The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain
One of the homeschoolers in our Literature Coop is a big fan of Mark Twain and he asked if he could pick a book for us to read. Knowing he was likely going to select a Mark Twain book I was on board. He selected the Prince and the Pauper. I was a little behind the eight ball in getting ready for our first coop as it took a little longer than I expected to check the book out from the library so I didn’t have much time to prepare a lesson before we meet. Using the Internet I made up a list of Old English words and their meanings for the kids. We tried to have our discussion about the book using these words. The point behind using them is so it would make it a little easier to read the rest of the book having used some of these words. I think it helped somewhat. The kids complained a little at our first meeting about the words but not after that first meeting so I’ll take that as success.
We usually try to break up reading the book into three to five classes, we meet once a week typically. This time we are only having three sessions because of Spring Break, some of the kids have siblings in public school so we try to give them a break with their siblings.
In addition to trying to use Old English words we also discussed the use of footnotes (or “Notes” as used in the book). I directed the kids to make sure they read the notes when they saw an asterisk in the book or some reference to a footnote (some were reading books, some were listening to the books and some were reading on-line so each was likely going to have a different way to see/hear the notes) as these notes provided some background information on theme period and events. We then discussed whether any of the kids would switch places with the prince knowing the punishment for doing so. Our discussion then turned to England and the living conditions then, the differences between the classes and the laws. The kids were intrigued by the outdated and very harsh laws.
I don’t always give assignments in this coop as it is more of an enrichment one, but the moms are ok if I do and for the second week I gave several assignments based on the personalities of our kids. “L”, the fashion lover, was to bring in 8 pictures, 4 of female attire and 4 of male attire, of the fashion of the time period of the book. “L” actually came dressed in a somewhat period piece. She was also required to describe the clothing using the proper terminology of the clothing. Each student then had to write two descriptive sentences describing the article of clothing to see if their descriptions were clear enough so the other kids could pick the picture they were describing. We discussed the use of adjectives and other words in writing so as to clearly portray a picture in the reader’s mind as Mark Twain had successfully portrayed in our book.
“M”, our Harry Potter fan, was asked to tell us about London Bridge and to bring in some pictures of London at the time period of the book, hopefully showing how busy and dirty the streets were back then. “M” took her assignment a little further and even reported on the nursery rhyme “London Bridges”.
“H”, our Mark Twain fan, was asked to write one or two short paragraphs about Mark Twain to share with the class. He did a great job.
“P”, our factual student, was asked to tell us about at least 5 laws that were unusual in the time period of the book and to tell us about the Duke of Norfolk. In addition, she was asked to describe the English class system to help everyone better understand the ranking of the upper class nobles.
On top of this each student had to write a paragraph about someone living or dead that they would like to have had the opportunity to switch places with and why. Just for fun, they were also asked to write a second short paragraph about a fictional character they wanted to switch places with and why. Little did the kids realize how much public speaking we packed into this class as each presented their assignment and their paragraph.
I know this sounds like a lot of work but it really wasn’t that complicated and all the kids seemed to have enjoyed their assignments.
For the last class I found on the internet a lesson plan, frankly it could have been used all along. https://www.prestwickhouse.com/samples/308918.pdf. I had the kids follow the lesson for Chapter 8 and create their own seal; we did this in the coop. We are completed a small character analysis between the prince and the pauper using a Venn Diagram. Another idea, one we did not have time for, was I to have the kids write a descriptive paragraph describing a scene from the book as suggested in the lesson plan above for Chapter 9.
I also always encourage the kids to bring words from the book they didn’t know. This is to encourage them to look up words they don’t know to increase their vocabulary and have a better understanding of what they are reading and to share the words with the other kids to help increase each others vocabulary.