Managing Main Lessons with Multiples: 5th and 7th grade combined unit on China
By Barbara Benson
There are times in the main lessons scheduled throughout the grades when combining a main lesson for multiple ages is actually ideal. One of these times is the unit study on Ancient China, highlighted in the Fifth Grade Syllabus and the study of the geography of Asia, described in A Rough Guide to Seventh Grade. Of course your 7th grader will be covering more than China in Asian geography, but China is certainly a big part of it!
In Donna’s Fifth Grade Syllabus, she outlines a two week study of Ancient China which I believe can dovetail nicely with a 7th grader’s study of geography. In the first week of the 5th grade schedule, the time is largely devoted to the geography of China. Both of your children can create a map of China but the map that your 7th grader makes will be more detailed and could encompass a study of eco-regions and other climate and seasonal factors. When I did this main lesson with my daughters, one of their good questions was why the capital of China was not in the center of the country. After a closer inspection of the central geography of China, we understood why! Another interesting focus for both children and especially your 7th grader, is to compare the size and population of China to North America. It is also fascinating to note that 1/10th of China’s land feeds the largest population in the world.
Certainly your older child can also enjoy some of the stories about Confucius in the first week of the 5th grade schedule, or if this has already been covered in her fifth grade year, the older child can go ahead and take a specific province that interests her and create a report on both Ancient and Modern China focusing on people/culture, natural resources and products. A map and longer report could take the older child two weeks to complete. Another alternative is to do a more detailed report and map on the importance of the Silk Route.
The second week in the fifth grade syllabus focuses on Taoism, Buddhism, and the emperors of China. Your 7th grader can expand this by looking more deeply at dynastic periods and perhaps mapping them on an historical map she creates. Another option is to study the history using a resource like the Jackdaw Publication: China :A Cultural History (www.jackdaw.com). Certainly, an exploration of China geographically and culturally includes a field trip to a good art museum if possible for both children to be exposed to the artistic treasures of China. Have each child sketch something from the visit.