Not Your Average Pumpkin Unit
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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.
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!
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
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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
Lesson about Race and Representation
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!
Our Favorite Back to School Resources
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!
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!
LaNesha and Naomi
Critical Conversations to Have With Kids
*Click any image in this post to be taken to the resource.
Now more than ever I have noticed that more caregivers are realizing the importance of having conversations with their kids about race, racism, and diversity. I have been having these conversations with my 4 year old son for a little over two years.The conversations started by me simply pointing out and admiring diversity. Naming races, languages, cultural differences and ethnicities. Celebrating the differences and talking about our similarities.I think of them as training sessions. I am preparing my son to grow up and become a citizen of the world. He needs to be culturally intelligent. He needs to be anti-racist. He needs to value other people. I have always pointed out and named the races of characters in the shows we were watching or the books we were reading. I always say things like, “Their skin is so beautiful.” “Look at all these different skin tones! How nice.” “This story takes place in Hong Kong, that means these people are Asian.” “These women are wearing a hijab. That’s a part of their culture. What a pretty color.” Just to make sure my son (who was already noticing these things) had the vocabulary to understand what he was seeing. I wanted to make sure he was attaching good attitudes and beliefs to the people he was seeing instead of jumping to his own conclusions.
Our kids are constantly filtering information that is thrown at them by the world. They have biases we don’t know about that are already formed. They use race to reason about behavior and to choose friends at only 2 and half years old. (Katz and Kofkin)
By age 5, some kids already have the same racial biases and attitudes towards people that adults do! (Dunham et al, 2008) Let that sink in. We can’t afford to wait to have these critical conversations. Yes, they seem scary, but I’m more scared of what’s been happening because people aren’t having these conversations.
I have these conversations with my son and prepare him for the world as much as I can, but if the racist person he bumps into hasn’t been taught not to be racist, much of my preparation goes out of the window. We need all hands on deck to build a generation of anti-racist kids.
I compiled 18 questions that my son and I have asked and answered recently. My hope is that you will sit down with a child you know and love and have these conversations with them. You can tell that there’s a little boy named Noah that is off having these conversations with his mom so that he can be a better person and an informed person when he grows up. After each of our Q and A’s there are 2 questions for you to answer with your kids. 36 questions in all for you to go through.
You will see a question that has been asked by Noah or myself and then our answer. Consider having your child answer first, and then reading our response.
Then there are two discussion questions for you to have with your child. I try to keep these conversations short and sweet. I ask him a couple of questions, give him my opinion, allow him to ask questions and answer as honestly as I can. If I don’t know an answer I just say, “That’s a great questions. Let’s look it up.” and then we do.
Every now and then I love to ask questions to gauge where his mind is and intentionally try to pull out some biases. I have asked him if girls are better than boys. I have asked him if it’s better to have have two moms, two dads, or a mom and a dad. I have asked him if we should only be friends with people that have brown skin likes us. I do while he’s young enough to give an honest answer that can possibly turn into a teachable moment. I let him give his answer then say, “You wanna know what I think?”, then I give my thoughts. I would much rather he tell him his uniformed thoughts, than for me to learn about these thoughts after he has unknowingly said or done something insensitive to another child.
I really hope you and your family find these discussion prompts useful!
Again, spread them out. Don’t force your child to answer all of these in one sitting. Spread them out. Add on to the conversation the following day. Read books that reinforce what you want to teach and see if your child is making connections to these lessons.
Also, if your child is being open and honest, receive what they have to say in a way that encourages them to continue to be honest. If they feel like they are going to get in trouble for expressing their honest opinions, they may start to give answers they think you want to hear, or they may start to bet anxiety about having these conversations.
It’s a teaching moment. They are still little and you can still make a difference in the way they view and treat others.
You’ve got this!