hall.  We visited historic Philadelphia this summer; you can see our pictures of the sites here: Historic Philadelphia.
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