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Why not celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday on the 23rd of April with this lovely feather quill activity? It helps to develop fine motor skills too!

To complete this activity you will need:

Show the children a picture of William Shakespeare with a quill pen, such as this. Discuss Shakespeare with the children, useful information about him can be found here.

In pairs, discuss questions such as;

  • What did he use if for?
  • Why didn’t he use a pen, or a keyboard?
  • What do you use to write with?

Method

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Give each child a large craft feather. With adult supervision (as sharp scissors are needed to cut through the quill and give a good finish), cut across the quill at an angle.  Follow the natural shape of the feather so that the longest part of the nib will be uppermost as the children write with it. Don’t cut at too steep an angle or the nib may split. Encourage the children to cut near to the end so that if the nib does split they can cut another one further up the quill.

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Use a cocktail stick to remove any debris from inside the quill.

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If there are feathers where the children are going to hold the quill to write, cut them away.

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The ink needs to be quite a thin consistency. Watered down ready mix paint or food colouring both work well.

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Let the children explore using the quill and “ink” to write. Support them and if necessary show them that different parts of the nib make different width strokes.

  • Can the children write their name with the quill?
  • What is different from writing with a pen or a pencil?
  • How does it feel to write with the quill?

Extension Ideas

  • Explore painting with the feather, what if you use the other end?
  • Experiment with the consistency of the ink.
  • Make quills from different types of feather, which works best?
  • Try making your own invisible ink using lemon juice as described here
  • Make some natural ink from fruit, for example from this recipe
  • Make an interactive display about the different tools we write with.

Learning Outcomes

National Curriculum 2014  History

KS1 – Pupils should be taught about the lives of significant individuals in the past who have contributed to national and international achievements.

This post was by Sam Collins

Sam teaches in Devon, and has over 20 years experience in primary education teaching Early Years, KS1 and KS2.

Looking for more ideas? Check out our history page, or follow us on Pinterest.

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