Highlighting Our History: Colonial Times Read-alouds PLUS for the Common Core
Books with a Narrow Focus
Use these books as part of a short, focused research project (CCSS Standard 7 for Writing) to answer an essential question about daily life long ago. (What can we learn about a community by learning about their food, clothing, and schooling?) Explore this topic with all elementary aged students. To add some visual media, share this site about Frontier Forts along with your readings
Erdosh, George. Food and Recipes of the Thirteen Colonies. ISBN: 9780823951147. Lexile: NC 730.
The recipes and brief commentary in this book provide a window into everyday life in the thirteen colonies. An introduction defines colonies and points out that all colonists had to become accustomed to new foods. The book does a nice job of distinguishing between the foods and recipes in different colonial regions and how climate and cultural differences among settlers affected foods. The format is uncluttered, and the author makes use of non-fiction conventions that students need to learn or review—bold print, captions, index, glossary, table of contents, etc.
The recipes also provide a model of one type of explanatory writing (CCSS Standard 2 for Writing). Project several recipes with a document camera and have students note the ingredients needed, the logical sequence of steps, the use of verbs for what to do in each step, etc. If time and resources allow, prepare a simple contemporary snack and compose a well-written recipe as a whole-class activity. (If someone read our recipe in one hundred years, what might they learn about us?) With younger elementary classes, invite parents in to participate and help, possibly creating recipe stations making foods from the past or today.
Kay, Verla. Homespun Sarah. ISBN: 0-399-23417-9. Lexile: 324.
Kay, Verla. Hornbooks and Inkwells. ISBN: 0-399-23870-0. Lexile: 324.
With terse rhyming couplets in both books, Kay imparts many historical details about daily life for colonial children. Homespun highlights daily family chores, as well as the lengthy process of making a new dress to replace the one Sarah has outgrown. Hornbooks takes the reader into the colonial schoolhouse along with brothers John Paul and Peter. (This story grew out of the author's interest in Christopher Dock, a schoolmaster in the mid-1700's whose teaching methods might have been considered radical compared to most.)
Plan to read these two books more than once. Read them the first time without sharing the author's note and students will undoubtedly have many questions as they seek to understand the text. (CCSS Reading Literature Standard 1-ask and answer questions about key details in a text). Lead a discussion and chart student thinking after every few pages. (“We're thinking that Sarah...” “Now we're thinking...” “Now it seems like John Paul...”)
Challenge students to glean information from the illustrations. (Reading Literature Standard 7). How do the pictures show the passage of time—for Sarah's dress to be made, and for John Paul to learn to read and write? Call attention to seasonal clues in the page borders and in the pictures themselves. How do the illustrations help the reader to understand specialized vocabulary such as bodice, flax, linsey-woolsey, hornbook, neck yoke, and quill?
On another day, read the note from the author, which gives some historical context. Tell students that you will read the verses in the text again. To what historical facts do particular verses connect?