Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Our Castle Project for 2013

It's the middle of summer vacation, and I'm just getting around to writing about some of our classroom projects for the 2012-2013 school year.  So much for my pledge to be more regular in writing posts for my blog.  I do have some really good excuses, but you'll be happy that I'm not going to waste time making them.

We completed our Castle project for this year on May 1st, just in time for Core Knowledge Night.  My school is a public school and we teach all the regular school district curriculum, but we also teach much of the Core Knowledge Curriculum as well.  As part of Core Knowledge, we learn about the Middle Ages in 4th grade, and the culminating project is when my students build castles.  It is done as homework, and we do lots of writing to go with it.   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 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.  Last year we even had one made out of Rice Krispy Treats.

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.  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 family help is an important component.

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. On the right side I include diagrams labeling the parts of the castle. We do several in-class lessons about the parts of the castle, and whether it was for offense of defense. 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.  A more complete list of the books I use for this unit are on my Medieval History for Kids post on my Prospecting for Treasure blog.
This year I moved toward having more of our resources on-line.  You can see that, along with the planning sheet and schedule we use for this project by visiting my class website at:  

If you are interested in learning more about Core Knowledge, visit the Core Knowledge Foundation Website at:  http://www.coreknowledge.org/

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