Colonial Fun

We are having a blast with our colonial unit! Last Thursday and Friday, I had several parents volunteer in our classroom for the afternoon. We had several projects planned that the students and I would need help with.

On Thursday, we made colonial caps and cardboard hornbooks. These are both simple projects that are more time consuming that difficult! It was so nice to have the help of some parents, as I could focus on keeping the kids on task and taking lots of pictures 🙂

The boys were a bit skeptical of making the caps, as the hats are quite girly – yet after making them and trying them on, they were all asking to wear them to basketball practice that night! However I knew they would not survive one practice and I wanted them to last at least until open house tomorrow night…

They were quite easy to make. I don’t know exact dimensions, but you simply cut a large circle out of fabric. Measuring in about 2″ from the edge, cut small slits every few inches or so. This is where the ribbon gets weaved in and out of. Once the ribbon has gone the whole way around, have the child place the center of the circle on their head and cinch the ribbon until it fits snugly, then tie it off with a nice bow! I like to use thin red ribbon, as I feel this is the most colonial-like.

I know it’s not the best picture, but you can at least see how the hat looks when it is not on a child’s head!

While the students were not working on the hats, they were creating a hornbook like colonial children used at school. In colonial times these were made of wood; letters and numbers were often carved into one side and a small piece of paper with a Bible verse/proverb was attached to the other side. Do you know why they are called hornbooks?? Colonists used to take the horn of a bull and peel away the outside layer, which was very transparent and provided protection on the wood plank – hence the term “hornbook”!

To make these, I had a parent cut hornbook shapes out of cardboard ahead of time. The students then took a small piece of paper and, in their BEST handwriting, wrote out the alphabet, numbers, a Bible verse, and other appropriate things. They attached these to the front of the cardboard and placed a piece of wax paper on top to simulate the layer of horn. They measured out 4 pieces of ribbon to fit around the edge of the paper as a border, then punched a hole in the handle and tied a piece of yarn that would allow them to be able to wear it around the neck as the colonial children did.

Here is an example of one student’s hornbook – yes, this child’s colonial name is “Cotton” 🙂 PS: The kids got all excited today when they found a picture of an actual colonist named Cotton in one of the books on colonial times in our classroom – they were all yelling to their classmate to make sure he got to see it! So cute!

On Friday, we enjoyed some colonial homemade food; We made both johnnycakes and homemade butter. I split the kids into two groups and had one parent leading each activity, so while one group was making the johnnycakes, the other was making the butter and we switched after both foods were ready to be eaten. This was a great activity to tie in math skills with measuring for the johnnycakes! The kids also worked on a worksheet while shaking the butter where they had to try and match the colonial kitchen tool to its purpose – not nearly as easy as it seems!

We cooked the johnnycakes on an electric griddle which was perfect because they cooked quickly. We served them with honey – delicious! The kids loved them and could have scarfed down 10 more! The butter simply involved shaking a jar of heavy cream until it turned into something butter-like. One of the parents had baked fresh bread for us, so we enjoyed the butter with the bread. Most of the kids liked it; we had enough that they were able to take some home to share with their families. We talked about how this butter is different from the kind they purchase at the grocery store.

Here is one of the johnnycakes – we had a little left over, so they asked me to make Mickey Mouse and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Looks good, doesn’t it?!

Here is one of my students busy shaking the butter jar. They took 2-minute turns and were complaining of sore arms after only 30 seconds!

What kinds of activities do you enjoy doing with your students? Do they ever get wound up or out of control? Mine were so excited it was hard to keep them calm, but we made it work 🙂


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