Reading and Writing, 18th Century Style

Reading and Writing, 18th Century Style

Level:  Basic: Day 5 – Follow-up activity

Time:  90 minutes to conduct the entire lesson


          The American Spelling Book


proverbs, fetch, heartily, acquaintance, pelted, hasten, dutiful, lamented, obstinate, and use of  the "long s" for the letter "s".

Students will:
1)     gain greater appreciation and understanding of this historical period by using Noah Webster’s 1799 American Spelling Book 
2)     compare and contrast school lessons, then and now.

Distribute copies of  the American Spelling Book.  Tell students that they will be completing some school lessons that were created 200 years ago.  Then direct the following language arts activities:

  1. Introduce the Spelling Book; read the title page, noting the date and printer - Isaiah Thomas. Give instructions on how to read words like Worcester with the "long s" in the middle.
  2. Read the proverbs, one at a time.  After each is read, a student should stand and explain what the proverb means.  Then the student should provide an opinion of this or a related phrase.
  3. Explain the use of pronouns: instruct students to say “thou” for “you” (subject) and “thee” for “you” (object).  Provide time for students to recite the proper use of these words.  Students should stand to recite.
  4. Select a number of spelling words from PRONOUNCIATION TABLE XXI.  Students should copy each word 4 times, and you should test them after about 30 minutes of study.
  5. Read FABLE 1, Of the Boy that Stole the Apples.  Then review what happened in the story.  What is the lesson in this?
  6. Read The Description of a Good Boy aloud.  Then have students list the qualities of a good boy in one column of a paper.  Read The Description of a Bad Boy aloud.  Have students list the qualities of a bad boy in the other column.

DISCUSSION:  Are there “Good Boy” qualities that you don’t admire?  And are there some “Bad Boy” qualities that are now acceptable?

  7.  Test students on the spelling words that were copied earlier.

Additional Activities:

Copy letters of the alphabet.

Use four-syllable words provided for dictionary or sentence writing activities.

Rewrite the fable into a modern-day story with modern-day consequences.

Select a fable; illustrate it; and write an explanation of it.