Day 1 of "The Blackthorn Key" by Kevin Sands
Updated: Apr 15, 2022
It seems out of the box to include literature within the confines of a cryptology class but in the case of "The Blackthorn Key" by Kevin Sands, it is a perfect fit. In this post and following posts, I will include reading strategies and supplemental activities to accompany this novel.
In case you are not familiar with the novel it is the tale of a young apprentice set in the London of 1665. The novel has rich historical details, middle school humor, a mystery, and pf course code! What more could a cryptology teacher want in a book for middle school students?
The first activity with this novel is to set the mood. Have the students ponder what type of apprentice ship would they would like to have? Some wily students will attempt to say they are a member of the royal family. That is fine as the next step is to have the students research the tasks of each social class in that era.
Here are some links to get the students started in discovering what apprentice job they would like to have:
Colonial America for kids (I know wrong continent but concept is the same) https://www.ducksters.com/history/colonial_america/jobs_occupations.php
The harsh reality of apprentices in England:
The Learning Years of Medieval Childhood:
Medieval Craft Guilds:
Next have the students research the job and brainstorm what tasks they would have to do. Have a class discussion where the classmates help the students refine the list of tasks they most likely would have to complete as an apprentice.
A creative writing task of the life and times of _____________________ in Medieval London as a ____________ apprentice, would be a good step towards putting the students into the time frame of the story.