Level 2+: England + Ireland Unit

Cheerio, old chap! (And maidin mhaith!) For this week’s activities, we’ll be exploring several parts of Europe, focusing primarily on England and Ireland. We’ll explore some of the fascinating history and geography of these two countries (that are very connected and yet very different at the same time!), get up close and personal with some famous architecture, learn about some very important locals, and sample some of their delicious cuisine. Ready to go? Grab your skills tracker, stamp your passport, and explore!

Note: Occasionally we include project upgrades (for kids ready for more) and modifications (which can be useful for including younger siblings). We’ll mark those with the plus (+) or minus (-) symbols.

What you need:

Books (find at your local library or order below on Amazon):

Optional additional books:

Supplies (use what you have, but here are links to shop if you need anything):

What to do:

We recommend doing the below lessons in this order to build on each skill your child will develop, but don’t feel that you *need* to do them in this order. Do what works for you and your child. If they love an activity, feel free to repeat! Not a winner? Skip and try the next thing. Have fun!

Phonics Guide:

New to our phonics guide? Start here. The Phonics Guide this week will highlight the phonics + spelling rule around -DGE.

Lesson 1:

Let’s begin with a quick geography lesson. Open your atlas, pull out the globe, or look at this map of Europe and find The United Kingdom (UK) which is short for The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland…quite a mouthful! It is a sovereign state, but it is made up of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Our unit will only focus on England and Ireland (which is not actually part of the UK, but we’ll get to that later!). Now would also be a great time to review the seven continents—sing this song to help memorize them if your child hasn’t already!

If you purchased The Big Book of the UK, crack it open now! This illustrated guide to the United Kingdom is a child-friendly resource that will help your little learner familiarize themselves with the countries and cultures that make up this sovereign state. If you weren’t able to get the book, you can review some information about the UK here. Next, go on to our first activity.

Activity 1: Let’s work on some map reading skills while learning more about the geography of the United Kingdom. First, print this map outline. Have your child begin by coloring each country a different color, using an atlas, world map, or globe for reference. (Don’t have any of those? You can also use this online map.) Remember, only Northern Ireland is part of the UK. Next, let’s add some details! Have your child label each country and add a compass rose to the bottom corner of the map.

Next, have your child draw a key like this in the other bottom corner:

Using these symbols (or whatever symbol your child prefers) to mark the location and names of rivers, mountains, and capitals of each country. Finally, mark and name the following points of interest on the map (we’ll learn more about several of these later!):

  • Buckingham Palace
  • Stonehenge
  • Giant’s Causeway
  • Edinburgh Castle
  • Shakespeare’s original Globe Theatre (you may need to do extra research to find this location)

Activity 2: The United Kingdom’s flag has a story as rich as the countries that make it up! Let’s learn about it here. Scroll down to the bottom of that link for a PDF printout of why the flag has the colors it does. Next, do this layered flag activity to bring it to life.

Activity 3: Finally, let’s learn about one of the United Kingdom’s most fascinating historical sites (and mysteries!)—Stonehenge.

Bonus phonics lesson: After reviewing this week’s phonics rule, can your child figure out why “Stonehenge” ends with -ge and not -dge?

Begin by watching this video. The weight of the Stonehenge stones really can’t be overstated—some of the stones weigh up to 30 tons each! (That’s 60,000 lbs. or about 30 full grown cows!) (source) The truly amazing thing is that, at the time the structure was completed, there was no machinery to help. How did the people who built it lift such heavy stones? We don’t know exactly, but most researchers agree some kind of simple (yet ingenious!) machine must have been used. Let’s learn more about simple machines by reading this website here and watching this video.

Which of these machines does your child think could have been used to build Stonehenge? One theory is that a sort of sledge using huge logs was used to move the stones from their original locations nearly 200 miles (32 km) away (source). You can see what this might have looked like here. Next, researchers theorize that a pulley system was used to lift the stones upright into their current positions.

Let’s bring this to life by making our own simple machine—a pulley! Use this simple tutorial to get started. Next, get a gallon of milk or water or a bucket filled with rocks. Have your child try lifting it on their own first. What are their observations? Now, life it with the help of your pulley. How does the pulley change things?

Activity 4: Let’s use the henges of Stonehenge to inspire a math fact families activity! Begin by printing and laminating this henge. Start by having your child pick a number 1-20, and write this number on the top stone with a dry erase marker. Next, have your child pick a number smaller than the first number and write it on the left side stone. Next, help them determine what number should go on the other side stone to complete the fact family. Check your work by using the equations under the henge. For example, if your top number is 15, and your left number is 6, your right number should be 9. Your equations should look like this:

  • 6 + 9 = 15
  • 9 + 6 = 15
  • 15 – 9 = 6
  • 15 – 6 = 9

For more on how to teach fact families, see this video.

Activity 5: Looking to end the day with some creativity? Let’s build our own model of Stonehenge! Let your child use whatever materials inspire them: rocks with hot glue, biscuits and frosting, air-dry clay or playdough, LEGO—whatever they prefer to build with! Paint a paper plate green and use that as the base of your structure.

Lesson 2:

For today’s lessons, we’ll be heading to the capital of the United Kingdom and England, London! This beautiful city is rich with history and stunning architecture, and it’s also where you’ll find Buckingham Palace! Let’s tour a few famous sites with the charming picture book, Dodsworth in London. (If you have All Aboard the London Bus from Level 1, today would be a great day to read through that book as well!)

Activity 1: If you were going to take a trip to London like Dodsworth, it would be incredibly helpful to learn some of the language.

Wait a minute! Don’t they speak English in England?? Well, yes, but there are also a lot of commonly used slang terms that you might not be as familiar with. Here’s a quick primer on some common English slang you might encounter if you went to London—see how many you can use today!

  • fancy: asking someone if they would like something (“Would you fancy a trip to Buckingham Palace?”)
  • knackered: to be extremely tired (“I was up all night reading, and now I’m knackered.”)
  • chuffed: to be very pleased or happy about something (“I’m absolutely chuffed with my present, thanks!”)
  • bants: an abbreviated form of “banter,” which means to joke or to exchange witty (quick and fun) remarks with others.
  • cheeky: being a little rude or disrespectful, but usually in a way that is funny and endearing (cute).
  • cuppa: comes from the phrase “cup of,” and usually means a cup of tea without having to say “tea.” (“Would you fancy a cuppa?”)
  • mate: friend, or as a way to address strangers in informal situations, like “pal” (“Is this seat taken, mate?”)
  • bum: this word means bottom and also to get something from someone else without paying for it (“Can I bum a pencil off you, mate?”)
  • narky: to be moody or bad-tempered
  • cracking: to be particularly good or excellent (“We had a cracking time at the London Bridge today!”)

Activity 2: We saw many famous London landmarks in our book—let’s learn about three of them! First, the London Bridge. Or really, the Tower Bridge. While it is often mistakenly called London Bridge, the Tower Bridge in London is the iconic structure most people think of when they think of famous bridges in London. (London Bridge is actually in a slightly different location and much less impressive looking.) Click here to learn more about the history and design of Tower Bridge.

There are six basic types of bridges, which you can learn about here. This video helps explain what makes bridges so strong.

Next, let’s let Tower Bridge inspire a STEM activity! Give your child a paper plate, 20-30 straws, 10-20 wooden craft sticks, tape, and a plastic or paper cup filled with 100 pennies. Tell them that they need to build a bridge that stretches across the plate and can support the weight of the cup full of pennies. There is no “right” answer to this challenge, so see how create they can get!

Activity 3: Another famous London site? Big Ben (also known as Elizabeth Tower)! Watch this video to learn more about Big Ben. Next, let’s work on telling time. If you have a play clock (like this one), you can use that. Otherwise, print this clock and use two wooden craft sticks (cut so one is longer than the other) as your clock. To play, pretend your child is Dodsworth and you are the duck, and you are trying to arrange a time to meet at Big Ben. Start by working at telling time to the hour, and then work toward telling time to the minute. (If your child is having a hard time figuring this out, practice skip counting by fives first.)

Activity 4: Dodsworth ends his day at Buckingham palace with the Queen of England! England has a queen because its government is a monarchy (technically a constitutional monarchy—we’ll explain more about that in a minute!). Do you know what type of government the country you live in has? Let’s learn more about types of government with this activity.

Lesson 3:

Today, we’re going to get to know one of the most famous people in English history: William Shakespeare! William Shakespeare is famous for writing plays. Talk to your child about the difference between a book and a play. Were plays meant to be read like a book? No, plays were meant to be acted. Read this kid friendly article with your child to learn more about Shakespeare. (The videos won’t work because the site is from the UK, but here’s a video you can share after you finish reading.) If you were able to get the Pop-Up Shakespeare book, introduce it to your child today. You can read the biography information and share the different types of plays that Shakespeare wrote.

Activity 1: In addition to sonnets and plays, we can also credit Shakespeare with creating a number of expressions that we still use today! You can read some of them here. Of course, the best way to get to know Shakespeare is through his writing! We have listed a few options of kid-friendly versions of his writings under our additional books section above, but check your library for adaptations of his writings for young readers to help them become more familiar with the plot lines before reading the original works.

Next, let’s write our own play! To get the story going, have your child start with one of these simple prompts if they need help:

  • Taking a rocket ride through space
  • Life in a castle
  • A day at the beach
  • Going camping
  • A walk in the woods 

Next, help your child:

  • Choose a setting. Where is your story taking place?
  • Create characters. Who is your story about? What are their names?
  • Tell a story. What is your story going to be about? Is there a problem to solve? Will the characters go on adventure together? 

Encourage them to illustrate their story, and scribe for them if they aren’t writing freely.

Activity 2: Shakespeare’s own theater where his plays were performed was called the Globe Theater. You can learn more about what it was like and what it was like to attend a play there in this video.

Next, build a miniature model of the Globe with this printable.

Activity 3: In addition to plays, Shakespeare also wrote many famous sonnets, which are a type of poem. Let’s read through some of them today for Tea + Poetry. First, though, let’s make a classic English treat often enjoyed with tea, scones (pronounced “skahn,” like “gone,” in London). Use this recipe to make some authentic English scones.

Activity 4: Did you know there are actually quite a few rules of etiquette around a traditional English tea? Etiquette refers to formal rules or manners of conduct to be followed in social or professional settings. Let’s learn about some of the etiquette around proper tea time here.

Now that we know more about how to have an English tea time, let’s have our own Tea + Poetry with our scones while we read a sonnet or two penned by Shakespeare. If you have the Sing a Song of Seasons book we recommended in the Foundations Unit, look on pages 181 and 245 for poems by Shakespeare. Here is another kid friendly sonnet if you don’t have the poetry book at home. 

Lesson 4:

We’ve spent a lot of time in England and the United Kingdom, but now it’s time to travel to the Emerald Isle to learn more about Ireland! Let’s begin with the book This Is…Ireland.

Activity 1: First, let’s learn a bit about the Irish flag. The tricolour, as it’s known in Ireland, is also known as Bratach na hÉireann in Irish. The three colors have specific meanings: the green represents the Catholic religion, the orange represents the protestant religion, and the white in between signifies a lasting truce or peace between the two. The troubles in Ireland were a huge part of Irish history when civil war broke out between the two religions, the Catholics predominantly in the south and the protestants in the north. The flag is a sign of peace and unity between these two groups. You can learn more about the history of the flag in this post.

Have your child make their own flag while also working on their measuring skills. First, have them measure a white piece of paper and split its length into three parts. (They can also do this by folding the paper into three equal parts and measuring the width of one third.) Next, have them measure an orange and green strip the same width as the third and cut out these stripes. Finally, have them glue the stripes onto the edges of the white paper to create the flag.

Activity 2: Next, let’s visit one of the most famous natural attractions of Ireland, the Cliffs of Moher! You can read through this article with your child to help them learn more about this stunning geological formation, but here are some main points to bring out:

  • The Cliffs of Moher ( Irish: Aillte an Mhothair) are sea cliffs located at the southwestern edge of the Burren region in County Clare, Ireland. They run for about 14 kilometers (9 miles). At their southern end, they rise 120 meters (390 ft) above the Atlantic Ocean at Hag’s Head, and, 8 kilometers (5 miles) to the north, they reach their maximum height of 214 meters (702 ft, or about the height of a 7-story building) just north of O’Brien’s Tower, a round stone tower near the midpoint of the cliffs.
  • The cliffs take their name from an old promontory fort called Mothar or Moher, which once stood on Hag’s Head, the southernmost point of the cliffed coast, now the site of Moher Tower. 
  • The cliffs are one of the most popular tourist destinations in Ireland, drawing about one million visitors each year.
  • Today the cliffs are subject to erosion by wave action, which undermines the base of support causing the cliff to collapse under its own weight. This process creates a variety of coastal landforms characteristic of erosional coasts such as sea caves, sea stack, and sea stumps.
  • At peak season, there are an estimated 30,000 pairs of birds living on the cliffs, representing more than 20 species. These include Atlantic puffins, which live in large colonies at isolated parts of the cliffs and on the small Goat Island.
  • A wide range of sea life can also be seen, from grey seals through porpoises, dolphins, minke whales and basking sharks. On land, feral goats, foxes, badgers and the Irish hare are found, along with various breeds of farm cattle.

You can also see some incredible drone footage of the cliffs in this video, or take a virtual tour here.

Cliffs are a type of landform. Landforms are the natural features and shapes existent on the face of the earth. Landforms possess many different physical characteristics and are spread out throughout the planet. Together, landforms constitute a specific terrain and their physical arrangement in the landscape forms what is termed as topography. The physical features of landforms include slope, elevation, rock exposure, stratification and rock type. (source)

Let’s review some of the most common types of landforms with this Go Fish! game. (Note: There are dozens of minor landforms that we aren’t covering today. If your child is interested in learning more about this, you can find a more comprehensive list here.) Start by printing 3-4 copies of these cards onto cardstock (you can also laminate for durability). Shuffle the deck and deal each player 4-5 cards. Play Go Fish! until you’ve gone through the deck, review each landform whenever you get a match.

Activity 3: One of the most famous residents of the Cliffs of Moher are puffins! Read through this article to learn more about these colorful birds. Only a few years ago, scientists made an incredible discovery about puffin beaks—they are fluorescent, meaning they glow under UV light! Scientists aren’t exactly sure why the birds have glowing beaks, but they do know that puffins have the ability to see UV wavelengths, which are invisible to humans, so the glowing may help them find each other even during the day. (source)

Fluorescence is the emission of light by a material when stimulated by ultraviolet light, visible light, X-rays, or other radiation. Let’s bring it to life with this glowing paint activity!

Lesson 5:

For our last day of Ireland, we’ll learn more about some Irish handiworks, learn about another form of poetry, do a bit of baking, and learn more about the traditional music of Ireland. Begin by reading the picture book Fiona’s Lace.

Activity 1: Would you like to learn how to crochet like Fiona? It takes a lot of practice to be able to make something as delicate and beautiful as lace, but there are many simple crochet projects to start with. Let’s learn how to crochet, using this simple tutorial as your guide. (You should set your child up with a crochet hook and some yarn before starting the video, and feel free to pause as much as necessary to help them get the hang of it.)
(-) Not ready for crocheting? Use some lacey paper doilies to make this doily rose craft instead.

Activity 2: Fiona is from a town called Limerick, Ireland, but there is another kind of limerick—and it’s a form of poetry! A limerick is a five-line poem that consists of a single stanza, an AABBA rhyme scheme, and whose subject is usually a short, silly story or description. All traditional limericks:

  • consist of a single stanza
  • have exactly five lines
  • use one rhyme on the first, second, and fifth lines
  • use a second rhyme on the third and fourth lines (source)

Here’s an example:

There was an Old Man with a beard,
Who said, ‘It is just as I feared!
Two Owls and a Hen,
Four Larks and a Wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard!’

Let’s write our own limerick! Start by having your child come up with the first line that is 8-9 syllables. (A common beginning to a limerick is, “There once was…” if they need help getting started. And remember: It’s supposed to be silly!)

Next, have them come up with 5-10 rhyming words for the last word of their first line. Use one of these rhyming words to write the next line of the limerick.

The next two lines should each be about 5 syllables each, and they will share their own rhyme. It may be helpful to come up with another rhyme list after your child writes the third line.

Finally, use your first rhyme list to help them write the last line. Have them recite their limerick!

Activity 3: Soda bread is a popular traditional dish eaten in Ireland. Let’s make our own with this recipe.

Activity 4: Traditional Irish music can be traced back thousands of years, and it is still a big part of the culture today. The main traditional instruments are the fiddle, Irish flute, tin whistle, Celtic harp, uilleann pipes, and bodhrán. (source) Listen to some examples of the music here, here, and here.

What does your child notice about the music? Does it sound joyful? Sad? Exciting? Can they imagine a story along to the tune? Does it make them want to dance? How would they move to this music?

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Published by The Learn + Live Letter

The Learn + Live Letter is a play- and project-based homeschool curriculum for children ages 3-12.