It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a teacher at a professional development workshop must be in search of lesson plans!
The Early College Program PD I attended today at Idaho State University offered many fantastic lesson ideas. Among my favorites is Professor Roger Schmidt's presentation on teaching students to understand Jane Austen's style, particularly irony, by having them learn to write with a Quill just as Austen did.
- Sentences from select Austen works. I used Austen's famous line from Pride and Prejudice in my opening. It has been parodied numerous times. A Woman's Wit: Jane Austen's Life and Legacy at the Morgan Library offers a fine collection of Austen resources.
- Examples of English Roundhand, the penmanship style in which Austen wrote. Many Google images exist and Dover books offers The Universal Penman as a resource
- 100% rag paper
- Feathers for making quills. Although teachers can purchase both feathers and quills, Professor Schmidt prefers collecting them from "road kill" and hunters. He shared some amusing stories of traveling around collecting feathers in Southeast Idaho and the Washington coast, as well as the gift of a couple of unplucked wings from a student!
- First practice writing (copying) some of Austen's sentences on lined paper to get a feel for the slant and size of her lines. Use a dip pen for this first exercise.
- Have students study Austen's penmanship. Several resources are available online. The Lady Susan facsimile is available in the Morgan exhibit, as well as a close examination of English roundhand.
- Dr. Schmidt advises having students rewrite a short letter from one of Austen's works, such as Captain Wentworth's letter in Persuasion. Students can embody Captain Winthrop's character and write a new version of the letter, perhaps one in which Winthrop says he has waited for Anne long enough, suggests Dr. Schmidt. A second option is to have students imitate Austen's style, utilizing her sentences as models for their own ideas.
- With enough practice, students will begin producing elegant books in Austen's style.
- Collect feathers
- Strip the bottom feathers so that they don't impede one's grip. This is called fletching.
- Cut the quill. This site offers nice illustrations.
- Cure the quill in dry sand at 350 degrees.
Update: 4 June 2011
Jenna Gardner shared the video below w/ me via The English Companion Ning. Thanks, Jenna. This is a fantastic resource that gives yet another dimension to Dr. Schmidt's writing project.
The Divine Jane: Reflections on Austen from The Morgan Library & Museum on Vimeo.