Saturday, December 4, 2010

Unit Study: Dickensian Christmas!

So, we've started our Dickensian Christmas unit on the 1st Monday of Advent (11/27/10).  We started out by reading A Christmas Carol ... a classic that would help the kids get used to Dickens' sentence structure and language -- a stave a day meant that we finished the book (novella) in this first week.  Each day, we had copywork from that day's chapter and the kids also drew a picture to accompany the copywork.  I chose the copywork by how each one summarized the chapter:
  • I have always thought of Christmas time … as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time … -- Stave I
  • Mr. Scrooge it was … His partner lies upon the point of death, I hear; and there he sat alone. Quite alone in the world, I do believe. -- Stave II
  • “They are Man’s,” said the Spirit, looking down upon them. “This boy is ignorance. This girl is want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy…” -- Stave III
  • “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.  I will live in the Past, the Present and the Future.  The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me.  I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.” -- Stave IV
  • He was at home in five minutes.  Nothing could be heartier.  His niece looked just the same… Wonderful party, wonderful games, wonderful unanimity, won-der-ful happiness! -- Stave V
  • We also watched an excellent A&E Biography on Charles Dickens.  This was a very well-done biography, covering his early life all the way through his "first break" and on to success and then despair and a sad old age.  We watched the dvd on Monday before we even started reading, making sure we would get the era and man set in our minds before beginning the reading.
    To finish off the week, we watched the latest Disney version of A Christmas Carol -- this is animated (computer graphics) and is the closest I've seen to the actual Dickens' text.  It is quite scary in some of it's elements ... particularly the Ghost of Christmas Future -- but because it's computer graphics (rather than live action), the makers of the film could be much closer to the text.  For instance, this is the first film version that shows the Ghost of Christmas Past as a candle flame that extinguishes itself as it finishes its mission.  Excellent but definitely not for the under 8 set!
    Next week, we will read the Christmas Party chapter in Pickwick Papers, read The Chimes: A Goblin Story of Some Bells that Rang an Old Year Out and a New One In.  We'll also discuss the aspects of a Victorian-era Christmas (a bit of history there) and why Dickens is considered the "father" of Victorian Christmas celebrations -- a case of being in the right place at the right time! We'll also start making some Victorian-style decorations and possibly a dish or two. 
    Blessings and hope your first week of Advent ... whatever you're studying ... was as successful and enjoyable as ours!

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