November 27, 2013

Back to work...and Native Americans!

Hello all. It's been the first few weeks since I've been back to work and I was a bit unsure if I was ready to return. However, I was so happy that I did because my kids have been so supportive. Some got me flowers, chocolates, and homemade cards. While others just made sure to check in on me throughout the day and give me plenty of hugs. Although at times I feel like bursting into tears, knowing I have my kids there showing me their compassion tells me that there is plenty of good in this world. I may never understand why my sister was taken from my family so soon, but I know that the healing power of love and support help me get through these difficult days. In that same breath I want all of you to know how much your comments have meant to me. All the prayers and thoughts have definitely helped me, and my family, through this.
My nephew and I after my sister's service. I love him more than anything <3

Back to work....
A few weeks ago, my kids had a special visitor from the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation. It was a pretty exciting experience for them as they got to participate in their learning through demonstrations and handling replicas from the Jamestown Museum. This fit perfectly with our unit on Native Americans, especially the Powhatan tribe. I recommend this presentation to anyone living in the Northern Virginia area, both for the second grade curriculum, but it's fantastic for any Virginia studies concept. Here are a few pictures of my kids- needless to say they had a blast!


Our Native Americans unit is always a lot of fun to teach because the kids are fascinated by the different cultures and, of course, learning more about the foundations of American history. In connection with our unit, we also take a peek into the genre of folktales in Reader's Workshop. Students learn about what a folktale is and how the Native American's used folktales to tell stories and explain the world around them.

Our class read three different folktales throughout the week and we looked at each one and discussed what part of nature what explained and the role it played with a specific region.
1. The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush
By: Tomie de Paola
This story tells about a young native boy who didn't have the skills to become a warrior like many of the other boys in his tribe. However, he had a vision that he would be able to capture the brilliant colors of the sunset with his paints. I used this story to explain how the native peoples were able to create wonderful designs using their environment for paint such as berries, plants, mud, and flowers.

One activity I had them do was to use their "paints" (aka crayons) and try and capture the sunset and become painters like the young boy in the story. I put up a photograph of a western sunset on the proboard for the kids to copy and used my iHome to play native sound effects from that Sleep Sounds app (it created a fun environment for the kids to really get into the activity). The drawings they came up with turned out really great!



2. The Gift of the Sacred Dog
By: Paul Goble
This is one of my favorite stories to read to the kids because they all have their own ideas as to what the 'sacred dog' was. It was kind of funny to hear all of their predictions. This tells the story of a Plains tribe that is being affected by hunger. A young man prays to their Great Spirit and after a vision is given a gift of sacred dogs...being horses. This lent itself to a good discussion with the kids about the importance of horses to the Plains people and why they treated them less like pets and more like family members (this idea of what sacred means). I also explained that horses are not native to North America and that many of them came from the Spanish and other Europeans when they began settling the New World. 

3. The Legend of the Bluebonnet
By: Tomie de Paola
This story takes place in Texas and a young girl has lost all of her family members to starvation from a drought. The only thing she has is her doll, which is extremely important to her since it reminds her of her family. The elders of her tribe explain that the Great Spirit is upset that the people are being selfish and keep taking from the land and giving nothing in return. The droughts would end when they sacrifice a precious item of theirs. When no one can part with their things, the little girl decides to sacrifice her doll for her people. It is said that when she sacrificed her doll, the sprits brought the rains, which saved her people. Bluebonnets grew where the ashes fell in Texas- thus explaining where the bluebonnets came from.

I enjoy this unit so much and I'm glad that it's been fun for the kids as well. I will be posting the Native Americans Packet soon! My kids used these for note keeping throughout our unit and use them as study guides.

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Thank you for sharing!