Not Your Average Pumpkin Unit

0 Comments

*Click any image to be taken to the resource*

Buckle up. This unit is F-U-N. But not like, “label the parts of the pumpkin” fun that you’ve been doing for years. Which brings me to my first point- and I say this with love: do a flipping KWL before you engage in a thematic unit like pumpkins.

Because, BRUH.

Consider the fact that these children- some of them have been doing a variation of the pumpkin unit since pre-k. They have scooped, seeded, counted, and graphed the mess outta that pumpkin. They might already be able to label it and describe the life cycle. They probably did the Pinterest craft. What else can we do?? We have some ideas.

What is it about pumpkins that cause good people to lose their minds? I mean…pumpkin spiced lattes, dog food, and toothpaste overwhelm us on the shelves of the stores. But, why?

Some scientists offer up olfactory memories as an explanation. Olfactory memories are brought on by smell. It’s the thing when you smell something and it zaps you back to a memory without effort. Research has shown that smells of pumpkin spice take us to a time of year that is crisp, fun, and beautiful- autumn!  Our unit includes an awesome eBook explaining this concept, and then we create a STEM Smell Lab! We include various scents and ask students to draw or write the memories that they have. Check out some scenes from some of our Instagram teacher friends!

Soooo much fun. Ok- the next thing we focus on? Sociology. Because YAY! We learned all about Extreme Gardening. You know what that is…it’s when you see people growing extremely large crops- often for fun but sometimes for sport. We talked about why people do this and what good can come from it. Then, after seeing tons of pictures of extreme pumpkins (which btw, you have to say it really intensely with your students- like XTREME PUMPKINS! More fun.) we had our own extreme pumpkin challenge…put with paper! All of those extreme pumpkins are grown from the same seeds as a typical pumpkin…but they do special things to get it to grow larger. We give the students the same sheet of paper and tell them that they are to try and build the largest pumpkin that they can with paper! They can cut and glue but they cannot add anything to the pumpkin. Check it out!

Love it. We are having fun, learning about the world…and still studying pumpkins!

From there, we learn a little economics. We introduce the idea of commodities. Remember, we teach kindergarten and first grade. We are skimming the surface. So on the surface, the concept of a commodity is that people produce a product that is standard and predicatable…and often easy to ship. We talk about the ecomomic concepts of a commodity, and then we have a little experiment/simulation! Students are asked to (secretly) draw 5 pumpkins- any way they’d like. Naturally, they are different sizes, colors, and shapes. They share those pumpkins with the class. Then,  through a serieis of “calls” that come in from “consumers,” the students go through three rounds of revising and by the end, their pumpkins all look similar. Have a look!

SO much fun to hear little children discussing commodities, consumers, and other economic concepts.

We took a trip back in history and taught students about the history of the jack-o-lantern! They were fascinated to learn that turnips used to be used amoung other interesting facts!

Lastly, for geography we were able to focus on naming all of the continents because there is one continent in particular that can’t grow pumpkins! We have the students name the continents and glue on a pumpkin for each continent that CAN grow a pumpkin.

It is our hope that this blog post shows you how much you can do with a basic thematic topic. There is an entire world out there. toshow children… we can do more than teach the liefcycle of the pumpkin! Let’s go!!!

Not Your Average Turkey Unit

0 Comments

*Click any resource to be taken to the resource*

We love a good turkey lesson in November. They’re festive, they’re fun, they’re cute,…but much like apples and pumpkins, our kids are seeing similar content Pre-K to around 2nd grade when it comes to some thematic units. What if we can keep the turkeys, but offer them a bit more?

Enter: Not Your Average Turkey Unit! We wanted to keep the turkeys, but ditch the basic turkey crafts and coloring sheets. Here’s what we came up with:

We planned a week of meaning activities under the umbrella of social studies. We kept the turkeys, but went deep with the content!

Do your students know what it takes to raise a turkey? They’ll have the opportunity to learn all about being a turkey farmer through this fun STEM project! They’ve inherited a friend’s turkey farm and they need to keep the place in business.

How did the turkey get its name? From Turkey, of course! No, really! It’s true. Turkeys, however, are indigenous to the United States and Mexico. When European colonizers came to North America in 1519, they saw bird that reminded them of birds they saw in Europe that came from Turkish merchants. They thought they were the same bird and the rest is history!

When turkeys aren’t living on a farm, where can you go to find them? Boom, now we have a geography connection! Did you know that wild turkeys can be found in swamps, grasslands, and forests? These are the perfect habitats for them because they are full of seeds, fruits, nuts, insects, and small lizards to eat.

Why does turkey cost less around Thanksgiving when it is in high demand?
We read The Cost of Turkeys eBook and find out why turkeys cost less even when the demand goes up!

Starting in 1947, turkeys in America have been taking a trip to the White House to visit the president. It has become a special tradition. While other presidents have pardoned turkeys, this didn’t become an annual occurrence until George. H. W. Bush pardoned a Thanksgiving turkey in 1989.
After we learn all about this tradition, we let our students pretend to be the president and choose whether or not to pardon a turkey. They also pretended to be a turkey trying to get pardoned!

We hope you enjoyed these ideas!

We have many units that follow a similar format!

Have fun teaching!

Naomi & LaNesha

Not Your Average Apple Unit

0 Comments

*Click any image to be taken to the resource*

It’s that time of year. You know what time we’re talking about.

Apples.

We love an apple unit as much as the next teacher…but when you think about the fact that so many of our beloved apple units consist of similar content from Pre-K to around 2nd grade…it makes you want to rethink our apple unit! If our students have been taste-testing, graphing, stamping, and learning the lifecycle of apples for years, how can we shake it up? What else can we tell other than our Johny Appleseed narrative?

We have a few ideas.

Let’s start with Johnny. Johnny’s folktale is cool- but Johnny is so much more interesting than we might have been taught. We love to teach our students about the traditional legend- but then we sprinkle in some historical facts! Like the fact that Johnny wasn’t “poor” because of his bare feet and tattered clothing. He was actually very rich! A businessman, even. He’d plant orchards all over because at the time, there was a law in place that said that if you planted an orchard, you could claim the land. Plant and claim he did…and sold it to make a good amount of money!

We could get some geography in! We learned that the fist apple seeds were found in Asia. Eventually they were spread and traded on the Silk Road. We thought it would be a great way to tie in apples and geography in! Our students can learn what the Silk Road was and why it was a thing…then they can trace the routes on a map. The Silk Road shows up throughout history for so many reasons, the connections will be endless!

Honestly, this one is my favorite. We learned about the concept of market research after trying to guess what America’s favorite fruit was. Most children assumed that it was the apple- but really, was the banana! We read about the people who have the job of studying these spending trends and how that informs the way we spend and shop!

We learned about the job of an apple picker…which is HARD work! Another interesting thing to consider is the concept of mirgrant workers. Many apple pickers are seasonal/migrant workers and in recent years, apple farms have reported that they are struggling to get the apples picked because workers are concerned about coming to the U.S. This is an interesting idea to grapple with. What happens to a farm if the crops can’t get harvested? Lots of interesting concepts to learn!

For a STEM connection, we ended up doing an experiment with fresh and frozen apples. That’s because we learned that some of the apples that we buy in the store can be up to one year old! The industry calls them “birthday apples!” They are kept in a temperature-controlled storage rooms. Students are SHOCKED when they learn this!

Click the image below to grab it!

And…if you liked this one….we have LOTS more where that came from! Check them out!

Lesson about Race and Representation

0 Comments

For me, book are the easiest way to introduce a “tough” topic to kids. It takes the pressure off of teachers and students to have to produce a personal story. Everyone can use the fictional characters experiences as a teachable moment!

To teach about representation and race, I chose Not Quite Snow White by Ashley Franklin.

In the story a little girl wants to audition to be Snow White, but she hears other kids whispering that she is too tall, chubby, and brown to be the princess. I saw this as an opportunity to talk to kids about how when people don’t see many races represented in different roles, it can lead them to believe certain roles are reserved for certain skin colors.

With white children being represented the most in children’s books, it’s no wonder some kids draw the conclusion that only princesses can be white.

I like to take a  week to discuss these big topics and give students repeated opportunities to grasp these huge concepts or make a shift in their thinking.

In a lesson I created, I came up with discussion questions, ideas to think about, and daily writing/drawing prompts to serve as check for understandings each day. By the end of the week students will have a better understanding of the importance of the representation of different races.

Each day’s lesson will take about 15-25 minutes.

Most of the learning will take place through high level discussions. If possible, have students turn and talk or share their thinking aloud.

Monday will just set the stage for the conversation. The book will be read on Tuesday-Thursday.

Each time students hear the book, they will understand more about representation due to the discussions and daily work they will partake in.

Model aloud what you are thinking and make as many connections back to representation and race as you can.

On Friday, one of two activities can be chosen: a debate or a drawing activity that will assess students’ understanding of the importance of representation.

Does this look like a lesson your students could use? Click here to purchase it.

These lessons are too important not to have! You’ve got this!

xoxo

Naomi

Our Favorite Back to School Resources

0 Comments

We (Naomi + LaNesha) are so excited to bring you a round-up of our FAVORITE back to school resources. But- buckle up. This is definitely not your average set of activities! We will show you how WE kick off our year!

NOT YOUR AVERAGE BACK TO SCHOOL UNIT

We have a line of resources that we call “Not Your Average” because we love to take thematic units that have been done for years (apples, pumpkins, turkeys, etc…) and teach them like NEVER before. We made a Back to School Unit that focuses on the social studies strands that we try to include in our curriculum: sociology, history, civics, geography, and economics. This unit invites students to learn about how different parts of the world live! Take a look and click any image to be taken to the resource:

For reading, we decided to use a FANTASTIC book called The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi. This book is a great way to get conversations going about diversity and inclusion in the classroom! In this book, the main character, Unhei, is a new student from Korea. On the bus ride to school, she shares her name and is made fun of immediately. By the time she gets to her class and they ask what her name is, she is unwilling to share it. Her classmates try to help her by putting names in a jar so that she can pick one. You’ve GOT to grab the story to see how it ends! It’s a lovely story. Take a peek at our digital resource. If you want to read more about our Perspective Through Picture Books, click here.

PERSPECTIVE THROUGH PICTURE BOOKS: THE NAME JAR

We also wanted to include some of our favorite resources to get your students learning! (Click the images)

Social Studies for September is always jam packed full of culture and things our students need to know about the world!

We make time to dive into culture from the very start!

When it’s time to introduce nonfiction to our students, we take 2 weeks to go through our background builders units. We think of nonfiction texts as the information that builds our students’ background knowledge.

Kindergarten and first grade students exploring their identities is simply the best! 

Guess what? You don’t have to wait until February to start talking about Black history in your classroom!

 

Social emotional learning is so important to us. It helps us meet our students’ needs and they love the check-ins.

Can’t teach writing without the writing process!!!

Phonological awareness skills anyone? Yes, please!

We hope you loved checking all of these fun resources out!

XOXO,

LaNesha and Naomi