During the month of November, my classes began their Thanksgiving Unit. We read several stories about Thanksgiving, talked about why we celebrate Thanksgiving, discussed the relationships between the Pilgrims and the American Indians and prepared corn bread for our Thanksgiving Feast. The objectives of this unit included the following:
1. Children will understand why the Pilgrims left England, where they went, and how they got there.
2. Children will begin to understand how the Pilgrims came over to America on a long journey.
3. Students will participate in a Thanksgiving story discussion and share ideas with the class.
4. Students will work cooperatively and demonstrate knowledge of social skills and appropriate behavior in the classroom.
5. Children will demonstrate understanding of Thanksgiving story order and be able to recognize how significant the American Indians were to the Pilgrims' survival.
6. Students will use fine and large motor skills to prepare corn breading by adding ingredients - pour, mix, break eggs.
7. Children will begin to discuss and understand what Thanksgiving is all about.
8. Children will develop own ideas as to what they are thankful for.
9. Children will understand why Thanksgiving was celebrated by the Pilgrims.
10. Children will describe how and why they celebrate Thanksgiving today.
We covered a substantial amount with the students during this unit and I asked a lot of open-ended questions to allow children the opportunity to think and share ideas. During the first week of introduction to Thanksgiving, many misconceptions about American Indians were shared by my students. I asked students to show what they already knew about American Indians and it became apparent that some of my kindergartners believed American Indians were extinct and held other stereotypes. I felt strongly that it was necessary to devote more time to teaching the students about American Indian culture so that their thinking and understanding could expand. Before jumping into this, I wanted to understand what my students were thinking about American Indians. I brought in several books with photographs of contemporary American Indian boys and girls and of their ancestors. We talked about the people in the photographs and then I gave every student a white board to draw a picture of an American Indian. We then shared our drawings and had a mini-museum exhibit in which the students could walk around and look at each other's art work. This lesson gave the class an opportunity to discuss some of their thinking about American Indians, how they thought American Indians looked and why they felt this way. With a better grasp of where my students were coming from, I decided another lesson would be very helpful in broadening their perspective and understanding. The lesson I planned involved inviting an American Indian woman into our classroom. Actually, the idea came from a discussion I had with my teacher assistant who informed me that one of the wrap-around assistants who worked with a special needs student in the morning was Navajo and Zuni. When I met this woman, we began talking about how neat it would be for the kindergartners to hear something about her culture and her family, to see pictures and to have an opportunity to ask her questions. She was very accomodating and agreed to come to my class and meet my students. The result was really interesting. I realized that I was eager to dispel the kindergartners' many stereotypes and misconceptions but that I needed to attempt to focus on one primary objective. After quite a bit of thought, I decided that I was most concerned about the children's belief that American Indians were extinct and I wanted them to understand that many American Indian people are alive today. With this goal in mind, I prepared the class for our visitor. I was pleased to see how well our class received our guest and I was excited by their interest in her pictures, her stories and her presence. Their questions were genuine and honest and oftentimes reflected their young age. Overall, I felt the experience was hugely beneficial to my class and to me.