We have experienced new worlds this year in our explorations of Europe in the Middles Ages and the Golden Age of Islam. With their powerful imaginations, the kids can really put themselves into the stories. We've also done some very careful questioning and critical thinking about history - always looking for the "why" and always looking beyond the obvious for connections and themes.
For this 5-week project, students are researching and pulling together information for at least ten different major aspects of the Middle Ages in Europe. I say "at least" because there is flexibility built into to every project - students are welcome to rearrange, combine and add to the list of topics in order to follow their own particular interests. The standard topics for this project include feudalism/manorialism, knights, chivalry, castles, the Crusades, the Plague, daily life, and much more.
Using the formal writing process, students take their research and format into chapters full of carefully written paragraphs. In language arts lessons, we've been working on finding the main idea in paragraphs, and our writers are incorporating their specific language arts lessons into this long-term project.
There is a tremendous amount of excitement in the classroom this week as students begin to revise their 1000+ words drafts. They are working together with peer reviews, working solo with revising checklists, and meeting independently with me in revision conferences. This is an intense and focused effort! This is where the real hard effort of writing happens, and a draft becomes refined and organized and precise.
The next step is to edit drafts and then bind them into the final published pieces. Each chapter will begin with an hand-drawn illuminated letter. Each book also contains a series of hand-drawn illustrations. We will be hand-sewing the books, and sharing them with parents at our Continental Breakfast on May 1.
These projects are requiring tremendous effort, focus, flexibility, organization and inspiration. When complete, they will represent a year that has been as rich and full as life in the Middle Ages. Next, we will journey to the Renaissance!
All of this project work, of course, happens concurrently with math lessons, community service, science, gardening and more. We also have a handful of students who are embarking upon Passion Projects too! It always amazes me that we can cover so much learning territory on our daily journey in Turquesa.