Saturday, October 16, 2010

Three Musketeers Week 6: What's Up, Duke?

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.

HOMEWORK: Today we reviewed all our French and also learned how to ask someone their name and tell someone our names. We practiced on each other -- my, we're getting polite.

DISCUSSION: Our review of the reading comprehension from last week led us straight into our topic for today: Queen Anne. We learned her life story, and the background gave us a lot of insight into why she is found in the predicament Dumas creates for her. Learning about the real stories of historical figures that appear in this novel forces us to examine the way Dumas uses his material -- where he stretches the truth, where he invents, and where he uses real events to move his plot along. Queen Anne was a child bride, uprooted from her country and culture, and she was doing the best she could. It's my reading that Dumas treated her pretty well in the novel -- she seems like a victim trying to survive the royal turmoil. That may be a kind presentation.

In the junior class we talked about how in lots of movies (I used Shrek as an example, but lots of the kids had also seen The Princess Bride, which is another good one) a princess is being forced to marry someone she doesn't love. They all recognized this trope and agreed that arranged marriages were wrong and troubling. We talked about how usually in stories or movies, someone rescues the princess at the last minute and she doesn't have to marry the bad guy. In Queen Anne's life though, no one rescued her. No one busted down the doors of the church at the last minute, no one swept her away, no fairy godmother helped her, and she had to marry that guy she didn't know or love. So we can understand why she met someone later in her life that she did fall in love with, since her marriage was so unfair and not based on love. I think they get it.

ACTIVITIES: We had a wonderful time dancing and singing today, and in fact learned the very beginning step of what will become our minuet. The kids were great at this! They should practice at home -- any song in 3/4 meter would be appropriate for practicing. If they've forgotten the step, maybe the phrase "Step step step, tap tap tap" will help bring it back.


In the senior class, we acted out the arrest of M. Bonacieux:

Characters: D'Artagnan, Athos, Porthos, Aramis, Bonacieux, Guards

Action: D'Artagnan and the three musketeers are sitting around his house, just partying like it's 1632, when M. Bonacieux busts in and begs for their help in finding his kidnapped wife.

Bonacieux: Help! My wife's been kidnapped! And now they're after me.
D'Artagnan: We'll protect you, no matter what.

But oh no! Here come the guards to arrest M. Bonacieux. D'Artagnan not only refuses to help him, he encourages the guards to take him away!

Bonacieux: Help! Help! They've got me! Help me!
D'Artagnan: That's right, guards. Do your job. Take this man to the Bastille!

Porthos is outraged, but D'Artagnan explains that they can do more good for M. Bonacieux if they are not arrested with him, as they surely would be if they'd fought for his freedom.

In the junior class, the kids are a bit farther along in the plot, so we acted out the Duke's visit to the Louvre.

Characters: D'Artagnan, Constance, Duke of Buckingham, Queen, Scar-faced man, Cardinal Richelieu, King.

Action: We set up the room as best we could and used our imaginations, but we basically needed a doorway, a street, a bridge, the Queen's chamber, Cardinal Richelieu's office, and the King's office. When we started out, the Queen, the Cardinal, and the King were in their places, Constance was outside the door, the Duke of Buckingham was on the bridge, and D'Artagnan was inside the door. We also had a box of diamonds.

Constance (coming through the door): I escaped my captors!
D'Artagnan: How?
Constance: I tied my bedsheets together and went out the window!
D'Artagnan: Why were you kidnapped in the first place?
Constance: That's not my secret to tell. In fact, I have to go!
D'Artagnan: Let me go with you!
Constance: No, stay here. I have to go by myself.

Constance sets off on the streets of Paris and D'Artagnan sneaks behind. As she reaches the bridge, the Duke of Buckingham puts his arm around her and D'Artagnan protests.

D'Artagnan: Hey! What are you doing? Get your hands off her.
Constance: No, this is the Duke of Buckingham. I was sent here to meet him.
D'Artagnan: Oh, sorry! What can I do to help?
Duke: Follow us to the Louvre and protect us.

So the three of them set off to the Louvre with D'Artagnan guarding the rear. They enter the queen's chamber.

Duke: Oh you're so beautiful, so wonderful, blah blah blah.
Queen: Yes, yes, but we can never be together.
Duke: NOOOOOOooooooOOOOOOooooo!
Queen: Well, I'll give you a present to remember me by.

The queen gives the duke her diamonds. The scar-faced man, who had been hiding in a corner, snuck off to tell Cardinal Richelieu.

Scar-faced man: Hey, the queen just gave the Duke of Buckingham her diamonds!
Richelieu: Ah, that gives me an idea.

Richelieu goes to visit the king.

Richelieu: Hey, I have an idea -- why don't you have a party for the queen. She can wear the diamonds you gave her -- it'll be awesome!
King: That's a great idea.

The king goes to visit the queen.

King: Hey, I have an idea. I'm going to throw you a party. Make sure you wear your diamonds!
Queen: NOOOOoooOOOOOooo!!

If it seems complicated, consider we did this four times, mixing the parts around so everyone got a chance to be the part they most wanted to be. It was so much fun, and I was amazed with the kids, their awareness of the storyline, and their ability to take on these roles and really ham it up.

POETRY: Today we read "More Strong Than Time" by Victor Hugo so we could compare the love scene that Dumas wrote between the Queen and the Duke with Hugo's love poetry. The kids did a great job understanding this poem and were very good readers. I'm interested to see what they will think of some of the lines that Dumas gave the Duke compared to Hugo's images.

ASSIGNMENT: Here are the vocabulary words:


And the reading comprehension questions:

D’Artagnan makes the same promise to Constance that the Duke of Buckingham makes to the queen. What is it?
What object does D’Artagnan keep noticing, and what initials are embroidered on it?
Why was Athos arrested?
What does the Duke of Buckingham tell D’Artagnan to do?
How many times has the Duke seen the Queen before?
What does he plan to do in order to see her more often?

I'd like them to consider if they'd let themselves get arrested for a friend, and think about Athos' sacrifice for D'Artagnan. Was it wise for him to be arrested, given how fierce the Cardinal was, and how unjust the justice system could be at the time?

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Three Musketeers Week 5: The Mousetrap

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.

HOMEWORK: We tried reciting the days of the week in French today, and also learned how to say "I'm awesome!" which is very important for a Gascon. We went over some vocab from last week, specifically lackey, bourgeious, apprehended, swaggering, and rendezvous. We also traded sketches and tried to identify each others' musketeers. Some of the students are brilliant caricature artists!

One of our most interesting points from the reading comprehension involved dissecting the phrase: "In prosperity one should sow meals right and left, in order to harvest some in adversity." This is a musketeer's idea of a savings account! How nuts is that? A very Alexandre Dumas type sentiment, we decided.

DISCUSSION: Today we discussed the Louvre, from its beginnings as a medieval castle on the banks of the Seine through its use as a royal palace as it was during the time of the Three Musketeers, to its current life as an art museum. The kids have some assignments on their worksheets relating to the most famous treasures in the Louvre.

ACTIVITIES: In the senior class, I had the kids choreograph a ten-move fight scene. They split their paper into two sides, and then figured out and wrote down ten moves for each side of the battle. Then they went outside to practice and fine-tune their moves.

In both classes, we talked about passwords and the different situations in which they are used, like Constance and D'Artagnan used a password to get D'Artagnan recognized at the Louvre. In the junior class, we played Password, which is just like "Telephone" in that you try and whisper a three word password around the circle and get it safely around without any changes. We had a lot of fun with that.

Another game we played in the junior class was designed to get them started reacting to the literature in a thoughtful way. We sat in a circle and passed a ball around. When each child held the ball, it was his or her turn to speak. The first round we had to say the name of any character from the book. The second round we had to say the name of a character and then whether they were a hero or a villain. The final round we had to say our favorite character and why. It was fascinating to me to see these children, as young as five, really thinking about their choice. Several of them chose Milady DeWinter as their favorite, and when asked why, Elsa for example said, "Because she's powerful and knows how to get things done." I thought that was pretty insightful. Those who chose D'Artagnan as a favorite seemed a little horrified that anyone would pick the scar-faced man, for example. But I could tell from the discussion that they are all reading and all absorbing the material -- excellent.

ASSIGNMENT: I challenged the students to set a password with a friend or relative, so that in case they needed to send a message to that person, they could verify that it was an authentic message. We also had these vocab words to look up:

Writ server

And these reading comprehension questions on chapters 9 and 10:

What two countries does the Queen love, and why?
The scarred man mistook Aramis and the doctor’s niece for two other people. Who?
Why is Porthos upset with D’Artagnan after Bonacieux is arrested?
What is a 17th century mousetrap?
D’Artagnan listens to a lot of interrogations without interrupting. But when does he interrupt?
Who is D’Artagnan’s alibi?

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Three Musketeers Week 4: Lackeys and Abduction

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.

We began class today reviewing our French vocabulary and checking out our homework and reading comprehension. The students had put some effort into their visions of the abandoned monastery, and we contrasted their ideas with the ones in the video clip I sent out in email. Here's that video. One of the most important things to absorb from this reading is the fun, witty patter the combatants toss around during the preparations for the duel, which is paid homage in a scene from The Princess Bride -- and you can see that video here. Fun stuff!

DISCUSSION: We talked last week about Victor Hugo and how he wrote more serious intellectual drama and Dumas wrote more popular entertainment and adventure. We talked today about the similarities in The Three Musketeers and popular stories, even fairy tales or bedtime stories. What common elements could we find in this novel and some of our most familiar stories? Damsels in distress, sword fights, chase scenes, very easily identifiable villains and heroes, uncomplicated good guys and bad guys, kings, queens, palaces, secrets, etc. One of the most obvious of these elements, and yet the most difficult to identify, is the number three and the repetition connected to that number. We all remembered "The Three Bears" and "The Three Little Pigs" as well as all the things that come in threes in plot lines of familiar tales. We'll see as we go forward that not only are there three musketeers, but there will be repetitions in threes in the action as well. This was very challenging material for the kids, and even the junior class was able to follow this discussion, and did a great job making this connection.

POETRY: We read the Victor Hugo poem "The Grave and the Rose." I gave them an English translation below the French poem on the page, and we compared how difficult it is to tell who is speaking in the English version, compared to the original French. We continue to look at different challenges of reading literature in translation, and this is one of them. I assigned the children to use two colors of highlighter or colored pencil to delineate the speakers in the quoted parts of the poem.

We also worked on the second line of "Demain des l'aube" and put the first two lines together.

ACTIVITIES: We sang our songs inside today -- no dancing around in the rain for us, but that's okay. It gave us more time to look at the French. We did Il Court le Furet, Sur le Pont d'Avignon, and le Petit Prince, and the junior class also worked on Claire de Lune. No swordfighting today either due to the rain, although the junior class still managed to slash and cleave a little bit!

ASSIGNMENT: On the worksheet for today are four ovals. I'd like the students to draw the faces of the four main characters on those ovals, using whatever props or clues they can draw so that they can trade with a partner and be able to identify which face goes with which character. Here are the vocabulary words they should find and highlight in the text:


And here are the reading comprehension questions for chapters 7 and 8.

Who is Athos’ lackey, and what rule does Athos enforce with him?
Who is Porthos’ lackey, and what does he look like?
Who is Aramis’ lackey, and what three problems does he have?
What does this mean: “In prosperity one should sow meals right and left, in order to harvest some in adversity.”
According to the landlord, what is the queen’s situation?
What person does the landlord suspect of kidnapping his wife?