The boys and I read Robinson Crusoe together when they were in the 4th and 2nd ‘grades.’
No, I’m not making that up. I’ve been telling you for years that you can read ANYTHING aloud with your children. It took the boys a few chapters to get used to the language, and yeah, I had to stop and explain words on numerous occasions, but they loved, loved, loved the book. And we got a ton of educational opportunities out of it.
What child wouldn’t love to imagine getting to spend some time alone on an island, eating whatever he wants, raising goats, building rafts, and all kinds of fun stuff? My boys thought it would be great fun. And they learned lots while we read the book.
Teaching with Robinson Crusoe
Defoe actually based his desert island adventure on a real-life castaway. Alexander Selkirk was a Scottish castaway who lived for four years on a Pacific island called Más a Tierra which is now part of Chile. Have your kids research Selkirk and learn about his very real experiences. Because that stuff is cool.
Build a raft! Use craft sticks, twigs, sponges, anything you think will float. Build your own raft and see if you can get it to float. Blow on the water near your raft. Does it hold up against wind and current? This provides a great opportunity to discuss the science behind Crusoe’s attempts to escape his island.
The island Selkirk got stranded on is now called Robinson Crusoe Island. Find the island on a map, then discuss the sea voyage from Scotland to Chile and all the places Selkirk sailed past. Then map out Crusoe’s sea voyages, because he went to a lot of cool places before he ended up on that island.
This project was hands-down the favorite for the boys. It’s easy to put together, fun to make, and they used their journals to answer their novel study questions. You can use it for anything really, even having your kiddos keep a journal of the activity in the book or just for fun.
What you need:
- Brown paper bag
- 10 sheets white paper
- Large shallow dish (I used my gorgeous Pioneer Woman casserole dish because why not?)
- 1 cup unsweetened tea
- 1-hole punch
- Wax paper
What you do:
- Cut the 10 sheets of white paper to 5 inches by 10 inches
- Pour the tea into the shallow dish
- Lay a long piece of wax paper on work surface behind dish
- One piece at a time, gently place the white paper into the tea
- Carefully pick up and flip it over, submerging second side of paper
- Gently remove paper from tea (not by the corners–they’ll tear right off!) and shake off excess tea
- Lay stained paper on wax paper until all 10 pieces have been stained
- Allow to dry completely, 1-3 hours
- I’m not making it up that I stacked my stained papers in my dish drainer with waxed paper in between them and turned a fan on them. They dried super fast.
- While stained papers are drying, cut a 6 x 12 inch piece from your brown paper bag
- If you’re bag has writing on it like mine did, the sides of the bag are perfect for this
- Crumple up your cut bag
- Gently unfold and crumple again
- I’m not kidding–really crumple that sucker. The more your crumple the older it will look.
- Gently unfold crumpled bag and press flat with palms of hands
- When stained paper is dry, stack it as best you can (it will be wrinkly and a little fragile, so be careful
Carefully fold your sheets so you have a book stack of 5×5 paper
- Using your 1-hole punch, punch holes about 1/2 inch from top and bottom of booklet and opposite each other on each side of bend
- Fold your crumpled cover to 6×6
Open cover and place stained pages open inside
Mark hole punches with a pencil
Hole punch cover, front and back
- Cut 4 3-4-inch pieces of raffia
- Thread 2 pieces through holes at top of book cover (through the back)
- Thread raffia through inner holes and bring through the front
- Tie raffia in a knot near spine of book
- Repeat for bottom holes
I mean, that’s it. You’re done. Fun, fun stuff, and a very cool journal for your kiddos.
Seriously, I don’t know what you’re waiting for. Read Robinson Crusoe. Make this journal. Do lots and lots of other fantabulous educational activities.
Because learning with fiction is the greatest.
If you missed January-March of 12 Months of Literary Activities, go check out the Very Useful Pot for Winnie-the-Pooh, the Felt Childhood Meadow for Black Beauty, and the Craft Stick Log Cabin for Little House on the Prairie. They rock.