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History recommendations needed for 6th and 8th graders


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I am looking for some history recommendations for my upcoming 6th and 8th graders that they could do pretty independent. They don't have to be together but I would like for them to be independent. I read a lot of old threads about HO but I would like something that goes in chronological order. We are studying middle ages this year.


Thanks, Erin


Mom to 5 with another on the way!!

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Well, I was going to suggest History Odyssey, as it's written directly to the student... It *is* chronological, except that it is divided by culture within certain chronological breakdowns. So HO level 2 Middle Ages does the early middle ages in Europe, then the East, then the Americas, then the late middle ages and early Renaissance in Europe... So there's less hopping between cultures than in SOTW (for instance), but a wee bit of backtracking in time, when you go from one culture to another. (It uses a fair amount of timeline work though, so connections between cultures at the same time are drawn that way.)

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No, I don't think so at all. As I said, within each culture, everything is done chronologically, and a student is expected to keep a multi-streamed timeline going at all times. So while you may go back in time a bit when you start in on the Muslim world, they're seeing the connections within that world *and* seeing where things that happened then correspond to the events and people they studied in Western Europe at the same period.


I'm not going to argue that it's a perfect program or anything -- but it does sound the most like what you're looking for (the time period, ages of your students, self-directed work)... I've added in a few extra books to fill out the year, and I hate, hate, hate the way they do Shakespeare, so I mostly crossed out those lessons, but otherwise I'm quite pleased.

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Okay, well, Shakespeare in HO2-MA is done by have kids read Charles and Mary Lamb retellings, write narrations of the plot, color pages from the Bellerophon Shakespeare coloring book, and... Well, and nothing. But sometimes they're expected to do as many as 4-8 plays in a single HO assignment (so, in a single day -- in order to finish the level in a year, one really must complete 3 HO assignments per week).


I think reading a summary of the play is a great way to begin the study of any single Shakespeare work. And, of course, the Lamb retellings are something of classics in their own right. And writing a narration based on the Lamb version is not objectionable to me either. Coloring pages are fine for kids who enjoy them (as mine do). And those narrations and coloring pages are to be brought together to make a sort of "My Shakespeare Book", and that's *fine*.


But I object strongly to two things:

1) Stopping with a summary, and never going on to reading (at least selections of!) the real play or seeing it performed (even just on dvd, though of course a good live production would be fabulous)...

2) Going for quantity over depth. In HO2-MA, kids are expected to read ~20 summaries -- at one point, as many as eight in a day! So they get exposed to a whole bunch of plays -- plot only -- rather than studying a smaller number in enough depth to make them enjoyable.


Shakespeare's plays aren't really important for their plots. Those are mostly cribbed from other sources anyway... It's the *way* he told the stories and the language he used that make them important. The understanding of individual characters! Those things only come through in a very weak manner in even the better retellings...


Rather than having kids touch briefly on the plot of a bunch of plays (and the organization is odd too -- the plays are tossed in over the course of the year when a country comes up that is the ostensible locale for that play, though not necessarily at that time in history), and in such a way that makes each one *work*, I'd much rather middle school students get the chance to read a couple of plays in more depth. Sure, start with a summary (like Lamb, or Nesbit, or Leon Garfield), and if the kids want to color, let them... But then go on to read some scenes straight from the play. If you can do a read-aloud with readers taking on various characters, go for it! Use the Oxford School Shakespeare or another edition with copious notes that can be turned to to clarify tough bits. Borrow the "Animated Shakespeare" from the library (highly abbreviated versions of 12 plays performed by excellent actors and animated in a wide variety of styles -- some more appealing than others)... Watch one or more movie versions of the play, if available, and, if possible, go see a live production. (In fact, I would encourage one to select the plays to be done based on what productions will be available to see in the coming year...)


Read some non-fiction (even just simple picture books, like the ones by Aliki and Diane Stanley), and maybe throw in some historical fiction (like the Shakespeare Stealer series by Gary Blackwood, Susan Cooper's King of Shadows, or J.B. Cheaney's The Playmaker)...


Okay, so that was me with my little soapbox. ;) Ditch the thought of reading all of Lamb and narrating each chapter as work. Do 2-4 plays at most, and *see* anything you read about (even if it's just on dvd). If the kid wants to read the rest of Lamb on his/her own time, that's fantastic -- but just let him or her enjoy the stories (and perhaps pursue reading other versions or finding a recording of the play to watch or an audio version from the BBC to listen to)...

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