Monday, November 2, 2015

Thanksgiving Table - A Teaching Slice of Life

Slicing with the Two Writing Teachers community is sometimes happy, sometimes sad, but always interesting to hear from everyone's lives, personal or professional.  Thank you Stacey, Tara, Anna, Betsy, Dana, Kathleen, Beth, and Deb.

           I want to share a favorite project once in  a while, and this is one I did again and again. I admit that this is not my idea, but one from a colleague, and I am so glad she shared. You may need some time to think about it because it is a Thanksgiving project, to write before that holiday. FYI-I did it, too.
           Celebrating Thanksgiving can be a small family-only time, or a wider one with family, friends, those who are invited because one knows they are alone. It can be different, serving at a shelter. Yet if you are at one home, usually you know who is going to be "at the table". I often gave students room to imagine, in all curriculum areas. How else will they learn to problem-solve if they cannot imagine?
          At my school, an independent one, a special half day occurs on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, one that has become "Grandpeople's Day." Grandparents and other family come into town for this holiday, so it's a great time to visit their grandchildren's school. They are given tours of all the school with our volunteer tour guides, then end up visiting in the classrooms, some for a short while in order to move from each grandchild's classroom. Each teacher does something different for sharing with the guests, not only grandparents, but neighbors, aunts and uncles, cousins, too.
         One assignment I gave the week previous for sharing on Grandpeople's Day is this: Imagine that you can invite anyone as a guest to your Thanksgiving table. Choose three to six plus one guest of honor. In this assignment, name those invited, why you chose each one, and write a few sentences, or more if needed, of what you might say to that person. 
         The challenge for the teacher is what limits might be placed. Will you say that the people must be a mix from history, characters from a book, cartoon characters, ancestors? Or will you say anyone is okay, like a friend who's moved away, a favorite family member who cannot be with you, etc.? I bring this up because my students were varied in their choices, from those with serious history passions choosing people like Cleopatra, Adolph Hitler, and Malcolm X to lovers of super heroes like Batman and Wonder Woman. Also, many chose grandparents or great-grandparents they never met, special cartoon characters or even best friends. I did push for variety, but really it was their choice, and they wowed me every time with their choices and why.
         I also varied the number depending on other things happening in the class at the time. It doesn't have to be many; three is plenty. The best thing that connected this assignment to Grand-People's Day is when our visitors came, we sat in the living area and shared the choices, the whys and the words that would be said. Then I invited the visitors to share one person they would invite. It was a pleasure for us to hear their choices, too, a wonderful thing to connect for this one-time-only gathering. 


photo credit: Thanksgiving meal via photopin (license)

30 comments:

  1. This is a wonderful activity that I am sure the Grandparents and students enjoyed. We often forget that there are people in the world who have no one to share Thanksgiving with. Families are to be treasured.

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    1. Thanks Carol, it was always fun to see who students and the visitors chose.

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  2. Love this! I remember experimenting with variations. So much fun to take up these holiday challenges and bring them into the classroom. I'm sure many who read your post will be taking up your challenge.

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    1. I hope some will try it, Bonnie. Students loved the choosing of "who" would be at their tables. Thanks.

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  3. Brilliant!!! Now I'm imagining who I would invite. I could get LOST in this challenge. Definitely going to invite my students to take this challenge. Thanks Linda!

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    1. You're welcome, Michelle. Hope you and your students enjoy it.

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  4. I love these kinds of challenges. BUT I have a terrible time with them. As I've grown older I have less interest in the famous and more interest in those family members I've never known. Just know of. Such a great classroom or dinner time conversation.

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    1. Yes, some students found it so hard to choose. I assume that's what you mean, Julieanne. Some chose favorite 'famous' people because they wanted to really "see" them, others did think of past relatives they had heard wonderful stories about, so wanted to 'meet' them. Different strokes! Thanks!

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  5. What a great writing idea! I am sure some of the guests were amazing! I love the Grand-People's Day idea as well!

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  6. This is a beautiful project, Linda. It has me thinking, of course. Who would I invite? Hmmmm....

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    1. Thanks, Dana, and now I wonder who you would have at your table?

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  7. Thought I posted a comment but don't see it. Must have hit the wrong button. Glad I checked back. Anyway, I love this idea. I especially like the part about the visitors sharing as well. This gives students a glimpse of who and what is important to the adults in their lives.

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    1. Thanks, glad you enjoyed the idea, & glad you checked back. It is really a pleasure to share with those guests!

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  8. This kind of activity requires thinking, and creative thinking. I am not sure I would know what to answer. Some interesting characters might not be the best dinner companion. It is always interesting to hear what others answer.

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    1. Students talk about it constantly while choosing, Terje. And you're right, they do choose by what will be fun as well as wanting some serious conversation. Thanks!

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  9. You've got me thinking about who I'd invite. So many choices...

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    1. And that is the challenge, to limit it. No crowds, please! Thanks, Stacey!

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  10. This would be fun to do at a restaurant when you are waiting to be served -- a nice way to pass the time!

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    1. And your children are old enough to have a lot of fun with it, I imagine, Tabatha. Thanks!

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  11. This is a good one. And I, like many other commenters, would have to think on it. Great discussion starters. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. You're welcome, Leigh Anne. Hope you and others enjoy talking about it.

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  12. I love the simple back and forth the sharing creates. And how so much happens when we invite others to our tables. I love this idea, Linda. Thanks for writing it up and sharing it with us. How powerful those visits must have been!

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    1. They were wonderful, easy to welcome those loved ones into the classroom. I forgot to mention that this year I get to be the Grand-person in my granddaughter's class-what fun!

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  13. Thanks for this timely writing idea. I wonder who will be invited. Rick Riordan will be on quite a few lists, I'm sure.

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    1. There seemed to be an author or two, but really, students chose so many interesting people, lovely to see the unique choices. Thanks, Margaret.

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  14. My mom and my dad, so I could introduce them to my kids, and they could meet my husband and my kids. And my third guest would be an author. This one I have to think about a bit. Wonderful idea, Linda. I used to have my students write about the top then things they were thankful for and then they shared them with their families.

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    1. We would have such fun teaching together, Ramona. We did some thankful things too. Thanks for telling me about your choices, too.

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Having a conversation is a good thing!