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Russian Czars Lesson
This is part 2 in an 8 part unit study on Russia. Construct a model of the Red Square, attempting Cossack-style dancing, decorate eggs like Carl Faberge, read classic Czar tales, and more while learning about Russian Czars. Also included are our favorite books, YouTube video clips, lapbook and activity links, and other resources we used as we studied Russian Czars/Tsars using the fun unit study book Russia: Land of Endurance by Konos Curriculum. Use these ideas with your class, family, or homeschool co-op group!
Included in this lens you'll find some of the activities we did along with our favorite books we read and YouTube clips we watched while we studied the period of rule by the Czars/Tsars of Russia. Topics featured include Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, Czar/Tsar Tales, Red Square, Cossacks, Napoleon in Russia, Florence Nightingale, & Carl Faberge.
Peter the Great
Playing war like Peter the Great did as a child
The Best Picture Book on Peter the Great
This is definitely the best children's biography on Peter the Great. It was a bit long for my 3 year old but my older children (ages 5-10) enjoyed it and learned so much from it. It provides plenty of information in an interesting manner and has excellent illustrations that keep their attention. A balanced view is presented, with both positive and negative aspects of his character described.
Peter the Great Video
My children enjoyed watching parts of this TV series on Peter the Great.
This provides a good overview of the reign of Peter the Great.
Catherine the Great
"Traveling" like Catherine the Great on her way to St. Petersburg
Catherine the Great Books for Children and Movies
My 10 year old read Catherine the Great by Katharine Scherman (World Landmark Book #29). He enjoyed it though he said it is not as action-packed as many of the other books from the Landmark World Book series. It includes both her personal life and what she did for Russia and is written in an engaging manner. It is 185 pages. Catherine: The Great Journey, Russia, 1743 (The Royal Diaries) by Kristiana Gregory is written from the perspective of Princess Sophie Augusta Fredericka of Anhalt-Zerbst as she is preparing to marry Peter, Grand Duke of Russia, and become Catherine the Great. It starts when she is 14 and is about to leave for Russia and includes her hardships while traveling to and after she gets to Russia. It is 176 pages and would appeal more to a female reader than a male. A Russian ABC: Featuring Masterpieces from the Hermitage, St. Petersburg by Florence Cassen Mayers features art from the Hermitage, which is the art museum that Catherine the Great started. This is a simple alphabet book that shows a work of art that is displayed at the Hermitage for each letter of the Russian alphabet. It is bilingual and includes the Cyrillic (Russian) alphabet character, the Russian name, a pronunciation, and an English translation. If you would like to watch parts of a movie on Catherine the Great (which you might be able to find clips on YouTube), the two best ones are Young Catherine (starring Julia Ormond) and Catherine the Great by PBS (starring Emily Bruni). Be sure to preview the movies and only show clips as both movies portray relationships with men that she had.
Learn to Count in Russian like Catherine the Great
Catherine the Great had to learn Russian before she married Peter. This video can help your children learn how to count in Russian. We also watched some clips from the "Catherine the Great" PBS video series, though they did contain numerous adult themes, so we only watched short clips from them.
Our Favorite Czar (or Tsar) Tales
Our Favorite Czar Tales
You'll definitely want to read the tale of the firebird. We read numerous variations of this story, and this was our favorite. It is a more simplistic re-telling of the tale. On each page it has gorgeous illustrations featuring both illustrations of the story and of the ballet. We also read Firebird tales from Demi, Saviour Pirotta, Rachel Isadora, Brad Kessler, and Gennady Spirin.
This is a common Russian Folk tale, and there are a number of picture book versions telling the fun Russian tale about a "fool" who completes tasks set by the Czar in order to marry the Czar's daughter. This was our favorite picture book version. Another good version of this folk tale was written by Valeri Gorbachev.
More of Our Favorite Czar/Tsar Picture Book Tales
Clever Katya: A Fairy Tale from Old Russia by Mary Hoffman is a cute tale about a young girl who saves her father's life by providing clever answers to the czar's riddles. She eventually marries the czar. It does a good job of showing a common theme in many of the Russian folktales: the czar/tsar poses riddles to "simpletons" and sometimes find they are clever. The Impossible Riddle by Ellen B. Jackson is another folktale that includes a Czar posing a riddle and a "simpleton" showing himself to be clever. In this story the czar doesn't want to lose his daughter, so he poses a riddle to all her suitors. A simple peasant farmer shows himself to be clever and provides wisdom to the czar. Other Russian folktales we really enjoyed include The Sea King's Daughter by Aaron Shepard, How the Tsar Drinks Tea by Benjamin Elkin, I-Know-Not-What, I-Know-Not-Where by Eric A. Kimmel, The Little Snowgirl by Carolyn Croll, The Magic Gold Fish by Demi, The Little Humpbacked Horse by Elizabeth Winthrop, The Tale of Tsar Saltan by Alexander Pushkin, Luba and the Wren by Patricia Polacco, The Frog Princess by Patrick Lewis, and Baboushka and the Three Kings by Ruth Robbins. We also read numerous folktales (such as The Gigantic Turnip by Aleksei Tolstoy) about trying to pull a giant vegetable from the ground and also about a Russian "gingerbread" boy (such as Clay Boy by Mirra Ginsburg), but I didn't feel like they shed much light on Russian culture.
Moscow's Red Square
Constructing a model of the Red Square out of blocks
Our Favorite Picture Books that Include the Red Square
This is a really cute picture book about a dog who moves to Moscow. He travels around the city (including the Red Square) in search of his ball.
Sasha & Babushka: A Story of Russia - a Make Friends Around the World Storybook by Cornelia Evans is about a Russian grandmother who takes her granddaughter from to see the main sights of Moscow. They visit Moscow's Red Square and other major sites in Moscow. The Nutcracker Cats of the Kremlin by Debby Carman is another cute picture book about cats who are sent to the Kremlin to chase down mice. It also features the sites of the Red Square.
Our Favorite YouTube Clips on Moscow's Red Square
Attempting Cossack-style dancing
Cossack Chapter Book
Chief of the Cossacks by Harold Lamb is part of the World Landmark Book series. My 10 year old son read this book on his own and really enjoyed it. It is action-packed and historically accurate. It is definitely worth finding!
Cossack Dancing on YouTube
Napoleon in Russia
Our Favorite Chapter Book on Napoleon
My 10 year old son loves this chapter book that focuses on Napoleon's time in Russia as told by a fictitious boy character. It is historically accurate, full of adventure, and does an excellent job of teaching strong character.
Our Favorite Children's Picture Book on Napoleon
This is a fun picture book about the last few years of Napoleon's life when he was exiled on St. Helena's Island. The story is told from the perspective of a young girl who did actually live on the island at the time and wrote about her interactions with Napoleon.
More of Our Favorite Children's Books on Napoleon
Napoleon (Usborne Famous Lives Gift Books) by Lucy Lethbridge is an excellent picture book biography on the life of Napoleon. It provides plenty of information in an interesting manner and includes illustrations that held the attention of both my 3 and 5 year old daughters. It has 48 pages. Napoleon: The Story of the Little Corporal by Robert Burleigh is a bit more dry of a book, but it was still worth reading. Each layout of a page has a historical painting, a quote from Napoleon, and a couple paragraphs about that particular stage of his life.
YouTube Clips on Napoleon in Russia
My children enjoyed watching the hour-long video on Napoleon in Russia as they enjoy historical reenactments. If you don't have time to watch an hour long video, I included a shorter 6 minute video which was also of interest. Since I didn't have a CD of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, we listened to it via YouTube.
Our Favorite Books on Florence Nightingale
My children love the books from this series as they have comic-book style illustrations. I love that they also include plenty of historically accurate information.
Florence Nightingale by Demi is a slightly longer picture book that includes some information that the other books we read do not cover. The Value of Compassion: The Story of Florence Nightingale (Value Tales) by Ann Donegan Johnson focuses on Nightingale's character and includes lots of information in an interesting manner. All of my children enjoyed it! Florence Nightingale (Usborne Famous Lives Gift Books) by Lucy Lethbridge is a wonderful picture book biography with nice illustrations and an interesting manner of presenting the information.
Florence Nightengale YouTube Clips We Enjoyed
We only watched parts of the second (non-animated) video on Florence Nightengale as we didn't have 2 hours to spend on watching the entire video.
Decorating Eggs like Carl Faberge
Books on Carl Faberge
Faberge Revealed: At the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts by Geza Von Habsburg was our favorite book to look through to see Faberge's work. It is a large, coffee-table type book full of gorgeous photographs of many of Faberge's pieces. It also includes biographical information. Imperial Surprises: A Pop-Up Book of Faberge's Masterpieces by Margaret Kelly is a really neat pop-up book that features 6 of Faberge's eggs as intricate pop-ups.
Carl Fabege YouTube Clips We Enjoyed
The first video shows some of Faberge's eggs. The second video includes biographical information on Carl Faberge. Only half of the video is on Carl Faberge. The other half is on the Hope Diamond.
Ready for More?
Cook borscht and blini, study and paint like the famous artists of Russia, perform a miniature "Nutcracker" ballet performance, dramatize a Communist lunch (complete with sentencing to "Siberia" for the non-compliant), and more in the fun 8 part study on Russia!
- Russian Geography and Early Russian History Lesson - This is part 1 in an 8 part unit study on Russia. Paint a Russian Orthodox triptych, taste caviar, play the Russian Temperate Zone Game, read classic Baba Yaga tales, and more while learning about Russian geography and early Russian history. Also included are our favorite books, YouTube video clips, lapbook and activity links, and other resources we used while learning about Russian geography and early Russian history.
- Russian Czars Lesson - This is part 2 in an 8 part unit study on Russia. Construct a model of the Red Square, attempting Cossack-style dancing, decorate eggs like Carl Faberge, read classic Czar tales, and more while learning about Russian Czars. Also included are our favorite books, YouTube video clips, lapbook and activity links, and other resources we used while learning about Russian Czars.
- Russian Revolution Lesson - This is part 3 in an 8 part unit study on Russia. Play the Russian Civil War version of Capture the Flag, endure a "Communist" lunch complete with trying to trade food on the black market, create Communist flags, and more while learning about the Russian Revolution. Also included are our favorite books, YouTube video clips, lapbook and activity links, and other resources we used while learning about the Russian Revolution.
- Siberia Lesson - This is part 4 in an 8 part unit study on Russia. Sketch an Aurora Borealis landscape scene using pastels, making grape jelly to demonstrate the smelting process, cut out various shapes of snowflakes, dress up as and pretend to be musk oxen, walruses, Siberian tigers, and reindeer, and more while learning about Siberia. Also included are our favorite books, YouTube video clips, lapbook and activity links, and other resources we used while learning about Siberia.
- Russian Ballet Lesson - This is part 5 in an 8 part unit study on Russia. Perform a miniature production of The Nutcracker, learn the basic positions in ballet, watch videos of and read about famous Russian dancers including Anna Pavlova, Nijinsky, and Baryshnikov, and more while learning about Russian ballet. Also included are our favorite books, YouTube video clips, lapbook and activity links, and other resources we used while learning about Russian ballet.
- The Cold War and Arms Race Lesson - This is part 6 in an 8 part unit study on Russia. Design and launch various types of rockets, dramatize the Berlin Airlift and the Chocolate Pilot, prepare and eat blini, and more while learning about the Cold War and the Arms Race. Also included are our favorite books, YouTube video clips, lapbook and activity links, and other resources we used while learning about the Cold War and the Arms Race.
- The Space Race and The Olympics Lesson - This is part 7 in an 8 part unit study on Russia. Make a full-size model of Sputnik 1, learn gymnastics moves and host a miniature Olympics gymnastics competition, experiment with sugar while learning about the Cuban Missile Crisis, and more while learning about the Space Race and Russian Olympics. Also included are our favorite books, YouTube video clips, lapbook and activity links, and other resources we used while learning about the Space Race and Russian Olympics.
- End of the Cold War and Russian Artists Lesson - This is part 8 in an 8 part unit study on Russia. Recreate Kandinsky’s and Marc Chagall’s works, build and then knock down a model of the Berlin Wall, decorate pysanky eggs, make and eat kulich, and more while learning about the end of the Cold War and contemporary Russian artists. Also included are our favorite books, YouTube video clips, lapbook and activity links, and other resources we used while learning about the end of the Cold War and contemporary Russian artists.
- Russia: Faberge, Chess, & Borscht – This lesson provides a simple overview of Russia. I have compiled all you will need to locate Russia on a map, cook a Russian meal, watch YouTube clips on Russia, color the flag, create a Russian craft, read a great book about Russia, and more!
- Ukraine: A Missing Mitten, Pysanky Easter Eggs, & Babka Bread – If you would like to learn a bit more on Ukraine, visit my lesson at which I have shared all you will need to locate Ukraine on a map, cook a Ukrainian meal, watch YouTube clips on Ukraine, color the flag, create a Ukrainian craft, read a great book about Ukraine, and more!
Need More Ideas & Activities?
The free unit studies below cover Ivan III, Ivan IV, Peter the Great, & Catherine the Great and are geared toward 5th grade:
Russia and the Czars: Cut and paste this link: http://www.coreknowledge.org/mimik/mimik_uploads/lesson_plans/716/Russia and the Czars.pdf
Russia: Land of Endurance
All of the above activities featured in the photos are just some of the many excellent activities featured in Russia: Land of Endurance by Konos Curriculum. The curriculum is easy to follow, with a lesson full of activities for each day of the week. You can either buy the book or you can buy the lesson book along with needed craft supplies and books.