Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Celebrations

We're almost finished with our celebrations of light unit - see Christmas Around the World post.
This year, I had the students create little booklets to keep their notes and the essential questions in throughout the unit.
I had them answer the unit's essential questions at the beginning of the unit and I will have them answer them this week again to show what they have learned and how they can apply it to these critical thinking questions.
Essential Questions:
Why is it that so many different cultures celebrate "Light" around the same time of year?
Why is it important to understand other cultures and their traditions?

We have had a great time learning about the different celebrations and comparing and contrasting them to our own holiday traditions.

My stations this week centered around the social studies theme "Christmas Around the World"
Station 1:
Students read together on the carpet different articles about how other countries and cultures celebrate around the month of December (Diwali, Hanukkah, St. Nicholas Day, St. Lucia Day, Festival of Lanterns, Chinese New Year, Las Pasados)

Station 2: Students work cooperatively to create a holiday craft
Because I wanted to have different cultural elements, I actually had this station change each day
-create a menorah
-use critical thinking to put the paragraph together about Kwanzaa and the Kinara
- create a St. Lucia Wreath
- create a henna tattoo (Diwali)
 Station 3:
This idea I got from Cardigans and Curriculum
Write a persuasive letter to Santa explaining to him why your house is the BEST and why he should stop there
The idea was for the kids to use persuasive techniques such as exaggeration, flattery/compliments, whats in it for you? to convince Santa.
I required it to be done in a 5 paragraph essay format even thought it was a letter - it is good practice for kids to realize that a paragraph is generally not long enough to give adequate support in 5th grade. I try not to stress a specific number of paragraphs in any paper (for example 5 paragraph essay) I feel this limits kids... instead I just ask about how many might this end up being if we add everything we need.
Intro p. reason 1 p. reason 2 p. reason 3 p. closing = this one happens to be about 5 but some kids wrote more ... *smile*

Station 4:
I had three popular Christmas toons
-Silver Bells
-Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer
-The Grinch
They had to highlight the ADJECTIVES in each song
This was sadly, more difficult for them than I anticipated... we will continue reviewing parts of speech
heavily in the coming half of the year.

This is my first year doing centers (and I probably wouldn't have gotten the ball rolling if it weren't for the encouragement of my partner teacher!) But I am really enjoying them now! We do stations for a half an hour every morning. I try and incorporate each academic element that I teach - reading, writing, social studies - this is my most "integrated" part of the day. The kids do one station a morning - having completed each of the stations by Friday. On Friday, we "make up" any stations we weren't able to complete. They hang onto their center work in their ELA folders throughout the week. Center work is due Monday mornings.

I would love to hear how other teachers organize center time in their classrooms.

Do you do weekly centers? How do you do centers?

Note: Please be aware that that as a social studies educator, my purpose is to get students excited about learning other cultures as well as their own. I am not perfect in my education of this, though I do try and do a lot of research before teachings cultures and history. Concerning the crafts and activities used in my room, I try to make them as authentic as possible from my findings and research but do not claim to be a museum. Using tangible items helps spur students passion for the cultures and history we study and creates in them a desire to learn and discover more. If there is something that bothers you or have questions on my instruction concerning your culture or any other topic I may teach in my room, please feel free to email me personally to help me gain more understanding. I love learning about others and am always striving to educate my students better. 
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