We love building community through learning and doing. One of the ways we do this is by creating occasions where students work with different teachers or in different classrooms for special projects.
History of Writing
For our History of Writing unit, we were able to cover many different forms of ancient writing by rotating from classroom to classroom. Each room contained a special hands-on writing activity for students to participate in after a short lesson.
The first stop on the journey (chronologically) is the cave painting room. Students learned about the different materials used, and the importance of cave paintings to ancient cultures. To replicate the feeling of scrawling on cave walls, students adhered large, earth-tone paper to the walls of the classroom. Students then used crayons and oil pastels to simulate the use of ancient inks made from charcoal, dust, and animal fats. They created impressive murals across their "cave walls" depicting animals, humans, celebrations, and daily life.
At the next stop, we learned about ancient Sumerian cuneiform writing, and the use of clay tablets and styli. Students began their hands-on activity by smoothing their rough clay pieces into miniature tablets. Once these "tabulae rasae" were in place, students dug in—literally—with their styli. The end result was an impressive array of cuneiform lettering, spelling out each of their names. These tablets will head for a "kiln" later, to be heated and set, for the students to take home.
In the next classroom, students learned about the Greek alphabet, from which we derive the word alphabet! Students were intrigued by the similarities between the alphabet they use on a daily basis and this alphabet that has been used for thousands of years. The connection to the past was palpable. After learning about the history of the alphabet, and the way that Greek letters were often carved into soft stone, students were excited to try for themselves. They used flat bars of soap to simulate the flat white stone, and carved their names on one side in Greek lettering, and on the other, in their regular writing.
The fourth stop taught students about the hieroglyphics of ancient Egypt. Students learned about the differences between pictographs and ideographs, and how they combine to create a full written language. Students also learned about the process of creating papyrus paper from the pith of the papyrus plant stalk. They were able to use sheets of papyrus themselves to trace or draw different hieroglyphics, and create their own stories.
The final stop on the history of writing tour was in the calligraphy classroom. The students were immediately excited at the idea of being able to write in such a refined and fancy way. After the initial learning curve, teachers and students alike got the hang of rotating the calligraphy pens to create those crucial pivots from bold to thin lines.
Students had so much fun working and learning alongside their friends and other lower elementary teachers that they don't always get to work with. Our teachers were equally excited to have another fun opportunity to learn together and get to know each child.