1. Before the lesson begins, the Teacher needs to construct a sample hornbook to show students. This works well if there are less than 26 students in the class; the teacher can choose a letter of the alphabet. If there are more than 26 students then the teacher may double up on a letter.
2. To begin the activity, each student receives one of Benjamin Franklin’s sayings (See handout on Benjamin Franklin’s sayings: A-Z). The student’s goal is to copy this saying on to an appropriate sized piece of paper and to include an explanation of what that saying means to him or her. This paper will ultimately be glued onto the outline of the hornbook and displayed on the wall.
3. Once students have their individual sayings give them time to think about what it means. They should write a draft explanation in their notebooks. Circulate and assist any student who is having trouble interpreting the meaning.
4. Then engage the class in a peer review. Pair up students who will exchange papers and offer feedback on each other’s explanation. The teacher may want to collect and offer feedback on each explanation before they are put on the final paper for the hornbook.
5. Distribute copies of the hornbook outline along with some cardboard or oak tag. Have student cut out the horn book.
6. Distribute the correct sized butcher paper for the hornbook. This thick paper simulates the parchment used in colonial times. Have students copy their saying from Benjamin Franklin onto the paper adding their explanation just below the saying. Ask them to keep the first letter (A, B, C…) large so that the bulletin board display looks like the ABCs. Students could also color the first letter. Students could also add pictures.
7. When they are finished, have students glue their paper onto their hornbook.
8. If students are using cardboard, then they may cut out a piece of transparency to cover their paper and simulate the thin sheaf of horn used in colonial time. Secure the transparency to the cardboard.
9. Have each student present his or her saying and explanation so that the entire class learns all 26 of Franklin’s wise sayings. Then place all of the hornbooks on display in the classroom.
10. Wrap up Discussion: On the chalk board make two columns “Then” and “Now”. Solicit ideas from students about education in colonial times versus current day. An option is to divide the class in half and have the students themselves write ideas under each column.
11. Close by having students come up with their own modern day sayings. Talk about what they mean and how they apply to students’ lives today. The Teacher could start them off by sharing some that have arisen due to the invention and proliferation of computers, for example:
“Garbage In, Garbage Out” refers to the fact that a computer program is only as good as what is programmed into it. From a modern almanac: “To err is human, but to really foul things up requires a computer.” ~Farmer's Almanac, 1978. A third one is: “Most people are awaiting Virtual Reality; I'm awaiting virtuous reality.” ~Eli Khamarov, "Lives of the Cognoscenti"
Final product: hornbook with written interpretation of Benjamin Franklin’s saying.
Participation in discussions.