Thanksgiving School 2012–Day One

Every year that we have Thanksgiving School, I organize it a little differently. This year, I decided to do seven days’ worth of themes, since we’ll be learning about Thanksgiving this week, plus two days next week. The themes are:

  • Native Americans
  • The Mayflower Voyage
  • Pilgrims
  • The First Thanksgiving
  • Civil War/Pioneer Era Thanksgiving Celebrations
  • Modern Day Thanksgiving Celebrations
  • Thanksgiving Fun

I’ve selected three read-alouds for each day, and some days we’ll also have additional activities, such as crafts, games, and movies. Our first day was very busy, as we had a craft, a game, a movie, and a special food incorporated into our theme…I wanted to have a wide variety of activities since Moose had the day off of school and was able to join in the fun.

Before our read-alouds, we refreshed our memories about Native American in general by looking at two books: North American Indians and Native Homes. These books reminded us of some of the different North American Indian tribes, where in the country they lived, and what kind of homes they built. After we discussed these basics, we read about three different Indians, two real (Pocahontas and Squanto), and one fictional (Tapenum).

We used the book More than Moccasins for both our game (a game of chance played with sticks), and our ethnic food of the day (Indian fry bread). This is an excellent book that I’ve used for different ideas over the course of the last several years. There are tons of great suggestions for games, foods, and craft projects, usually with a little history thrown in. There are also many other books in this series, looking at different periods of history and different groups of people…they’re great resources to have when you’re in search of something to make a lesson extra-memorable!

For our craft, we made Indian corn decorations. We made two-dimensional Indian corn using a paper tearing technique, but you could also make three-dimensional Indian corn using toilet paper tubes. The paper tearing is optional either way…you could always cut neat squares instead!

We watched the Peanuts Mayflower Voyages special as well. This could have waited until our Mayflower Day (tomorrow), but I wanted to make sure we watched it with Moose, and a decent part of the movie focuses on Squanto, so it still fit with the theme for the day. I’m always surprised by how accurate a children’s show can be, but it is very true to the story of the first Thanksgiving, with a little creative license in the way of characters (especially one well-known beagle!).

Third Grade: Week Four Wrap-Up

I’m a day late in posting this, because I wanted to include today’s field trip, which was the conclusion to this week’s history lessons.

We’ve spent this week, (and part of last), learning about Native Americans with Adventures in My Father’s World. It’s been a very fun and informative week, and included some great read-alouds, interesting book basket choices, fun crafts, and the aforementioned field trip. I’m really loving My Father’s World, because not only are there great books as part of the curriculum, they’ve also planned out the crafts for me, which I’m not too good at on my own. It’s easy to just add in field trips where applicable, and really run with the program!

First, our read-aloud books. One of them was new to us–Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims. I think I read this book as a child–it has certainly been around forever! I had a difficult time with the beginning of the book, because it seemed to contradict everything I’ve learned about Squanto. As it turns out, it appears, at least according to this biography, that Squanto traveled to Europe once before he was kidnapped, and that’s the part of the story that confused me. We did get into his kidnapping late this week though, so I felt a little better about the quality of the book we’re reading.

Our second read-aloud was not new to us–North American Indians. I’ve used this book the last two years, for Thanksgiving School. It’s a great overview in the differences between the different groups of Indians in this country, divided by geography. It can’t go too in-depth with any one group, but it really gives a feel for the way different tribes lived, from the homes they lived in to the food they ate.

Our book basket books were also old Thanksgiving School selections, but it was the first time Turkey and Bunny read them on their own, so they were able to glean different information from them this time around. The overwhelming favorite was Native Homes, which shows, as the title suggests, the different dwellings of different Indian tribes. They really enjoyed comparing different homes, (a lot of them are very similar to wigwams), and each had a favorite home style.

They also read If You Lived With the Iroquois. I’m a big fan of this series–we have several titles. It’s written in a Q&A format, and answers all of the down-to-earth questions children have about what it would be like to be a member of this particular nation. It covers everything from how they would bathe, to religious beliefs, to medicine, to holidays and festivals. As an adult, I always learn something from these titles!

The final book basket choice for the week was Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving. Turkey and Bunny actually read this last week, too, as that’s when we started our Squanto read-aloud, but I wanted to make sure they were really familiar with the story. This book gives a good, short summary of the native’s life, with an admittedly strongly Christian slant.

Turkey and Bunny had two crafts this week as well. First, they made construction paper wigwams. This is actually more difficult than it sounds, because of the amount of glue involved. I really think they gained an appreciation for how difficult actually putting together a real wigwam would have been!

They also made a paper teepee. We’ve done this project before, but this time, they really enjoyed decorating their miniature homes. They had a much better understanding of how Indians actually would have decorated their teepees, and included things like pictures of buffalo and other animals.

Finally, we had a field trip to Cahokia Mounds, the largest old Indian settlement north of Mexico. We walked through the Interpretive Center, which has a great display that depicts every aspect of the Mississippian Indians lived, from food preparation to children playing, and everything else you can think of. They were also having a special event, with demonstrations of many different activities, including Atlatl throwing, story telling, and hoop dancing. It was a great day to visit–we all learned a lot!

Pictures don’t really give an adequate idea of just how tall Monk’s Mound is, so you’ll have to take my word for it–it’s enormous! Being afraid of heights, it was a bit of a challenge for me to climb it, especially once I realized just how high up I was! But the view is amazing–you can see the St. Louis skyline, and all of the surrounding area.

Thanksgiving School–Day Six

This is a short school week for us–only three days–but we still have some fun things planned. We’re taking a break from our regular Language Arts program (which we did use all of last week), but we’re still working on math review. We’re also still learning about the Pilgrims, Indians, and Thanksgiving traditions in America.

We started with the last of Kate Water’s books about life in colonial America: Tapenum’s Day. This is a fictional story of an Indian boy, who is trying to prove that he is a man. Turkey and Bunny were very interested in how an Indian boy might have spent his day (lots of hunting), and they were surprised (and kind of appalled) at how little supervision he had as he traveled around the area in which he lived.

We also read Native Homes, which is a really cool book about the different types of houses different Native American tribes used to live in. Of course there are the familiar teepees and wigwams, but also some less-known structures such as chickees. It was interesting to see the commonalities in many of the homes–for example, the shape of a wigwam is seen in other types of houses, even though different methods were used to construct them. Turkey and Bunny were also very curious about what would happen to the fire in most of the houses if it were to rain through the smoke vent (we did learn that at least some of the homes had special covers for the vent, but that meant that the house would fill with smoke).

No Native American craft for us, but I found directions for a traditional Native American “stick game” for us to play. I got the directions for making the playing pieces, plus the rules of the game from a really cool book called More Than Moccasins, which is part of an excellent series of craft/activity books called “A Kid’s Guide.” I used this book last year, too, and I got ideas for games (like the stick game, and another we played last year called hubbub), crafts (grocery sack Indian vests and Indian headbands), and food (last year we made Indian fry bread from scratch, and it was amazing!). There are tons of ideas in the book, and I’m sure we’ll keep using it until–well, I don’t even know. I can’t imagine a time we *wouldn’t* want to use it!

Thanksgiving School–Day One

On Monday, we began our eight-day long Thanksgiving unit in school. This is one of my favorite parts of every school year. We use many of the same books every year, and some of the same crafts, but we also read new titles, and find new things to make and do. There’s also always a field trip–in Kindergarten, it was simply a trip to Macy’s (after reading Milly and the Macy’s Parade), last year a trip to Cahokia Mounds, and this year, a trip to the St. Louis Art Museum to view the pre-Columbian and Native American art on display there.

So we dove right in on Monday, starting with the reading of two books. First was The Discovery of the Americas, which is the first in “The American Story” series, an excellent selection of books that introduces early American history to children.

We also read North American Indians, a repeat from last year, but a great introduction to some of the different tribes that have lived in America.

We started our “thankful turkey” on Monday, too (an idea inspired by previous years’ “thankful wreath” and “thankful tree”). Turkey and Bunny cut out the body and feathers, and after I hung the featherless turkey up in the school room, they each filled out a feather with something for which they are thankful. We will continue to do this every day of our Thanksgiving unit.

Our main craft for the day was designing and making Indian headdresses. This was a very fun activity, and it was fun to see how creative both Turkey and Bunny are, in very different ways!

Learning About Native Americans

For the last week, we’ve been learning all about Native Americans. I think that this has been one the most fun (and informative!) special units we’ve done so far!

We kept up with our regular L.A. program, and we also kept using our Horizons math worksheets, but everything else, from history and geography to read-alouds was all part of a unit that I put together to help us learn more about the people who lived in America first, before we learn about the pilgrims next week.

I found a really cool book called More Than Moccasins, which is full of crafts, games, projects and recipes, to help children learn more about Native American life in a really fun way. We used something from this book every day this week, and we were able to learn about their homes, games, food, and clothing in doing so.

On Monday, we began our week by reading North American Indians. This was a good overview, to help us get familiar with the different Indian tribes that used to inhabit our country, what their homes were like, and whether they depended more on hunting or farming. We also played a game of chance called Hubbub, which has some similarities to Pass the Pigs, and some to Yahtzee, and was used in different variations by many Indian tribes.

On Tuesday, we continued learning about the different types of houses Native Americans built and lived in with Native Homes. This book did a great job of explaining why the different types of houses were built (either because of geography or lifestyle), and what similarities and differences there were in housing. We made a small tee-pee village, complete with door flaps and “people” inside!


On Wednesday, we grew more specific in our quest to learn about Native American life when we read If You Lived With the Iroquois. I love the Scholastic If You… series, and this was a fun book to read to get an idea of what it would be like to be part of a particular Indian group. We also learned a lot about the Iroquois Nation, which was new even for me. I would have liked to have picked a book about Indians more local to the St. Louis area, but since the If You… series doesn’t make one, I settled for the Great Lakes region, which isn’t too far away, and was where Ryan and I grew up.

We also tried to make Wampum out of dyed macaroni, but this was our one project that completely failed–the macaroni were too bendy to get the string through, so we just played with them for a little while, but never got to make any beaded chains out of them.

On Thursday, we learned about two specific Indians–Squanto and Pocahontas. I found Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving to be an especially interesting and touching book–I particularly enjoyed the way the pilgrims viewed him as their “Joseph.”) Turkey and Bunny practiced their reading skills by taking turns reading The True Story of Pocahontas, and they both did really well–Powhatan was really the only word that tripped them up! To cap off Thursday, Turkey and Bunny helped me make Indian fry bread (don’t worry, I did all the actual frying!), which was enjoyed by everyone in the family, and made a nice addition to the soup we had for dinner. We agreed that it would be much more difficult to cook it over a fire, though!

On Friday, we read a fictional story about what it would have been like to have been a Wampanoag Indian boy. Tapenum’s Day is the third in a series of books about what it was like to be a child at the time Europeans began living in America. We read the first two books last year, and really enjoyed them, so we added this one as well, and we’ll be reading the first two again next week.

We also made Indian “vests” out of paper bags. Turkey and Bunny loved this craft, because they got to color, and because they can “wear” them. Definitely a fun way to end the school week!

ry=400-1Today, to finish off our Native American experience, we took a field trip to Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site. It was quite impressive. When you look at the mounds there (especially the 100 foot tall Monk’s Mound), and realize that thousands of people spent 300 years carrying 50 pound baskets of dirt around to construct them, it’s rather mind-boggling. We made the climb to the top of Monk’s Mound (even Ladybug, with her short little toddler legs, and me, with my fear of heights!), and the view from the top was quite impressive.



It was a great week of school!