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Weekly Writing Activities

For Language Arts and History-Social Studies

Created by Mary B. Reid

Exploration 

Colonization

 Bill  of Rights 

Cleopatra 

Alexander The Great 

The Great Wall of China 

  Cities

 Sojourner Truth

Reconstruction

The Gold Rush The Fertile Crescent  Industrial Revolution

Exploration

BACKGROUND:
The Renaissance was a time for the “rebirth” of learning.  New ideas and inventions contributed to the Age of Exploration and Discovery.  Along with trade in the Middle East and the increase of political power and wealth among the European countries, exploration flourished.  Early European explorers to North America were Bjarni Herjulfsson and Leif Ericsson.  Great explorations funded by the Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, French, and English occurred during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  Explorers included Marco Polo, Magellan, Cortes, Columbus, Pizarro, Cabot, Drake, Hudson, Cartier, and Joliet.

WRITING ACTIVITY:
Create a Venn Diagram which compares/contrasts two explorers.

TO ASSIST YOU:

WRITE A BIOGRAPHICAL PIECE BASED ON A VENN DIAGRAM:
You are a biographer.  Your publisher is creating an anthology of famous explorers.  You have been given the option of writing a biographical piece that discusses either the similarities of two explorers or their differences.

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Colonization
BACKGROUND:
Explorers to the New World brought back to Europe wonderful stories about the potential wealth which could be taken from their discoveries.  These stories, coupled with social, political, economic, and religious troubles in Europe, made colonization and the settlement of land in North America attractive enough to become possible.  At first, small groups of Europeans traveled by ship and started colonies such as Jamestown in Virginia and Plymouth in Massachusetts.  As the settlements prospered, new waves of immigrants followed.  By 1733, thirteen British colonies were established along the eastern coast.  The French had settled along the St. Lawrence and Mississippi Rivers and the Spanish in Central and South America and along the west coast.

WRITING ACTIVITY:
Write a science-fiction story about colonization.

TO ASSIST YOU:

WRITE A STORYBOARD...
You have been hired by Steven Spielberg to transcribe the science-fiction story on colonization into a cartoon feature film.

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Bill of Rights
BACKGROUND:

The United States Constitution, created in 1787, is the fundamental law of the land.  It provides the basic framework for government.  In 1791, ten changes, or amendments, were added to the Constitution in order to protect the rights of citizens.  These specified rights include freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to a fair trial, and the right to bear arms.

WRITING ACTIVITY:
Write a ten-item Bill of Rights for stuffed animals.

TO ASSIST YOU:

WRITE A SPEECH...

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The Gold Rush
BACKGROUND:
 Johann Sutter, A Swiss immigrant, settled in the Sacramento River Valley in California and built a cattle ranch and tannery.  In 1848, James Marshall, who was at work building a water-powered sawmill for Sutter, found gold on the property.  By 1849, the California Trail was crowded with “forty-niners” heading west to “strike it rich.”  Over ninety thousand people traveled the overland route or came by water around Cape Horn in hopes of finding gold.  The Gold Rush stimulated the building of clipper ships and contributed to the rapid settlement of the west.

WRITING ACTIVITY:
Create a series of newspaper and broadside advertisements for a competition between “overland” and “around the Horn” transportation to the gold fields of California.

TO ASSIST YOU:

WRITE A LETTER...
You are a young person with “gold fever.”  You are being bombarded by ads for various ways to get to California.

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Cities
BACKGROUND:
Cities developed when and where enough food and wealth had accumulated for people to stay in one place.  This wealth made it possible for these people to trade for or buy the things they needed like food, goods, and services.  As more people gathered and became specialists in a variety of areas, farming around the new city increased as did trade within and throughout the city.  In the past, cities grew where trade routes crossed or at or near the mouths of rivers.  In more recent times, cities have been founded where people decided they wanted or needed them.  Technology made it possible to bring food and services to the site.  Older cities like Cairo in Egypt, Shanghai, London, and Calcutta began in the traditional way.  Newer cities like Brasilia, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, and New Delhi are located where people decided to place them.

WRITING ACTIVITY:
Write a plan defending your choice for the site of the new capital of the world.

TO ASSIST YOU:

WRITE AN EXPLANATION...
You are the Secretary General of the United Nations.

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The Fertile Crescent
BACKGROUND:
The crescent-shaped land, located in Asia from the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf in the valley between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, is said to be the birthplace of one of the first civilizations.  More than 5,000 years ago, the Sumerians chose to develop this area because of its rich soil, which was suitable for farming.  Later civilizations such as Babylonia, Assyria, and Phoenicia began here also.

WRITING ACTIVITY:
Create a brochure to publicize the availability of “dig” sites in the Fertile Crescent for professional and advanced amateur archaeologists.

TO ASSIST YOU:

WRITE AN ABSTRACT...
You are an archaeologist who has just returned from a “dig” in the Fertile Crescent.

OR... WRITE A BUSINESS LETTER...

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Cleopatra
BACKGROUND:
Cleopatra (69-30 B.C.) was queen of Egypt from 51 B.C. until her death.  She became queen, or co-ruler, of Egypt after the death of her father and her marriage to her brother, Ptolemy XIII.  Ptolemy was deposed by his guardians, and Cleopatra was banished.  She returned as queen after the death of Ptolemy XIII and the defeat of her enemies by Julius Caesar and a Roman army.  She fell in love with Caesar and had her younger brother, Ptolemy XIV, who was now her husband, killed so she and her son by Caesar could rule Egypt.  Caesar was murdered in Rome while she was there.  A few years later Cleopatra fell in love with Mark Antony.  She wanted her children by Caesar or Antony to become the next in line to rule Rome.  When Antony and Octavian were in a civil war over who should rule Rome, rumors spread that Cleopatra had committed suicide.  Antony stabbed himself in grief.  Unable to reach an agreement with Octavian regarding peace and the future rights of her children, Cleopatra killed herself by allowing an asp, a poisonous snake, to bite her.

WRITING ACTIVITY:
As a stand-up comic, write five jokes or funny riddles about Cleopatra's life.

TO ASSIST YOU:

WRITE A LIMERICK OR CLERIHEW...

You are Cleopatra's fool.  You must create a limerick or clerihew about Cleopatra which will not get you beheaded.

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Alexander The Great
BACKGROUND:
Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.) was one of history's greatest generals.  At twenty, he became king of the Macedonians after the murder of his father, Philip II, by one of Philip's bodyguards.  Alexander brought Greece, Asia Minor, most of the Mediterranean basin, and even part of India under Macedonian control and influence.  By doing so, he spread the Hellenistic culture and created the so-called Golden Age of Greek history.

WRITING ACTIVITY:
Create an autobiography which Alexander had been in the process of writing.  This document has been found in his supposed tomb.  In it, he wrote about and commented on his life and accomplishments.  It begins with his earliest memories about home life and continues until just before his death.

TO ASSIST YOU:

WRITE A TALL TALE...
You are a storyteller.  You want to preserve the story of Alexander the Great's life and accomplishments, so you create an original tall tale.

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The Great Wall of China
BACKGROUND:
The Great Wall of China is the world's longest man-made structure.   It was built by hand over a period of time from the 600's B.C. through the 1400's A.D.  Though it was not built as one piece, its purpose was to protect China from invasion from the north.  Because of this, its several smaller sections were finally joined into an approximately 4,000-mile-long structure.  The wall crosses mountains, rivers, and valleys following the contour of the land and is thought by some Chinese to resemble a dragon protecting their homelandLarge portions of the wall consist of a causeway connecting watchtowers every 100 to 200 yards apart.  The causeway is up to 35 feet above the ground and can be as wide as twenty feet in places where the base of the wall is about 25 feet wide.  Over the Centuries, sections of the wall have fallen into ruin, and an extensive restoration program has been ongoing since 1949.   Today the Great Wall of China does not keep invaders out, but attracts them as tourists.

WRITING ACTIVITY:
Write a song lyric in which the dragon is a metaphor for the Great Wall and its role and troubles throughout history.

TO ASSIST YOU:

WRITE A MYTH...
You are a writer of children's books for a major publisher in China.

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Sojourner Truth
BACKGROUND
Sojourner Truth (1797?-1883) was the name used by the first black woman orator to speak out publicly against slavery.  Her real name was Isabella Baumfree.   Born a slave, she was freed in 1827.  By 1843 she believed that God had given her the charge to speak out against slavery.  She took the name Sojourner Truth while travelling throughout New England and the Midwest speaking and lecturing, first about the love of God and concern for her fellow man, and later in favor of abolishing slavery.  In 1864, she met with President Lincoln in Washington, D.C., where she stayed to work for the betterment of blacks.   She also lobbied Congress after the Civil War to reserve underdeveloped lands in the west for farms for blacks.  This proposal did not get government support.

WRITING ACTIVITY:
As a United States senator who was a friend of Sojourner Truth and who supported her proposal regarding western lands, write a letter to Sojourner explaining how and why the idea failed.

TO ASSIST YOU:

WRITE A SPEECH...

You are Sojourner Truth.   Write a speech to be given in the Congress of the United States to help lobby support for the cause of your proposal regarding western lands for blacks.

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Reconstruction
BACKGROUND:
The period following the American Civil War, from 1865-1877, is known as Reconstruction.   At that time, the goals of the government were to reconstitute relations between the Union and Confederate states, rebuild the war-torn South, and provide laws protecting the rights of freed slaves.  Many controversies developed during this period.   There was heated debate over the criteria for readmission of Confederate states into the Union.  Southern whites had difficulty accepting black equality.   Southern governments lacked the financial support to recover economically.   Lincoln's assassination occurred one week after the end of the Civil War.   Although Lincoln had established a Reconstruction plan, the new President, Andrew Johnson, wanted to use his own program.  In both programs, slavery was to be abolished, but Johnson's allowed for no specific role for blacks.  Efforts were made to eliminate Southern white control.  The thirteenth and fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution were ratified by Congress, the Civil Rights Act was passed, and the Freedmen's Bureau was established to build schools, hospitals, and jobs for freed slaves.   Southern whites, however, gained control of state governments.  They developed Black Codes, which regulated and limited black involvement in business, voting, and land ownership.  Groups like the Ku Klux Klan formed to oppose equality for blacks, and violent racial attacks became the norm.  It wasn't until the second half of the twentieth century that blacks began to be granted the rights bequeathed to them during Reconstruction.

WRITING ACTIVITY:
Create a crossword puzzle for an American history class attending school in the 1870's.   The crossword puzzle must include as many words related to the Reconstruction period as possible.  The crossword puzzle grid must be square and no smaller than ten spaces by ten spaces and no longer than twenty spaces by twenty spaces.

TO ASSIST YOU:

CREATE A CROSSWORD PUZZLE#2...
It is one hundred and twenty years after Reconstruction.  You are to create a crossword puzzle related to contemporary civil rights.  In your puzzle you are to use current words and include as many words from the Reconstruction period that are still applicable.

OR...

Use the 1870's crossword puzzle grid.  Reword the clues to fit the years 1965 to the present.

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Industrial Revolution
BACKGROUND:
The American Industrial Revolution took place during the nineteenth century.   Tremendous growth in business and technology occurred.  Machines replaced hand tools, and factories hired men, women, and children for six-day work weeks and 18-hour days.  Many worked for $2.00 per week or less.  The first textile mill was built in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.  Steel, created by the Bessemer process, was being turned out by factories in 1865.  Inventions and improvements in machinery made factory life the dominant way of living for the poor.  The newest immigrants from Ireland, Wales, and Germany became the labor force.

WRITING ACTIVITY:
The year is 1901.  Write a persuasive speech for a banker or investor to deliver.   The speech is intended to support investment in the building of new factories.

TO ASSIST YOU:

CREATE A RALLYING SONG...
You are an organizer of the opposition to more factory development.  Your opposition is based on overcrowding, poor housing, pollution, etc.  You have heard the speech.