Prospecting For Treasure

Always prospecting for the next treasure of an idea.

Core Knowledge Night: Wrapping Up Our Study of Medieval History

Our classroom was full of castles of every shape and size.

Thursday, May 6th was Core Knowledge Night.  This is the time when we show families all the projects we’ve been working on.  For fourth grade we displayed things we had done for the American Revolution and the Middle Ages.  We had our Giant Medieval Paper Dolls and their letters on display in the hall.  I wrote about this project in an earlier post.

 
After reading The Door In the Wall, each person designed their own coat of arms.  There are several resources that have good information about heraldry.  I like to use Medieval Times from Teacher Created Materials, Inc.  Page 27 has a key to some of the symbols that were used in heraldry.  You will find a pattern to use for your shield on page 28.   The size of the shield we make is usually dependent on the supplies I have on hand. This year I just ran the shield pattern onto cardstock, and we have displayed them on our lockers.  Other years I make them larger, and students trace a pattern onto larger posterboard or cardboard.
 

Each person created their own coat of arms, and we used them to decorate our lockers.

Our castles were due on Wednesday, May 5th, and they were incredible!  Every child completed the project with two making posters, and the rest building models.  We had castles made with cardboard, wood, sticks, sugar cubes held together with frosting, and styrofoam.  They were very impressive. 
 

A Motte and Bailey Castle

One of the girls made a motte and bailey castle.  These were the earliest castles built, and they resembled our early American forts.  The keep was built on a hill (this was the motte) that was often made with the dirt that was dug from the moat.  The castle and bailey (the yard) were surrounded by a wooden fence.  The drawback was that attackers used to burn the castles down, which is why they began building them from stone.
 

Visitors from other classes come to check out our castles.

We had lots of visitors in to see the castles on Wednesday and Thursday.  All the kids were able to explain the construction of their projects.  Each student presented their castle to the class.  We interviewed them and asked questions about the materials used, who helped, what they were proudest of, and how their castle is like a real castle from the middle ages.  I always take lots of pictures, and this year I experimented with a Flip Camera that was just acquired by our school.
 
On Thursday we wrote a fairy tale about our castle using the following story starter:
 
  • It was the day of the Core Knowledge celebration, and room 205 was full of castles.  Ms. Day’s 4th graders entered the classroom, but Ms. Day was nowhere to be found.  Instead, there was a very strange looking substitute sitting behind the desk.  Instead of a school bag, she carried a cauldron.  Instead of a Phillips sweatshirt, she wore a long black gown and cape .  Instead of a pencil, she carried a wand.  Her name was Miss Magica.  Miss Magica put that wand to use, just as soon as the class began talking.  There was a crash and a bright flash of light.  It started with a tingling from your fingertips all the way to your toes, and before you knew it you found yourself shrinking so small that you could fit inside your castle.  There was another flash and crash, and the wind began to blow.  Your castle with you inside, had been transformed into real stone and wood, and was spinning through the air, back in time to a land far far away.  Write about your adventure!
 
We worked all this week to  finish writing and post our fairy tales on our Kidblogs. We have also included a photo of each person’s castle.  You can read their fairy tales and see more of their fantastic castles  by visiting http://kidblog.org/msdaysclass/.  We welcome your comments.
 
It’s been a very successful unit.  The kids have learned a lot, and they have been enthusiastic, but I think we’re all ready to move onto something new.
 
 
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May 15, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Our Castle Project

Emma's Castle

We  began our castle project last week.  It is completed as a homework project, and it is one of the highlights of fourth grade, or so some people tell me.  I have done this project for thirteen years.  I did quit for a few years because the castles had become so elaborate and huge, and they had become “Dad Castles” instead of “Kid Castles”.  I knew things had gone too far when I overheard  a conversation between two of my students who were complaining that their parents had taken over their projects.  Stacy was commenting  that she had her castle all planned, but her mom wouldn’t let her do it the way she wanted.  Stacey’s parents were in the heating and cooling business, and her final castle was made of sheet metal, welded and assembled with rivets.  Joey’s response was, “Yeah, my dad keeps calling it his castle.”

I make it a point to tell families that they may assist, but it should be mostly the child’s work.  When students bring their castles, we always interview them about how they planned and built their castle.  When asked what they liked best about the project, many respond with something they did with their parents, so I do allow family help.    I have restrictions about the size of the final castle.  It had gotten to the point that some castles were the size of two or three student desks.  I now request that they are no larger than the top of a student desk.

Brandon's Castle

I do not wish to cause a hardship for any family, so I  allow the option of creating a castle model or a detailed poster.  Almost all the kids create a model, and in all the years I have done this project, I have never had a student fail to complete it.

Anna's Castle

We begin in class by learning why castles were built, and how they were built.  Castles weren’t just houses, they were war machines.  We learn about the planning that went into the defense of these castles, and children are encouraged to include these details in their models.

Tyler's Castle

I am a big consumer of manilla folders, and I use them for this project.  I staple step by step directions for the project on the left side of the folder.  You’ll find a copy of these directions in the File Cabinet.  On the right side I include diagrams labeling  the parts of the castle.  This is actually one of our in-class lessons.   I also include ideas about possible ways to construct a model. Most of my ideas come from the books, Knights And Castles, By Teacher Created Materials and The Middle Ages Independent Learning Unit, By Lorraine Conway.  You can read more about the resources I use in my previous post, Medieval History for Kids.

Roger's Castle

The kids and families never cease to amaze me with their creativity.  I have seen castles made of wood, cardboard, styrofoam, sugar cubes, marshmallows, sand (that was not such a good idea), clay, craft sticks, and rocks.  Every year, there is some new idea that I would never have thought of and have never seen before.

Marissa's Castle

We do a lot of writing.  We write about why castles were built.  We write about the kids’  thinking and planning for their castle.  Kids write a description of their work to be displayed at Core Knowledge Night.  At the end we write fairy tales about what happens when an evil wizard shrinks us and our castles become real.

The third graders come in to check out our castles.

On the day the castles are due, we invite students from other grades to come see them, which is why kids come into 4th grade asking when we’re going to build castles.  All the castles pictured in this post were created by my students from last year. 

This year our castles are due on Wednesday, May 5th, the day before we have our big school celebration, “Core Knowledge Night”.  Afterwards we will display them on top of our lockers and in the library.

April 24, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment