Saturday, 20 April 2013

Thanksgiving in April - the Magical Product Swap!


I'm so excited! This is a first for me!

I came across Jessica's Magical Product Swap a couple of months ago and my first reaction was, "Wow! What a fantastic idea!". Jessica's link-up is a great opportunity for participants to test drive other people's products and for readers to see how products work and meet lots of new blogger friends along the way. Click on the button above to find out more.

When you've been slaving over a resource, staring at the screen for what seems like an eternity, hitting your head against the wall and tearing out your hair, it's easy to have doubts. Will the end product actually work at all - will it do what you want it to do...? Will the kids like it...? Will it appeal to other teachers and kids? It's great to have a fresh pair of eyes to look it over, and if you're very lucky, a group of children to "experiment" with it. That's why Jessica's product swap is so good - we get the chance to see how it all works in practice. So I start by sending a huge THANK YOU to her for arranging this.

I was so excited to find out that my partner was Tracey from The Teacher's Chair.

Tracey is amazing! So creative! I lurve the look of her blog - the bunting had me hooked straightaway! And the mouthwatering colours are to die for (note to self: add "redesign blog" to summer bucket list). You simply MUST pop on over and take a look for yourself (while you're there, check out Tracey's picture gallery - sooooo envious of her classroom organisation..)

Regular readers will know that I don't have a class of my own - just 120 or so children every week! As a travelling EAL (ESL) teacher I teach individuals or small groups, all of whom are at different points in their language learning. Some of my more advanced language learners are at the stage where they are verbally fluent, but lag behind in writing. This term their learning objective is to develop their writing skills across a range of genres - no small feat!

So I popped along to Tracey's TPT store. What a treasure trove of fantastic teaching product! I was spoiled for choice! But I managed to find just the most perfect thing - her Give Thanks packet:

The story of Thanksgiving has always been of huge interest to me. How brave the pilgrims must have been to leave their homes to journey into the unknown so that they could be free to worship as they chose. Coming from Poland, Portugal and other countries, my children would know about harvest but I knew that they would be unfamiliar with Thanksgiving. I hoped that they would be able to empathise with the pilgrims, as most of them had themselves left their own homes to live in a completely different country with different language and culture. It was even more perfect that they had no background knowledge to draw on, as I didn't want them to approach the lesson with preconceptions.

When I told Tracey which product I wanted to test drive, she very kindly also sent me a copy of her play too (what an absolute angel!). 

Readers, I absolutely LOVE this play. It's written for 23 children and is perfect for performing in front of the whole school or to parents. It is written in simple language with enough pilgrims and native Americans for all children to take part. Most of all, Tracey has written the most darling songs for the play, all set to traditional tunes that the children will already know (so no need for endless note-bashing...). You really must try this out.

The play was a great source of background information, and a great research tool. I will DEFINITELY be staging this play when I get back into my own classroom.

I decided to work through the story over a series of sessions, focusing on different aspects each time. We started with the story of the Mayflower. The children had no concept of what ships looked like 500 years ago, how they were powered or what they were made of. Children also have very little appreciation and concept of the passing of time, and their understanding of 1620 was pretty much the same as it is now - jet aeroplanes, mobile phones, Macdonalds... So we started with a visualisation exercise. The children could not believe how cramped the ship was, how long it took to get to the New World. how little food and drink they had, how sick people got, how rough the journey was. Most of all, they were amazed that the ship was powered by wind...

We then took Part 1 and 2 of Tracey's play and scoured it for evidence of the Mayflower and the journey to the New World. The children used coloured pens to highlight key facts.

I was amazed at how many facts they managed to gather (hmmm, most of them were relevant...)

We looked at the facts as a group and made a list of key points. The children ended the session by writing a summary of key details.

Children at work...

Just look at the steam flying off those pencils...!

The children were absolutely enthralled with the lesson, so much so that they wanted to work through their play (recess)! Success! You know you've backed a winner when the children ask for more - and more - and more. There was no stopping them! I had to promise to carry on with our work next session.

So this is what we've got planned for Monday:

I can't wait - and neither can they! 


To see more of Tracey's terrific treasures and what she thought of my "My Mum" literacy packet, hop on over to her blog.

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