Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Redirection in Teaching ~Thanksgiving, Then and Now

Like many of you I grew up having a Thanksgiving Feast in my classroom and in my first several years of teaching I hosted a Thanksgiving feast for my students. We made placemats, costumes and invited other staff members to join us. It was a fun day and LOTS of work for the parent’s volunteers and me. The planning, preparation and hosting consumed at least a week of precious teaching time. I was pretty sure my volunteers were doing most of the work while the kids and I colored, cut, pasted and ate. I began to wonder what the kids were really learning about Thanksgiving.

Learning Targets 
Looking at the Model Curriculum: PK-12 I found the following statements to guide the focus of instruction regarding Thanksgiving.
1. Time can be divided into categories (e.g., months of the year, past, present and future).
2. Photographs, letters, artifacts and books can be used to learn about the past. 
3. The way basic human needs are met has changed over time. 

Directing the Focus of Instruction~

We began our study by reading When I Was Five by Arthur Howard to enable the kids to connect to the concept of past and present through their own experiences. After reading the kids orally shared personal stories about their past contrasted with how this same thing looks or is done now, in the present. After orally sharing their stories with their peers they wrote their stories and posted them in the hall to share with our building. 

Extending the Concept of Past and Present
To help the kids envision this concept from another perspective we read, Before I Was Your Mother by Kathryn Lasky, we wondered what our own moms, dads, or even grandparents might have been like as first graders or before they were our parents.  Later I shared my favorite book, The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton and a photograph of me as a first grader. As I read the Little House to my class many noticed the difference in illustrations in this books as compared to many of the books currently in our classroom. With this background knowledge as a springboard we created a list of our wonderings about our parents and grandparents. From here a VoiceThread (VT) was created and shared with our families over the Thanksgiving break. By sharing the VT over the Thanksgiving break, when families would gather, we were enabling more grandparents to participate and share stories by commenting or adding slides to show artifacts or photographs.  

The Next Step
As we return from Thanksgiving Break stories of the past will be shared through our VT, oral story telling, and the artifacts and the photographs we will bring into our classroom. The kids will have a working knowledge of life in the past and present through their perspective and the perspectives of their families. With this knew knowledge we will be ready to explore the ways basic are met now and the way they were met then. Using books like Samuel Eaton's Day by Kate Waters we will look at the ways people dressed, lived and found food. While are basic needs have not changed the ways in which we meet these needs have changed. 

With this redirection in focus I see my kids wondering about the past, inferring changes and reasons for change. Now, the kids are doing the work, the kids are doing the learning! 


Mandy said...

I love this thinking and is something I needed as I wrap my head around the new curricula. This is so purposeful and intentional, I have to file this away for next year. Just to say it again, I love it!

Cathy said...

Thanks for reminding me about Grandpa Green by Lane Smith as a "Then and Now" story. Here are some other titles I like to use:

- "When I Was Young in the Mountains" by Cynthia Rylant
-"Little House on the Prairie" picture book series
-Places "Then and Now" First Step Nonfiction Series (school, home, communication, transportation)

Now to play with that "artifact" piece. I think there is a lot of potential there. Mandy told me about having students bring in pictures of relatives that had served/were serving in the military on Veteran's Day. She talked about how interested students were in these family stories. Perhaps next year this would be a good way/place/time to start this conversation.

Thanks for keeping me thinking (and purposeful),

debf said...

Mandy and Cathy,
Thanks for adding to the conversation by sharing ideas and book titles. I love the idea of using photos of family members who have or are serving in the military to begin the conversation.
Definitely, need to revisit these ideas next year!

I love the collaborative plan development here(*_*)