Tea with an Old Dragon, a literature-based unit study for the book by Jane Yolen
Tea With an old Dragon
Written by Jane Yolen
Illustrated by Monica Vachula
School Library Journal's Editorial Review: Young Louisa's curiosity is piqued when the formidable Miss Sophy Smith
drives by in her carriage and the boys with whom she is playing refer
to its occupant as the "Old Dragon." When Louisa repeats the boys'
appellation for this pillar of Hatfield society, the girl's mother
sends her off to her room without lunch. After being liberated from her
confinement, Louisa sets off to determine who or what this old dragon
has to do with the elderly woman. She, of course, begins at the source.
Rather than resenting the intrusion of this curious, perplexed child
into her fine home, Miss Sophy is charmed by Louisa's direct manner.
The two have tea and conversation despite the woman's limited hearing.
A literature-based unit study by Celia
NOTE: This unit could be used to go with Women's History Month (March in America, October in Canada).
Geography -- Massachusetts:
Help your child locate Massachusetts on a map or globe. If
you desire, make a story disk for your student to place on the
map. Massachusetts was one of the original Thirteen Colonies and is one of the New England States.
Massachusetts Outline map from Enchanted Learning
Massachusetts State Flag to color (Enchanted Learning)
Your student may wish to learn more about Massachusetts, such as its state tree, bird, insect, bean, and cookie! Click here to go to Enchanted Learning to learn more!
You may wish to use this unit to review the New England States with your student:
You may wish to use this unit to review the Thirteen Colonies:
History of the Education of Women:
Throughout most of history, women did not have the same
educational opportunities as men. Woman were mainly
housewives and mothers and did not seek employment outside the home, so
higher education was not really needed. Some women however
desired to have more education. They fought to earn the right to
have more education and to go to college. People had gotten so
used to the ideas that women did not need any more education, that they
were against the idea!
Miss Sophy in our story (whose full name was Miss Sophia Smith)
believed in higher education for girls, but she herself had very little
education. As the story tells, she became very wealthy when her
brother died and left her his fortune. The rest of the story is
told in the author's note in the back......Miss Sophy desired to
leave her money to found a college for girls. And when she died,
that is exactly what happened. Her monies were used to found
Smith College near the town where this story takes place.
Smith College still exists. Both the author and the illustrator of this book graduated from Smith College.
An older student might wish to research how women have fought through
the years for the right to pursue more education. Here are some
keywords to get them started: Oberlin College and Seneca Falls
Convention of 1848. He may also wish to read about M. Carey
Thomas, Mary Jane Patterson, Sophia May Chase, etc.
History of Tea: It is believed that tea was invented during the Ming Dynasty in China. There
are several legends surrounding the origin of tea. One legend
tells of an emperor, Shennong, who was known for his interest in
science. He believed that water was safest to drink after it had
been boiled. While day, while on a journey to a distant realm of
his kingdom, he had his servants boil his water as usual. He
noticed that some leaves of a nearby bush had fallen in the water,
creating a brown colored mix. Curious, the emperor took a sip and was
surprised to find it flavorful and refreshing. Tea consumption
spread throughout China, then to Japan, then later to Europe and the
Americas. (Source: Wikipedia and Stash Tea.) A science lesson below goes into more detail about the tea bush itself.
Bible / Character Development
Dragons: "The Bible
says little about dragons......" Does your student know that the
Bible mentions "dragons" several times in the Old Testament? Almost every culture has
legends about dragons.
Read these verses from Job Chapter 41 aloud to your student:
14 Who can open the doors of his face? his teeth are terrible round about.
15 His scales are his pride, shut up together as with a close seal.
16 One is so near to another, that no air can come between them.
17 They are joined one to another, they stick together, that they cannot be sundered.
18 By his neesings a light doth shine, and his eyes are like the eyelids of the morning.
19 Out of his mouth go burning lamps, and sparks of fire leap out.
20 Out of his nostrils goeth smoke, as out of a seething pot or caldron.
21 His breath kindleth coals, and a flame goeth out of his mouth.
Doesn't this creature that Job is describing sound like a dragon?!
If the Bible mentions and describes dragons, don't you
believe they really existed?!
So, where did dragons go? Some theories say that they became
extinct--highly possible, as such a fearsome beast was sure to be
hunted and killed whenever possible.
It is quite possible that the dragons mentioned in the Bible and in
ancient cultures were what we now call dinosaurs. Does your student know that the word "dinosaur" is actually
a recently invented word?! The word "dinosaur" means "terrible or
fearfully great lizard" and was invented in 1841 by Sir Richard Owen.
Read this passage also from Job Chapter 40:
15 Behold now behemoth, which I made with thee; he eateth grass as an ox.
Can you think of a dinosaur that ate grass, and strength and force in
his belly and hips, and had a tail like a cedar tree? Sounds
like a Apatosaurus (once known as a Brontosaurus, one of the largest dinosaurs).
16 Lo now, his strength is in his loins, and his force is in the navel of his belly.
17 He moveth his tail like a cedar: the sinews of his stones are wrapped together.
18 His bones are as strong pieces of brass; his bones are like bars of iron.
You may wish to have your older student look up all the verses of the
Bible that mention dragon, leviathan, or behemoth and write a
report on what he has learned. Or perhaps he could read and write
a book report on Saint George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges.
Your younger student might enjoy the book and song When Dragons Hearts Were Good by Buddy Davis.
To learn more about dragons, dinosaurs, and how they once co-existed with man, search the Answers in Genesis website.
Judging Others: The boys in the beginning of our story shout "Look out! Better hide! The Old Dragon is coming."
Louisa does not run, but eagerly looks for a dragon, yet all she sees
is Miss Sophy driving by and she is disappointed. Later she
decides to ask Miss Sophy about the dragon--surely the finest woman in
town would know where such a beast was! It's not until she meets
Miss Sophy that she realizes that the boys were really talking about
Miss Sophy! With her booming voice, fierce looks, and her
hallway that looks like a dark lair, Miss Sophy indeed must be a
dragon, thinks Louisa!
How often do we see someone, and immediately think they are _______?
Before we even get to know the person, we form impressions of
how they must be. But what happens if we take the time to get to
know them? We often form different opinions!
Louisa in our story does the same thing. She quickly begins to
fear that she will be eaten by this "dragon of a woman."
Nonetheless, she begins to form a relationship with Miss Sophy
and discovers an independent lady who is a lot of fun!
What does the Bible say about judging others? In Matthew Chapter 7, we have:
1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.
2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
and it is repeated again in Luke Chapter 6:
36 Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.
37 Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven
Discuss these verses with your child and how Jesus' words apply to our lives today.
Honesty: "I believed in being honest." What does the Bible say about being honest?
Proverbs 11:5 tells us that "The godly are directed by honesty; the wicked fall beneath their load of sin." (NLT)
Honesty is important to God. We learn in Hebrews 6:18 that it is
impossible for God to lie. He does not want o us to lie either.
Being honest is so important that He made it the ninth
commandment: Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor. (Exodus 20:16)
"Papa is a minister and he should revere honesty. I do not think he reveres it in me."
Is it possible to be "too honest?" Yes, it is!
Sometimes being too truthful is hurtful to others. That
does not mean that we should ever lie though! We need to learn to
speak the truth in love. (Eph. 4:15)
See if you can locate a copy of Down Gilead Lane's "When Push Comes to Shove" and listen to Truth & Lies
to hear how Timmy Morrison learns that being too truthful can hurt
others. You might also try to get Adventures in Odyssey
#43 this week and listen to And That's the Truth, to hear how Tamika learns that being too truthful can hurt others.
mother sent her to room where she was supposed to think about
gossiping women, and she was instructed to read several lessons in
Bible. What is gossip? It's repeating something that you
heard from someone else, or sharing a story that you are not sure
of all the facts, or even sharing a story that would bring no
good to the person you are talking about.
What does the Bible tell us about gossip?
Ephesians 4:29 says “Do not let any
unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful
for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit
those who listen.” (NIV)
Here are some other verses concerning gossip to have your student look
up and read: Psalm 34:13, Proverbs 11:13, Romans 1:29, 1 Timothy
5:13, Proverbs 18:8, Proverbs 26:20, Proverbs 25:23
Subtitles: The title of our story is Tea with an Old Dragon.
But it also has a subtitle: "A Story of Sophia Smith,
Founder of Smith College." Sometimes an author will use a
subtitle to give a bit of a description of the story. Tea with an Old Dragon
is an interesting title, but you would never know from reading it that
it is about a real person. Let your child practice making up
titles and subtitles this week to either stories he has written or even
to books he has read where the title doesn't really tell us the
First Person Point of View: Take
this time to review or introduce your child to the concept of first
person point of view. A story that is written from the
perspective of one of the characters in the story is written in first
person. The easiest way to remember first person is that the
book uses I, we, and us.
Using Hyphens or Italics to show emphasis:
...which is--alas--far too often...
...And there was no one else--dragon or wagon or man on horse--to be seen....
...I did not she was a dragon....
...Sarah? Sarah? Where have you got to?...
Author Jane Yolen uses both hyphens and italics in this story to
emphasize certain words. Pick out a couple from the story and
model for your student how to change your voice when reading them.
Then have him pick out some to read and try changing his voice.
Prepared Crossword Puzzle
lecture-- to scold, admonish, rebuke, or reprimand at some length
revere(s)-- to show devotion and honor to
peered-- to look closely or curiously
awry-- off the right course
scowl(ing)-- to make a frowning expression of displeasure
exceedingly-- to a very great degree
lair-- the den or resting place of a wild animal; a hideaway
devour-- to eat up greedily or hungrily
magnified-- to enlarge in fact or in appearance
calamitously -- A calamity is a a great misfortune or disaster, such as
a flood or serious injury. So calamitously means something that
was catastrophic or devastating.
catechism -- a summary of religious beliefs usually in the form of questions and answers.
eavesdropping-- to listen secretly to private conversation
Medium: Oil on Masonite.
Masonite is a type of fiberboard mostly used for insulation and
paneling. Artists also use it...it is dark brown with one side
that is very smooth and the other side has texture. When oil
paints are used, the artist will "build up" the paints.....doing the
background first, then move forward in the picture. Have your
student identify the order in which first picture would have been
painted. First the background (sky, hills, field), then the
middle (the fence, the running boys), then the foreground (Louisa,
Harvey, the tree, and finally William climbing the tree.)
American Folk Art: The Metropolitan Museum of Art states that folk art
"is most often defined as art that is created by individuals
who were not academically trained (although they may have acquired their skills through
apprenticeship, observation, or informal learning) and that adheres to the aesthetic
standards of the small communities within which or for which it was produced."
The Metropolitan Museum of Art states that almost all of the 18th century American folk artists "favored strong colors, broad and direct application of
paint, patterned surfaces, generalized light, skewed scale and
proportion, and conspicuous modeling."
You can certainly see some of those characteristics in illustrator
Monica Vachula's work in this book. Point out the bright colors
and the patterns on the walls and carpets. If your student has
studied light and the direction of light in art prior to this, ask him
to point to the source of light in any of the pictures. Many of
pictures in this book do not have a source or only give a slight hint
at where the light is coming from--the light is more generalized, as is
of 18th century American folk art.
Explore with your student the work of Ammi Phillips, Edward Hicks, Rufus Hathaway, Joshua Johnson. A 20th century folk artist to explore with your student would be Anna Mary Robertson Moses, aka "Grandma Moses."
Sums: Does your student
know what a sum is? (The answer to an addition problem.) In
our story, Miss Sophy says that she "was forty past thirty-one years
ago." Those numbers were too big for Louisa to count using
her fingers. If she is able, ask your student write the problem
out and explain to you
how they can be added together. If a child understands the
addition concept well and has been working on two digit adding, then
she should be able to tell you how to add the math problem to find the
sum. Make up
other problems for which she can determine the sums.
If your child is
too young for this but can do simple addition such as +1 or +0, write
out the problem and show her how you would
add first the right (ones) column, then the left (tens) column.
Since there is no carrying
in this problem, so your younger child may be able to grasp this
concept, though you may need to help her with the tens column (3+4).
If she seems to have a basic understanding of adding the two
columns, help her with a few more problems that
do not involve carrying and that use math facts she already knows or is
currently working on.
Boiling Temperature of Water:
To make tea, we often heat water to boiling temperature.
Does your student know the boiling point of water? 212
degrees for pure water, at sea level. Tap water may boil sooner
since it contains minerals in it. How high or below sea level you
are also effects the boiling point. The higher you are, the lower
the boiling point. The barometric pressure of the air around you
can also effect the boiling point.
For a science experiment, if your child is curious and you have an
accurate meat thermometer (one that measures in tenths of a degree),
perhaps you could test your tap water, bottled water, and distilled
water. First form a hypothesis about the different waters and
when they will boil. Discuss the results and write a conclusion.
Record in your notebook or lapbook. If you do not have a
thermometer, you can determine the boiling point at this website, using your elevation and the current barometric pressure (they tell you how to use the Internet to get those).
Boiling Point of Water: See Math section
Sneezing: Near the
beginning of our story, Louisa sneezed three times. Ask your
student if they remembers why? Dust from the passing carriage got
up her nose. So, why do we sneeze? Sneezing is a natural
reflex (which means you have no control over it happening) that usually
occurs we something gets inside our nasal passages. It's God's
design to remove dust, pollen, germs, etc. from our body. Have
you ever caught a whiff of pepper and sneezed? What about when
you get a cold? You sneeze then to help get rid of the germs and
to clear your nasal passages so you can breathe better.
It's important to cover our nose and mouth whenever we feel a sneeze
coming on. It is best to quickly grab a tissue, but if you can't
the next best thing is the crook of your arm. If you sneeze into
your hands, then you just put a bunch of germs on your hands and you
will pass them on to whatever you touch next.
Ears -- Hearing Loss: There are varying degrees of
deafness. They are: profound (totally deaf or almost totally
deaf), severe, moderate, and mild. Severe and moderate deafness
may be referred to as partial deafness or hard of hearing. Mild
is generally referred to as hard of hearing.
In our story, Miss Sophy was hard of hearing. She used a "tube"
to allow her to hear better. Back in the late
nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth century, ear
tubes were used to help a person hear. The person who was hard of
hearing would hold one end of the tube up to their ear, while the other
person would speak into the tube at the other end. This
amplified the speech a bit, allowing the person to hear it better.
Today many people who are hard of hearing use a small device
called a hearing aid that fits inside or over their ear.
Ears -- Parts of the Ear: You
may wish to introduce (or review with) your child the parts of the
ear that help sound travel. There is the outer ear, the middle
ear, and the inner ear. The outer ear is the part of the ear that
we can see and is called the pinna. It collects the sounds and
directs them toward the middle ear. Between the outer ear and the
middle ear is the ear drum. It begins to move as sound hits
it. This then causes three little bones inside the middle ear to
also vibrate. These three bones are the tiniest in our body and
they are called the hammer, the anvil, and the stirrup. These
vibrations then move on to the cochlea, which is shaped like a snail's
shell. The cochlea contains tiny hairs called cilia, which start
the nerve signals that go to the brain. The brain then processes
The KONOS manual with lessons on attentiveness has an awesome idea for
creating a model of an ear that the children can crawl through.
In essence, the children are the sound waves! What a fun
way for them to remember the parts of ear!
Enchanted Learning sheet to fill in the parts of the ear
Experiment: Make a Sound Wave Detector
Glass, bowl, or coffee can
Salt, grains of rice, or instant potato flakes
A clean, empty milk jug or other similar container
A pencil with an eraser, spoon, or something similar to use as a drum mallet
Stretch the plastic wrap over the opening of the glass, secure with
rubber band. Spread out a few grains of salt, rice, or potato
flakes on top of the plastic. Close to the wave detector, hold a
jug in one hand, tap it with the mallet. This will create sound
waves which will make the salt on the wave detector move. Even
though we cannot see sound waves in the air, this experiment shows that
sound does indeed move.
Tea buds that are withered and dried are made into white tea.
Leaves that have been allowed to absorb a lot of oxygen (8 to 24
hours) becomes black tea. If the processing allows some
oxygen to be absorbed, then green tea is made. Oolong tea is
somewhere between black and green tea, and is made when the leaves are
allowed to absorb only a very small amount of oxygen (2 to 4 hours)
during the processing.
Discovery School has several experiments to show sound waves
Botany -- Tea Plant (Camellia Sinensis): The
Camellia Sinensis bush, also known as the tea plant, is the where
we get tea. All tea comes from only one kind of plant!
The leaves and buds are usually hand-picked several times a year and
then dried to make tea. Each picking is called a "flush."
The teas are labeled as first flush, second flush, etc. before
they are sent to be processed to make tea.
It is the processing that determines what kind of tea it will make. There are four kinds of tea:
Processing the tea requires four steps:
- fermentation (oxidization)
- firing (drying)
During the first step of processing, the leaves of the tea bush
are picked and spread so they can wither (dry out and shrivel
up). The next step is to roll the leaves up. The third step
is called fermentation and is when they lay out the leaves again
to allow them to absorb oxygen (a process known as oxidization--this is
the same process that turns apples or bananas black if you take a bite
of it and leave the rest lie. This is why black tea is dark--it
has been exposed to oxygen the longest.). The final step is
called firing or drying.
Once the teas have been processed they can be made into a tea by
putting them into boiling water. If possible get some loose leaf
tea from a tea house or other place (WalMart is beginning to sell loose
leaf) to show your student this week. If you are unable to do
that, go to the Adagio tea site
and click on the tabs at the top for black, green, white, or oolong and
you will see color pictures of tea leaves that are rolled and withered.
Your student may have heard about one other "tea" -- herbal tea.
Herbal tea is NOT made from the tea plant plant (Camellia
Sinensis bush) and thus it is not true tea. Instead of tea, it should
be called an infusion or a tisane. Herbal teas are usually made
with herbs, fruits, spices, flowers and/or leaves from other plants,
but it has no leaves from the true tea plant.
Websites for more information (and the source for the information given in this lesson)
Books for the children
- Miss Spider's Tea Party by David Kirk
- Teatime with Emma Buttersnap
by Lindsey Tate (lots of tea history in a picture book format--far more
text than the average picture book. It also contains information
on how to prepare tea and finger treats like scones and cucumber
sandwiches, how to set the table, and teatime manners.)
- No Dragons for Tea: Fire Safety for Kids (and Dragons) by Jean Pendziwol and Martine Gourbault (not previewed by Celia)
- Tea with Milk by Alan Say
Books for Parents
- Tea: A cultural history from around the world by Ed S. Milton (to glean any interesting facts to pass along to the child.)
- The Empire of Tea by Alan & Iris Macfarlane (for the parent is who is serious about knowing the history of tea)
Recipe: Ginger Cake
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 cup molasses
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup hot water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Grease and flour a 9 inch square pan.
Cream together the sugar and butter. Add the egg and beat
well. Mix in the molasses.
- In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves.
- Add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture. Then add the hot water and mix
Pour batter into pan and bake for 1 hour.
- Allow to cool in pan before slicing and serving.
If desired, you may make in a loaf pan, but you may need to adjust the time a bit.
Just For Fun
Why, have honey tea with ginger loaf, of course! If you are really into tea with the
kids, try an Emilie Barnes book. She has books for tea party
ideas, as well as inspirational books and devotions for moms, all
relating to tea. Perhaps send a formal invitation to the grandparents or Daddy to have high tea!
Sing "Polly, Put the Kettle On"
Visit an Art Museum to look at folk art.
Bunny Trails and Research Ideas to extend this unit
Kinds of Tea: What is rooibos? Orange Pekoe? Earl Gray? Darjeerling?
Ming Dynasty in China:
Tea was believed to have been invented during the Ming Dynasty in
China. Have your student research and learn more about the Ming
History of Serving Tea/Tea Etiquette: Miss
Sophy and Louisa drink tea together. The ginger loaf was served
in a silver cake basket, the tea in porcelain cups. Your student
may desire to learn more about serving tea and the etiquette of tea
Health Benefits of Tea: There
have been many studies on the different kinds of teas. Are some
teas healthier than others? What are the health benefits of
drinking tea? What about herbal "teas"--do they have health
Like to sew? Make a tea cozy! There are lots of free patterns available on the internet.
Period Clothing: Your
student may be interested in the clothing shown in the pictures of the
book. Two year old William is wearing a dress. Louisa
has shoes that button. Missy Sophy wears a fancy hat.
Louisa's mother wears a hair net and a dress that billows out.
The Victorian Time Period: Miss Sophy lived during the early Victorian time period. Have your student research this time period.
Silk: Miss Sophy wears silk. Where does silk come from?
The Boston Tea Party
Marble: Miss Sophy's fireplace is made of white marble. What is marble?
Pianos: Who invented them? How many keys are there? Why are some black and some white?
Music Notes: Louisa played soft notes, loud notes, deep notes, etc. What are notes?
Roses: At the bottom of
the author's note in back, there is a drawing of the Sophia Smith Rose.
How did Miss Sophy get a rose named after here? What other
famous people have roses named for them? How is a rosed named?