October 24, 2006

American Girl Kirsten Lesson Plan

In our homeschool cooperative American Girl class we recently studied Kirsten. Several of the girls came in pioneer clothing, aprons and bonnets. They were much more interactive in this class because they knew more about the time period. I changed my teaching approach and basically threw out my lesson plan and simply asked leading questions to have them show they already knew the answers to many of the questions. We did spend some time talking about what it would be like to move so far during that time and how little they could really bring with them. How they would likely be only able to pick one special toy to bring with them. The girls shared what they would bring and we talked some about what life was like then. I also shared a poem in Swedish which I am sure I did not do accurately but I faked it okay. I have some Scandinavian blood in me so maybe that helped. Once again one of the girls had the doll we were discussing and brought her to share with us.

As class has gone on we have decreased the "talk time" so we have more activity and craft time. This seems to work well because they get more hands on experiences and we talk to them as they work about the craft or activity they are doing and how it would have been done and used during the time period. For our activities this time the girls made yarn dolls, painted wooden spoons and worked on sewing a patchwork pillow. We talked about how they wasted nothing and that is why they would use items like yarn and leftover material to make their toys.

The yarn dolls were very easy to make with simple materials, especially since I am knitter and crocheter my yarn stash is happy to release some yarn. We followed a pattern out of Kirsten's craft book but here is another version slightly different from the one we followed. I had a variety of colors for the girls to choose from and we did it all without glue. They tied hair and bows into the hair - some tied faces on as well - others opted to wait until they could glue theirs on at home. Somehow we forgot to have glue with us. While we worked on the dolls I talked to the girls about how and why girls during that time would make yarn dolls.

For the spoons, my co-teacher had pre-painted them a solid color ahead of time, so the spoons had time to dry. The girls then were able to paint different Swedish designs onto their personal spoon and left them to dry before bringing them home. This activity showed some of the traditional items that came from Sweden.

For the final station they had the opportunity to start a patchwork pillow though there was no way we had enough time for them to finish this activity - they were able to take it home with them if they wanted to keep working on it but at least they started it. We talked about why things were made of patches (not wasting anything) and how young children started sewing (around 4) and the girls realized how much hard work it was. We also talked about "bees" and how over time the work would be easy and mindless and the women and girls could visit and talk while they got their work done.

I am really enjoying this class and watching history come alive for the girls. Having the girls interact with history and relate to girls their age across time as they learn about some of what has come before and brought us to where we are. Rhiannon and I often have discussions about what she likes during a time period and what she dislikes and whether she is glad to live now or wishes there was another time she lived in? So far every time there may be a few things she really liked (usually related to how they dress) but overall she is very glad she lives now and realizes how blessed she is to live in this time and how easy things have gotten for us.

For history lately we have been studying Rome and Greece. She has been very interested in the ancient Greeks and ancient Romans so we have just let her run with it and read as she wants to in non-fiction books. Some of the hardness and toughness of the age and times really affects her. She struggled when she read about how they treated imperfect babies and how different boys and girls and men and women were treated. She really struggled today when she read that some girls were married around the age of 12 and she looked at me and said that is in just 5 years for me mom. I assured her that she would not be marrying at age 12 and we talked some about the differences from then and now.

It is amazing to me to watch her interact with history and watch her brain and heart work as she discovers not only history but some of herself, who she is, who she could become and how choices affect who and what she is to be. To see this in these girls is one of the reasons I love teaching this class!



  1. Anonymous10:38 AM

    Hi, I found this link while googling some American Girl stuff. That sounds like a fun class you teach! I've been a huge fan of AG since I was 11 and I still collect and play with my dolls! I love how they teach so much and I still do the crafts from the characters.

  2. Thank you for this post! I'm excited to try out the plan that you did for this day of Kirsten! We join a few families 1/mo and pick one American girl doll to focus on--doing crafts/food for a couple of hours. It's a wonderful time!! I was just researching out Kirsten and your blog came up. thank you!
    Corrine Greene (living in the Boston, MA area)