Teaching Cleveland
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Elementary School Edition: K-5

Lesson 8

School Days - 1846


Students will examine a sample of educational materials from the 1840s and recreate a 19th century lesson in reading, spelling, or math.



(from reading lesson) engaged, requested, negligent, idle, surly, rebuke, hasten


  1. What subjects did students study in the 1840s classroom?
  2. How did students learn in the 1840s?
  3. What was a classroom like in the 1840s? How is it the same or different from classrooms today?


Choose a grade appropriate lesson and re-enact a class lesson from the 1840s

  1. Distribute the reading - The School Reader, Lesson 1

    Have students read the lesson out loud as a class. Discuss the questions at the end of the story. Explain to students that often morals were incorporated into the reading lesson. What is the moral of this story? How is this story similar or different than the stories they read in their readers today?

    Have students write a story about a problem in society today, incorporating a moral within their story. Encourage them to be creative and to make their story interesting. They may even choose to draw an illustration with their story. They are to highlight the moral of their story. Stories can be shared within small groups or a few of the best may be read before the class.

  2. Distribute the Elementary Spelling Book Handout.

    Have the students recite the spelling words outloud as a class. Have students take turns reciting the sentences. Ask students to identify words that are unfamiliar to them. Choose a few and look them up in the dictionary. Why don't we use them today? Can you think of words that are "new" today? Words perhaps that your parents or grandparents did not use?

    Using their current spelling words, have students recreate Lesson #43 ñ identifying the singular and plural of some of the words and then write a simple sentence for each spelling word.

    Using the current class spelling words, recreate a spelling bee in the classroom. The winner gets to wear the "Champion" ribbon!

  3. Distribute the Arithmetic Handout (Addition Lesson 1 or Multiplication Lesson 1)

    Review the handout with students and have the students read through the lesson orally as a class. For Addition Lesson 1 draw the arithometer on the board and have class recite the lesson under your direction. An Arithometer is a counting instrument used for classroom demonstrations. An example is shown at the end of Addition Lesson 1.

    Ask students what they think Lesson 2 would be about? (the number 2 tables). You can then have students create lesson 2 as a class or ask students to creat one for homework using any number in the table.

  4. Paper was very expensive during the 1840's and books were scarce, let alone paper to write your lessons on. To conserve paper, students wrote their practise lessons on slates with chalk. These could be used over and over again. Distribute copies of the Student Slate Handout. These may be duplicated on heavier board paper or students could cut them out and glue them on to cardboard. They could color the border to look like wood and glue light gray construction paper to resemble slate. Then have students write their favorite math lesson, spelling words, sentences or perhaps a favorite phrase or rhyme on it. Display these around the room.

Special Project Idea: Chalk spray can be purchased at a craft store and student could then construct a re-usable slate.

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