Early American History: A Literature Approach

Early American History: A Literature Approach

Beautiful Feet history guides provide detailed lesson plans for literature-based history. Rea Berg and Rebecca Manor have created two different teacher guides for Early American History: A Literature Approach for Primary Grades for kindergarten through third grade, and Early American History: A Literature Approach for Intermediate Grades for grades four through six. Both guides are printed in full color and include numerous illustrations. (The guides are available in print or as PDFs.)

The editions of these guides published in 2020 and 2021, respectively, have been updated to include fuller coverage of the time period while also featuring often untold stories of Native Americans and African Americans. The literature used with each guide includes mention of their ill-treatment, but the stories should be appropriate for the designated age groups. For potentially problematic passages, the guides provide content warnings as well as discussion questions. There is some Christian content in the teacher guides.

Each guide outlines a course that will take at least one school year to complete by reading a number of books, having discussions, writing answers to questions in a notebook, and doing activities. You can also investigate the recommended websites, follow the rabbit trails (additional books to read), or use additional activities (such as coloring or cooking historical dishes) if you wish to spend more time. The historical dishes are presented in the guides with full-color images and complete instructions that have been updated for modern usage. These dishes are connected to the reading assignments, and they might be a great way to involve the whole family in discussions about what the children are learning.

Beautiful Feet Books has chosen books that are likely to be available through your library, but they also sell the books for those who want to own them. The selected books are titles that are generally worth adding to the family library. For both the Primary and Intermediate courses, all of the resources can be purchased individually or as a pack for each level that includes all of the required books, the teacher guide, and a blank notebook.

The lessons are grouped into units by common themes such as Indigenous Peoples of North America, The Golden Age of Discovery, and The Colonies. There are seven units in Early American History: Primary and six in Early American History: Intermediate. The primary level has 94 lessons and the intermediate level has 129.

The lesson plans schedule two or three lessons per week for the primary level and three lessons per week for the intermediate level. Lessons have reading assignments from one or more of the required books. Students can read on their own or parents can read the books aloud. Reading is followed by activities such as discussing the character and actions of a person, comparing a person's character with that of someone else the child has read about, drawing or writing in a notebook, working on vocabulary words, drawing maps, completing a timeline, or doing research for a report. (Suggested answers are provided for the questions posed in the guides.)

The guides encourage you to adapt lesson activities to suit your children. For instance, they tell you not to require kindergartners to do the writing assignments but to gradually introduce them to older students. Also, instead of using the specific questions supplied in the guides for discussion or writing, you might take a Charlotte Mason approach and have your child narrate orally in writing their own thoughts about what they have read or heard.

Primary Level

The Primary study uses seven books by the D'Aulaires (e.g., Pocahontas, Columbus, and Abraham Lincoln) plus the books Jamestown, New World Adventure; The Discovery of the Americas (the Maestros); Squanto's Journey; A Picture Book of Sacagawea (Adler); Pilgrim Stories (Pumphrey); Encounter (Yolen); Crossing Bok Chitto (Tingle); The Courage of Sarah Noble (Dalgliesh); Dear Benjamin Banneker (Pinkney); Phoebe the Spy (Griffin); Thee, Hannah! (de Angeli); The Year of the Horseless Carriage 1801 (Foster); A More Perfect Union (the Maestros); The Fourth of July Story (Dalgliesh); Winter at Valley Forge (Knight); and Moses: When Harriett Tubman Led Her People to Freedom (Weatherford).

Many lessons in the book for the primary grades direct students to paste pictures from books by the D'Aulaires into their notebooks. These pictures are found in the free 28-page packet of maps and coloring pages that you can download from the publisher's website.

Intermediate Level

The Intermediate study uses A Child's First Book of American History (Schenk) as a spine book throughout the course. Along with it, the course uses many more books including such titles as The Vikings (Janeway), Hiawatha and the Peacemaker (Robertson),  Pedro's Journal (Conrad), The Landing of the Pilgrims (Daugherty), The World of William Penn (Foster), Amos Fortune: Free Man (Yates), George vs. George: The American Revolution as Seen From Both Sides (Schanzer), How We Crossed the West: The Adventures of Lewis & Clark (Schanzer), The Story of Harriet Tubman ( McMullan), and Lincoln: A Photobiography ( Freedman).

Near the beginning of each of the six units, this guide has call-out boxes titled "Character Connections" that highlight positive character traits from a biblical perspective. For instance, on page 39, the character trait (or virtue) is patience. It lists eight scripture references for students to look up then discuss how they relate to patience. Next, it tells students to look for examples of patience in the stories they will read in the unit. It poses a few different ways that students might think about this with questions, such as: "What happens when someone lacks patience?" 

For the Intermediate study, there is a free, downloadable packet of maps and images to use along with the lessons. Students will do some map work, and they will cut and paste images into their notebooks. Many images are of wildlife.

The Early American History Timeline from Beautiful Feet Books is included in the pack for the intermediate grades. While the Timeline is designed for the intermediate level, parents who think their children will benefit from it might also use it at the primary level.

Summary

The books used in both studies are balanced between some that take longer to read and some that might be read in just a few days. Still, there are lots of books to read. I would encourage you to take as long as you need with these studies, also using at least some of the supplemental resources, so that you enjoy the learning process with your children.

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Instant Key

  • Need For Parent or Teacher Instruction: moderate to high
  • Learning Environment: group or one-on-one
  • Grade Level: grades K-6
  • Educational Methods: real books, discussion, creative activities
  • Technology: PDF
  • Educational Approaches: Principle Approach, eclectic, Charlotte Mason
  • Religious Perspective: Christian

Publisher's Info

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