Barrie Wexler

C & I (Fall 1997)

Mini-unit - Thanksgiving

Unit Overview

Hand Tracing Turkey

Cornbread and Butter

Fall Thanksgiving Turkey

Mayflower Activities


Mini-Unit Overview

In my kindergarten classroom the week before and the week of Thanksgiving, I will be conducting four or five lessons focusing on skills of reading, art, math, social studies and science/health. Each activity will involve use of fine and large motor skills whether the children are participating cooperatively in the whole group or working individually at their tables.

I decided to do my unit on Thanksgiving and concentrate on these four curricular areas because although I wanted to plan for a million and one activities, I could only concentration a few. Jean wanted to teach some basic knowledge about Thanksgiving and explain the story to the kindergartners in the simplest way possible and actually she gave me this opportunity to explore ideas and methods we could use. Sitting and listening to story after story will not capture these childrenís attention, nor would they be able to sit still and remain interested in the discussion for a great deal of time. Because their attention span is so short, I placed my main focus on using various hands on approach lessons and activities, giving my students the opportunity to explore their environment and surroundings and discover how and why this national holiday is so significantly related to them. I want the children to understand how Thanksgiving came about so it will become a meaningful tradition to them and not just another day off of school. Multiculturalism is an issue that I also want to address, but because it is so controversial, my teacher feels it is inappropriate to introduce at the kindergarten level. I know that many of the older classrooms have deep open-ended discussions on the Pilgrims journey over to America and talk about the differences between the Native Americans and the Pilgrims way of life, though with the little children, we try to focus on more of a creative expressionistic approach. By asking questions and planning activities such as ëWhat are you thankful for?" and discussing the reasons for eating turkey on Thanksgiving, students will begin to understand and associate this holiday with other ideas and concepts besides what they already know. I realize that sometimes when I think of certain holidays an image comes to mind that really does not have that much to do with the actual holiday itself, such as the Easter bunny for Easter. I would like the children in my classroom to see Thanksgiving as much more than just a picture of a turkey and I hope to achieve this goal in the next few weeks.

My goal for this Thanksgiving mini-unit is to have the children in my classroom understand how the Pilgrims and Native Americans worked together to live, eat, work and eventually become friends. Itís important to point out the basic idea of the Native Americans and Pilgrims coming together to develop a life in America and possibly touch a little on the controversy that existed at the time , but not focus completely on the multicultural issue. My teacher went so far as to say that I should not sing the song 1,2,3 little Indians with them because it brought up differences and stereotypes that we should just not even bother dealing with.

The children will be introduced to the Thanksgiving story and will be able to create their own story by drawing, cutting, listening , sharing and using open-ended thinking skills. Jean and I designed a book of six pages which told the Thanksgiving story in a small simplistic fashion. The students have to color in each page of the story and then order the pages from the fist event to the last. This sequencing instruction allows the children to practice counting skills and understand the concepts of before and after. When they read this book to their parents or explain the events we discussed in class, the students will demonstrate knowledge of ordinal numbers and have a much more concrete idea of how to set up a story.

I am planning on teaching a few art projects in the next few weeks which will work on their fine and large motor skills and ability to interact and share with others. For one activity, I will have the children draw their hand on a piece of construction paper and then color the outline of their fingers with crayons, markers or design with colorful feathers or tissue paper. The children can create their own face, and give their turkey whatever expressions they choose. A second activity I am going to do with the children will take a few days to complete. I will pass out a picture of a turkey and then the kindergartners will have to color it in and cut it out. I will call them in groups to come over to the art table and paint brown a pizza cardboard circle with the center cut out, used as a wreath. The following day we will go on a fall nature walk around our school collecting different color leaves or branches and put them in a paper bag. When our brown wreathes are dried the children will glue their turkey in the center of the circle and glue the materials they found on our nature walk around the turkey. For a health/science lesson we are going to make cornbread and butter which my co-op and I will be teaching together. We will discuss why we eat certain food on Thanksgiving and each child will get a chance to participate in cooking and make a feast of their own.

My students will create a Thanksgiving centerpiece which will be displayed for conferences and I am going to use this as a reading writing activity. We will read The First Thanksgiving by Lou Rogers out loud and discuss who was involved and how ëThanksgivingí actually came about. Along with some of the other activities, I am planning to also read a Thanksgiving story first thing in the morning to prepare them for the dayís events. On tagboard I will have copied a pattern of a turkey and then on a little attached piece of paper there are lines for Ms. Breeze or I to write down what the children tell us what they are thankful for. The students will color in both turkey shapes, one for the front and one for the back and then cut them out. Then they will walk over to Ms. Breeze or myself when they are finished on one side they will write "Happy Thanksgiving" and on the other side they will write "To my family". They will follow the directions of gluing the tabs to one another so as to connect the entire centerpiece. When they are finished with this activity, they will display it on a table so the parents can observe their childrenís work at conferences. I also developed an activity in which the children would have to create their own Mayflower though utilizing their fine and large motor skills while drawing, pasting and cutting. After showing a few pages of the book, The Mayflower and the Pilgrim Fathers, by Owen Hedley, we will discuss how the journey to America was so long and hard for the Pilgrims. I am going to ask questions such as, "What kind of things would you bring with you if you were going on a ship for a few months?" How do you think the Pilgrims felt? We are then going to pretend we are the Pilgrims riding on the ship to America. The children will close their eyes while I play part of a nature tape called ëSolitudeí. My students will listen to the sounds of the thunder, rain and lighting and then listen to quiet peaceful music of the ocean at night. After we listen to the tape, they will have to explain how they would feel if they were sitting on a ship in the middle of a storm. Ex. Would you be scared, or worried? We will discuss what kind of emotions the Pilgrims might have felt on their journey, go through the steps of the Thanksgiving story and then they will work independently on creating their own Mayflower. A group cooperative Thanksgiving activity will be one that we will work on together as a class. Ms. Breeze and I will create a large sized turkey on tagboard or construction paper and attach it to our bulletin board. It will be the childrenís responsibility to make itís feathers using the different materials around the room, paint, paper, markers, crayons, feathers... We will discuss sharing and cooperation and tie this activity into the Thanksgiving unit. The children will understand that in order to work together as a group they must be patient, take turns, help each other out and have respect for one another.

My classroom is a world of enthusiastic children, flying papers and boxes and boxes of storage materials, yet the amount of learning that goes on each day is amazing! Coming into this kindergarten room I was overwhelmed by the overload of materials and although I still cannot find a place to have as my own, such as a table or desk, I understand that kindergarten is very hectic and unstructured in itself. There is no one day that I am doing a specific lesson, I just have to be prepared to teach any one of the five or six at any given time. I have alot of activities planned and Jean wants me pretty much to teach each one, some with her assistance, some without. She gives me the freedom to try out new ideas and methods and I really feel that this is beneficial. I am excited to begin my Thanksgiving mini-unit and am looking forward to trying out a few lessons of my own.

I plan to evaluate my Thanksgiving Unit by observing their understanding of the Thanksgiving events throughout open-ended discussion, individual or group activities. I will walk around during center lesson time and look for those children who are working diligently and demonstrating effort and knowledge in the subject we are working on. I will also analyze their use of social skills and fine and large motor skill abilities.

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