Thursday, September 09, 2010

Three Musketeers: Week 1: In Which We Learn to Swear in French

Welcome! This blog post is related to my Three Musketeers class at our homeschool co-op, Homeschool Out of the Box. We have an academic section, reading Richard Pevear's translation of the book, and an enrichment section, reading the Usborne Young Readers' abridgement of the story. For all lesson plans related to this class, click the Three Musketeers tag at the bottom of this post.
OPENING: We began our class by throwing our books on the floor and seeing what a satisfyingly loud and intimidating sound they made. I explained to the kids that this is a very hard book, very challenging for them to read, and that they wouldn't normally be expected to read it until they're in high school or even later, but I expect them to read it now, and I know they can! Then we learned a swear in French. One of the great things about the Pevear translation, for teaching purposes, is that he leaves some of the exclamations in French. Today we learned to exclaim "Sangdieu!" just like the musketeers do, and I comforted (or disappointed) the children by telling them that this is a mild swear, along the lines of "crap" or even "yikes." One translator suggested "Gadzooks!" So having thrown our books on the floor and hollered "Sangdieu!" we began class.
FRENCH: Our French words for today:
bonjour (hello)
salut (hi)
au revoir (goodbye)
a bientot (see you later)
We'll be adding more French every week! But no more swears. Well, maybe two or three more. But then no more.
BOOK DISCUSSION: Each class will include some discussion of the chapters of the book we read for the day. I want to spend some time each week going over what might be confusing or interesting about what they read, and also giving them a preview of what they're going to read next. The key to getting them through this book will be to give them plot signposts to recognize and ancillary historical information to make the book seem familiar as they go through it.
Historical stuff: Today, since we hadn't read any book yet, we looked at the map of France, talked about how Gascony was a relatively wild and untamed area in 1630, one of the last areas of France to be conquered and subdued by the French nation. Dumas himself was from Gascony, and so it is with love and respect that he characterizes the Gascon as a feisty and unruly type of guy. We talked about how our hero, D'Artagnan, was always cruising for a fight, and fancied himself a tough and dangerous guy. We also talked about how there were different regiments and armies within France, some connected to important nobles, some connected to cities or regions, and then the two main rivals: the Cardinal's guard and the King's musketeers.
Plot stuff: We talked for a while about what it might be like to leave home to seek your fortune, in 1630. There wouldn't be cell phones or internet or even telephones. There wouldn't be a post office with mailboxes on the corner so you could write home to Mom. There wouldn't be newspapers so you could keep track of what was going on back in your home town. It would be a very different prospect than you might face today, and I asked the kids to think about what they might take with them if they were going on such a journey. We also talked about the dangers and benefits of going somewhere new, where no one knows you -- this might be an exciting chance to reshape your identity, but it also might be scary to know there's no door you can knock on for aid if you get in trouble.
We learned three songs and dances today:
Le Empereur et le Petit Prince
Il Court le Furet
Sur le Pont D'Avignon
To learn them, we're using the versions by Petit Ours Brun. If your child is burning to hear them again, you can download MP3 versions from here. I'm sure they're on iTunes too. We'll be mixing it up a little later on, doing our own version with guitar, but for now I need my hands free so I can dance with them and show them the (awesome) moves.
Today we talked about having a motto, and the kids came up with great definitions. On their worksheets there are five examples of mottoes in Latin for them to look up and translate:

Semper Fidelis (The Marine Corps)
Citius, Altius, Fortius (The Olympics)
Per Mare, Per Terrum (Royal Marines)
Semper Paratus (US Coast Guard)
Carpe Diem
If they've got through all those, here is a page with more Latin mottoes from the time. I gave the kids the assignment of coming up with their own personal motto. Maybe they will get some ideas from that page, or invent their own! It doesn't have to be in Latin.
We learned two big words today: pronate and supinate. Pronate means a position of the sword hand with the knuckles up, and supinate means a position of the sword hand with knuckles down. When you slash, the direction follows the little finger, if that makes sense. So a pronate slash goes from your left to right, and a supinate slash goes from your right to left. We learned how to salute, how to do slashes both ways, and how to do a thrust, where your hand goes from supinate to pronate. This is all we'll be working on this week and next week -- just in different combinations. Then we will add decapitation and we'll be done! Just kidding. We will not be adding decapitation.
Disclaimer: I do not know fencing! I do not know medieval swordplay! What I do know is how to give the children vocabulary to use to describe the moves I want them to safely make so that we can choreograph an awesome battle and have lots of fun! I will try not to directly violate any kind of fencing rules, and if I do, I am open to correction.
Here are their vocabulary words for next week. They are to highlight them in their books and look up or ask for definitions as necessary.

I also gave them some musketeer words to look up and draw. We'll have vocabulary words every week for them to "treasure hunt" in the assigned chapters.
The children are to read chapters 1 and 2 in the Pevear, or chapter 1 in the Usborne. Here are their reading comprehension questions (these are also in their notebooks):

1. What three gifts did D’Artagnan’s father give to him before he set off for Paris?
2. Why did D’Artagnan get angry at the unknown man in Meung?
3. How did D’Artagnan misrepresent himself to the strangers in Meung?
4. What was Monsieur Treville’s father’s motto?
5. What surprised D’Artagnan about the men hanging out in Monsieur Treville’s antechamber?
It's not at all necessary for them to write down the answers for these. I won't be collecting anything. Just some questions we'll be discussing in class, and again something for them to seek out in the book to make the text more manageable and accessible.

1 comment:

  1. Lydia, I can't wait to start this book! We're doing it right after we finish your Treasure Island unit. I am so impressed with your enthusiasm and care with these literature projects. Aeneid is still beyond my attempts at the moment. I will wait until summer I think. Enjoying your little co-op vicariously from Germany, Drue