One important lesson that really helps drive this understanding home is a reading inference lesson on Sarah Morten's Day. I am sure many of your are familiar with this book as a teacher favorite around Thanksgiving.
I start the lesson by reading the story as a good old fashioned read aloud. By this time, students have a pretty good understanding of Jamestown and Plymouth so they can make some good connections to the text.
I then work through the inference sheet I have created modeling my thinking with the first text, the second two they complete by sharing their thinking with their partner and than writing down, the last two should be accomplished individually, however, you may need to model more if this is a new skill.
At the end, students have an opportunity to share their reflection on what life was like for children during early settlements. After diving deeper into the text's meaning, students can form a more accurate assessment of childhood.
- They probably had to work harder because if they didn't their family could struggle for food during the winter.
- Everyone had to help out to help the family survive - pull their own weight.
- They were very respectful of adults and their parents.
- They enjoyed games like we do.
- Parents had to be strict because life was harder and they were focused on survival.
- Parents loved their children and children loved their parents, just like today.
As a fun sponge activity, we also practiced grinding corn. I had the students fill out a planning sheet before our activity which can be found at my TPT store. They REALLY enjoyed this activity.
Planning/Reflection sheet for each group
24 medium sized rocks
One 10lb bag of squirrel corn (whole cob)
Container to carry corn and corn meal
Students had a great time pounding corn - many of them were surprised at how long it took to get down to corn meal. They also discovered many different methods that helped the process, such as grinding the kernels with the rock instead of slamming the rock down, keeping the kernels together to crush instead of spreading them out, etc.
Overall, I think this activity, along with the inference lesson, really helped the kids recognized the importance of children's work in early settlements and the manual labor it took.