Monday, October 22, 2012

A Medieval Mish Mash in English Class

Dear friends,

My English class at our home school co-op was a bit of a mish mash today.  My assistant Dawn (who is actually now my co-teacher) presented a grammar lesson on conjunctions and interjections, and then I took over for the rest of the class.  In their history class earlier in the day, my seven students are learning medieval history, with lessons on St. Columba, St. Gregory the Great, and Japan in their assignments this coming week.  I decided to put my laptop computer to use to turn their history lessons into English lessons too.  (I love to integrate the school subjects with related literature!)

For poetry, we read "The Prayer of St. Columba."  The chants and prayers of the early church were passed down from century to century, a potent form of devotional communication.  While reading this prayer, we talked about the use of repetition ("Let me...") and parallelism in the first four stanzas.  We also talked about the historical context (the "isle" is Iona in Scotland) and the vocabulary of monasticism, such as liturgy, chant, and cell.

The Prayer Of St. Columba

Columba crossingLet me bless almighty God,
whose power extends over sea and land,
whose angels watch over all.

Let me study sacred books to calm my soul:
I pray for peace,
kneeling at heaven's gates.

Let me do my daily work,
gathering seaweed, catching fish,
giving food to the poor.

Let me say my daily prayers,
sometimes chanting, sometimes quiet,
always thanking God.

Delightful it is to live
on a peaceful isle, in a quiet cell,
serving the King of kings.

Next, speaking of chants, St. Gregory, who was a reluctant pope (preferring the simple life of a monk), is most known for the chants named after him.  We listened to a short one.

Gregorian Chants:

Then, more poetry, this time Japanese style!  I explained the basic structure of haiku -- first line 5 syllables, second line 7 syllables, third line 5 syllables -- and that it is usually about a nature theme and uses a word that reveals the season.  This was not an in-depth lesson.  Maybe next week we will actually try writing some.  I just wanted them to get a taste of it to whet their appetites.  Here is one web page that helped me:

Next up, since Dawn had made a passing reference to Schoolhouse Rock's song about Interjections in her grammar lesson, I found it via a quick Google search.  Hilarious!  Takes me back to childhood educational TV!  (The series started airing in 1973 when I was 9 or 10.  Now that's medieval!)

Schoolhouse Rock Interjections

Many Luscious Lollipops
More on grammar... I had wanted to read a book called Many Luscious Lollipops: A Book About Adjectives last week when they were studying... adjectives!  I ran out of time then, but was able to tuck it in today. 

"It never fails to add details to what you write or say... a MESMERIZING, COLORFUL, and GLITTERING display."

Last but not least, our very favorite part of the class is when my students get to read some of their creative writing assignments.  Last week's assignment, launching off the legend of King Arthur's birth, was to write about something special or interesting about their own birth or early childhood.  This involved interviewing their parents.  One of the girls wrote a hilariously true tale about sneaking out of her crib in the middle of the night at the tender age of 18 months, raiding the refrigerator, and painting her sleeping mother's back with sour cream.  Never a dull moment in English class!

If we'd had more time, we would have reviewed our lessons on The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, our current literature selection.  We'll get back to that next week. See: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe Study Guide, Part 1.

Virginia Knowles

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