Week 15: Squanto and Thanksgiving


This was my favorite week of student teaching so far, and also my last week student teaching all the subjects alone. Next week is my last week, period, and I'll be phasing out so the teacher can phase back in.

I am so blessed to have gotten the placement I have. The teacher is creative, tech-savvy and allows me to use my own creativity in teaching. She allowed me to go full-tilt on Thanksgiving enrichment this week and the kids and I loved it.

This was a coloring page I used this week.
For social studies, we wrapped up getting our Native American "museums" ready for display next week. I have two student movies edited and am finishing up editing one more. I'm so tickled with how they turned out and so are the students. I'll post them next week.

On Tuesday and Wednesday we focused on Thanksgiving by studying the life of Tisquantum, more famously known as Squanto. You can read about his ordeal here: A Lesser Known Atlantic Crossing.

I have always loved his story. It fascinates me that he was able to put aside feelings about his captivity by Europeans and reach out and help other Europeans who settled on his tribe's lands--the people we know as the Pilgrims.


Now, I realize there are progressive attitudes out there about the pilgrims. There are claims that they were simply lazy puritans, but I have a different view. I believe they were city people with no clue how to work the land. They'd not grown up doing it and had no idea how to do it. We picture people of the 1600s as all being farmers. But the fact is, many people, especially those who knew how to read, held jobs in the cities and bought their foods at a market just like most of us do today. They weren't builders, either. They were people who worked more with their heads than their hands.

But that's another blog post for another time on another blog. Back to student teaching.

I used these resources to share the story of Squanto with the children:

This is my favorite resource, but I didn't read it word for word as it makes many references to God and that's frowned up on in the public schools. I do like the way this book tells the story, and the pictures are beautiful. I mostly used the pictures to create a timeline of Squanto's life for the students as I flipped through the pages.

Beautifully illustrated but wordy. I used the pictures in this book, too.

Squanto Webquest 

Squanto Graphic Organizer

Squanto's story gave us the opportunity for fascinating discussions about forgiveness, prejudice, slavery and generalizing/categorizing people. We're blessed to have a culturally diverse class and students from many ethnic backgrounds. I'm often reminding them to be proud of their skin color and reminding them that what they look like doesn't define who they are.


"If someone who wears purple bullies you, does that mean all people who wear purple are bullies?" These are the types of conversations we had.

The fact is, all races have enslaved humans at sometime in history. It happens still today. Even the Native Americans enslaved people of other tribes. Unfortunately, this flaw of human nature isn't something we can attribute only to the Europeans. (Again another blog post for another time. But it applies to teaching because we are to be culturally sensitive.)


We ended the week in social studies with the movie Squanto: A Warrior's Tale. This has long been a movie I've watched every Thanksgiving for years. And the kids loved it! It really brought home the things they've been studying in their Native American unit, too, since Indiana's natives also lived in wigwams and were woodland Indians like Squanto. Since the movie is historically innacurate in many places, I was able to help the students compare and contrast the movie with the primary documents about Squanto, and help them understand how the movie was fiction based on fact. They've been reading a lot of books of the same type of genre. (They are especially fond of the "I Survived" series of books.)


In Math, I did a regular lesson on Monday on multiplying up to four-digits by one-digit and solving word problems. This math class is a very active, loud group. They have such a difficult time attending to lessons. So I was relieved that my supervising teacher allowed me to use Thanksgiving-themed games to keep the students engaged on Tuesday and Wednesday. I also had my last student teaching evaluation on Tuesday. This time my clinical supervisor observed me teaching math.

I created six stations for students to rotate to (click on the descriptions for links to where I got the game):

  1. Multiplication Jenga. Each Jenga piece had a multiplication fact on it. When they pulled the piece they solved the fact on the piece before placing it on top.
  2. Fall-themed multiplication color-by-number. (I changed the pictures on day two.)
  3. Thanksgiving Roll & Cover
  4. Turkey Times. Students drew a card with a turkey and a number, and covered two connecting numbers that when multiplied, equaled the number on the card.
  5. Catch a Turkey. Students rolled dice, multiplied the two numbers, then placed a marker on the game board next to a turkey. Whoever put a marker on the last number circling the turkey won that turkey.
  6. Frantic Turkeys. Students rolled dice to move on a board of multiplication facts. They solved the fact, covered the number answer in the middle of the board. 
  7. Thanksgiving math mystery pictures. (I changed the pictures on day two.)
  8. Gobble Multiplication Bump
  9. Turkey Dominoes (I made this myself and I was in a hurry so it's not all that great, but feel free to use it.) Students draw a domino, multiply the numbers, and then cover the answer on their card in the same way you do in a BINGO game. There were four students in each group, so two students shared a card.


I divided the students into six groups for the six different stations. I set the timer on the iPad and when the alarm rang, they rotated to the next station. They spent about ten minutes at each activity. I changed out the games the next day except for the Jenga, as it was the favorite. Some of the students goofed off, as usual, but most of them were engaged and really enjoyed it. 


I decided to take two days for the rotations because there were so many students and they were only getting ten minutes at each station. This gave them the extra practice they really need concerning their math facts. From what I'm observing, failing to memorize these facts is what is holding some students back. 


Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and I'm really happy that my supervising teacher allowed me to use it as a vehicle for engaging the fourth graders this past week. 

Next week is my last week, and I have mixed feelings. It's been hard work but very rewarding work. I've grown terribly fond of these students. That's a weakness of mine and always has been. I remember how I bawled like a baby when I said goodbye to my first Kindergarten class when I was teaching at a private school. It's just how I am. 


Teaching is such a work of love and yet, we're expected to let our charges go and fly to other teachers, places and destinies. We teach with open hands and hearts. I think there's probably an art to doing it gracefully, but I've yet to figure out how to say goodbye without the sting of melancholy, tears and plenty of kleenex. 

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