Grade 6: Roman History Block

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We spent five full weeks on Ancient Rome, covering the founding of the city through the fall of the empire. This block was definitely a departure from how we have done school in the past and I feel a line has been drawn between grammar school and middle school. Although our overall focus was still heavy with art and story, I added in more traditional academic elements such as spelling/vocabulary words, quizzes and open-ended discussion questions. I also expanded our artistic media in this block, combining collage, assemblage and coloring with the traditional Waldorf trio of drawing, painting and modeling. Some of our projects were rather large and instead of working in a traditional main lesson book, we bound the work together with yarn at the end of the block.

Vincent liked Rome, however he did not love it like Greece. The material was very heavy at times (plight of the plebeians, endless war, omnipresent slavery, persecution of the Christians) and there was very little to lighten the overall conquering tone. Although our official block has ended, we are continuing with a bit of history during our current block (business math) by working on our ongoing timeline project and also continuing to read A Little History of the World. You can see more details about both of these endeavors in the “Vincent” section of this post.

Resources:

  • The Library at Alexandria, Kelly Trumble – This book was an unexpected gem I found at the library. It made a nice segue between Greece and Rome, and gives a wonderful, big picture view of the ancient world primarily through biographical vignettes of philosophers, mathematicians and scientists who studied at the Library.
  • Ancient Rome, Charles Kovacs – I found Kovacs slightly tiring this time around. He gave a thorough impression of Rome overall, but was too heavy-handed in my opinion. He also adds quite a bit of early British history which we skipped.
  • Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare (audio narrated by Jim Weiss) – We listened to Act III which contains Caesar’s murder and Brutus’ and Antony’s subsequent speeches. It was pure pleasure listening to the spoken word – that Shakespeare, he could write.
  • Calendar Art, Leonard Everett Fisher – This is an amazing series of books with incredible graphics and great information. We explored how the calendar changed over the course of the Roman empire, paying particular attention to the Roman and Julian calendars and also Stonehenge.
  • Jesus, Demi – The text for this book comes straight from the King James version of the Bible and the illustrations are stunning. This was a nice companion piece to studying the historical Jesus.
  • Parables of Jesus, Tomie de Paola – Wonderfully done, as all his books are!
  • City, David Macaulay – It is hard to believe this book is 40 years old. You could really build your entire block around it – so, so good. (Here is a link to the PBS special “Roman City” which is narrated by Macaulay. Excellent!)
  • Roman History, Donna Simmons – I didn’t find this as helpful as her other guides, as it was a first edition and not written specifically for grade 6. It has since been revised, and I’m guessing it is much improved. (PS. If you are buying this used, you want the edition with the Roman colosseum on the cover NOT the Roman soldier.)
  • Story of the World Activity Book: The Middle Ages, Susan Wise Bauer – I had this book left over from my very brief classical homeschooling stint. I used a few coloring pages and the maps were good to use as quizzes.

Projects:

  • Painting Seven Hills of Rome

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  • Drawing of Romulus and Remus with birds (based on my chalkboard drawing above)

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  • Made fasces out of sticks and cardboard axe – This was a great project for illustrating Roman discipline and precision. I gave Vincent the directions to find and cut 12 sticks 10 inches long and 1 stick 15 inches long. We then used an axe template (from SOTW) and covered it in tin foil. We attached it to the stick with big thumbtacks and secured the bundle with twine.

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  • Map of Italy and North Africa – This was the best project of the block in my opinion. I had Vincent cut out a map of Italy and the surrounding land from an old atlas. We then taped the pieces on a big sheet of watercolor paper (18 x 24) and colored the water with blue block crayons. We used two different blues and did it on our uneven wooden floors which added to the overall dimension. I had planned on Vincent painting the land masses with watercolor, but we both really liked the negative effect of the white space. (For more details on this project, see my reply to Emmie in the comments.)

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  • Modeled elephants out of beeswax

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  • Drawing/collage standard with eagle – We used the eagle coloring page from SOTW.

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  • Painted/collaged Cleopatra’s ship – This was a great project too. After painting the sea and sky with watercolors on one day, we mimicked the effect of gold leaf and silver by using metallic paper to collage the boat and oars.

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  • Modeled a cross out of beeswax
  • Timeline (You can see more details about this ongoing project in the “Vincent” section of this post.)

Extras:

  • Check out how Kelley of Our Fine Full Days approached Rome with her son here.

8 thoughts on “Grade 6: Roman History Block

  1. I love all of these projects. A small portion of my job this year is teaching Latin to 6th graders and of course we are studying ancient Rome as well. And my high schooler just finished a several week period on Rome. I always love the art you all include! That map is amazing. We may have to try that!

    • Do you speak Latin? I wouldn’t doubt it. What resources are you using for your students. I’m using Word Roots with Vincent from Critical Thinking Company and I think they leave a lot to be desired. I was working with Vincent and that book yesterday and cringing the entire time. We just started so maybe it will get better.

      The map!! Oh my stars – it is so cool. The photo does not do it justice. I guess I need to confess up front that I LOVE to cut up old books. (Are you cringing? Running from your computer screen? Thinking of reporting me to the MLA and having my Master’s Degree revoked?) Anyway, the template came from a huge old atlas (probably 18 x 24) The map of Italy covered 2 pages so I carefully ripped them out and taped them together. Vincent then cut around italy, the islands and the northern coast of africa. We placed them as accurately as we could on the blank piece of watercolor paper and then taped them down. The we used the block crayons to color around them – really coloring hard around the edges to make sure the land masses had good definition. We carefully pulled up the pieces and voila!

      Art is definitely my focus this year. Jean’s Lively Arts approach changed things for me. I think the facts stay in the brain, but the art goes right to the heart.

      Love to you my sweets.
      S

      • I just saw this reply so sorry! I am using a Montessori resource for Latin called “Keepers of Alexandria” which I am not sure how to order as the school already owned it. I have tried to find it online with no success. I am using an old workbook (not sure of the publisher) for the Roman history part but it does a good overview. I have also worked out of the Word Roots for another special language group, and thought I would love it more than I do.
        Thanks for sharing the info on the map. That is definitely on my to do list for history this year.

  2. Hi Sheila,
    I’ve heard it mentioned before that Rome is heavy. Do you have any thoughts on what you might do differently next time around?
    Thanks for the heads-up about Donna’s “Roman History” guide. I didn’t know she had a second edition, so I’ll make sure I look for that one.
    I’m working on trying to get my head around my first G4 “Man and Animal” block at the moment. Fascinating stuff, but rather confusing and in parts – dare I say it? – strange.
    Blessings to you all,
    Cathy

    • Hey Cathy,
      Rome was heavy – but I think it may be trusting the curriculum. Andrea (Waldorf Salad) is approaching the subject a little differently with her son. I’m sure she will post about it. But I know she read from Kovacs also and had the same reaction I did.

      Man and Animal – yeah, that’s kinda different. LOL. I do not feel like I did that block justice (or botany for that matter). But honestly I didn’t “get” the waldorf approach to science. I am starting to understand in more this year. Just yesterday I read this post of Carrie’s http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/02/28/science-in-waldorf-homeschooling/ and it is really helpful. She recommends Barbara Dewey’s Science booklet and I’m going to get it today.
      Is it starting to warm up down there? We are definitely into autumn up here.
      Love to you.
      Sheila

  3. Pingback: Lesson Plans: January 2014 | Sure as the World

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