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Activity 2.3: A Restoration reading lesson

This activitiy provides ideas to recreate a typical reading lesson in the Restoration period.

For this activity, you will need to have made hornbooks (see Activity 2.2).  If there is not time to do this, display an image of a hornbook on the interactive whiteboard.

NB: Learning to read in the seventeenth century involved reading religious texts, such as the Lord's Prayer.  Children also had to chant a prayer before they recited the alphabet.  If you feel it would not be appropriate to do this with your class, miss out these parts of the lesson and concentrate on chanting the alphabet and the simple syllables.

  1. Explain that you are going to go back in time, and experience what lessons would have been like in a petty school during the seventeenth century.
  1. Arrange the chairs in rows, with all children facing you.  Most children would not have desks, so move these aside, if you can.  The picture below shows a typical classroom arrangement.  The second boy from the left is reading a hornbook.

  1. Explain that rules in the petty school were often very strict.  Children were not allowed to talk, unless the teacher asked them a question.
  1. Ask the children to hold up their hornbooks, or display an image of the hornbook on an interactive whiteboard (click on the image to display a larger version).  Point at the cross on your own hornbook, and ask the children to repeat the following words after you, line by line:
Christ's cross be my speed
In all virtue to proceed.
  1. Chant sections of the alphabet, pausing for the children to repeat it after you.  When you come to the ampersand figure ('&') chant 'and per se', ('per se' means 'by itself' in Latin).  Next, chant the syllables that appear below the alphabet, and finish this with the words, 'In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.'
  1. The syllables printed on the hornbook, called the syllabarium, are simply a guide to starting the process of chanting combinations of vowels and consonants.  Children would go through all possible combinations made up of one vowel and one consonant, chanting the sounds they made.  You could try some of this if you have time. 
  1. To finish, say the Lord's Prayer together.  Explain that the children would have learned this from memory.
Return to Activity Pack 2: School life in Restoration England

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