It is hard to believe that we are already heading into winter break. Every year the fall goes faster and faster. Before I know it, Thanksgiving is on the horizon and I am stressing about writing reports. I always have the initial first duh moment where I wonder, what I have been doing for the last three months. I know I have been here every day working, but what am I really doing? As a former classroom teacher, I continue to struggle with crafting curriculum that fits into forty five minutes twice a week. Sometimes, as I am planning I think I am pure genius. This should be my first clue that it is going to blow up in my face. What appears so perfect in my imagination, just doesn’t always apply to reality. An example of this is my use of PebbleGo recently. A first grade teacher requested that I do holidays with her students. Since I just finished character and setting and exposing students to different religions and cultures is a perfect tie in to our mission I thought it was an okay idea. I normally try to stay away from looking at cultures solely through celebrations, however, I convinced myself this was an easy entryway into bigger conversations. Also, it was the perfect chance to introduce research in the most gentle way. Students were directed to find one way the holiday was celebrated. Using technology to have the information read to the students, plus videos, plus pictures. Woo Hoo! Win! Win! Win! Except when it isn’t. Since I have the luxury of seeing the first grade in small groups I decided to split them into pairs and have them each research a fall or winter holiday. As this is the first time I have the class on computers independently, I chose the holidays: Diwali, Chinese New Year, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. I knew the students already knew a lot about Christmas and I wanted them to explore something new. After the students had the opportunity to learn about a holiday in PebbleGo, I invited the students to draw a picture about something they learned and then write one sentence in their best kids spelling. So here is where pure foolishness was masquerading as genius. These students did NOT want to learn about a holiday different from their own. Students who celebrated Diwali didn’t want to learn about Kwanzaa, and students that celebrated Hanukkah did not care about Chinese New Year. Students who celebrated Christmas begged to be able to research Christmas the next time. Which makes total sense. Children, especially young children, get so excited when something from their personal lives comes up in the school day. The connection with home is just too delicious and everything else fades from view. So of course it makes much more sense to have the students read about holidays they celebrate and then share them with a friend.
So this week I am letting the students choose the holiday they want to investigate. Then I am going to ask the students to compare the holidays for similarities and differences. I’m going to do this with a four corners activity first and then a classroom discussion. I already know I am in trouble because as I’m writing this, I’m already thinking, “This is going to be great!!!”