I gather my class on the carpet for whole group reading block. I like to begin my lessons with conversations, pictures or videos to "front load" my ELL students about the topic and new vocabulary. Videos just suck my kids into a trance, so I use them as my introduction.
My goal for this lesson is to expose my students to another winter holiday that some of my students celebrate. Learning about each other and what we like to celebrate with our families is fun. I am going to engage my students in discussions with questions and answers about the key details of the topic. Yesterday we learned about Hanukkah and discussed some of the items that are used during the celebration of Hanukkah. We will be learning about Kwanza today. I will be asking questions that have my students compare Kwanza to Hanukkah because some of the details are similar. It is fun to see how similar our celebrations can be. We will also write a brief narrative sentence about the details in the story and draw a detailed picture.
Still gathered on the carpet I begin to lead my class in a discussion about Kwanza.
"We are going to talk about Kwanza, it is a holiday that many African Americans celebrate."
I pull down the big wall map and show my students where Africa is compared to where we are. I also point out where two of my students are from, Somali. My students love it when I mention the special things about them.
"You just saw a video that showed how people celebrate this holiday. Let's read the book, Together for Kwanza, and see what things are the same in the story and the video."
I begin to read and we stop and discuss the Kinara.
"What does this kinara look like to you? Have we seen something like this before? Katya, does this look like you Minorah?"
She nods her head slowly, yes.
"How many candles are on this Kinara? Let's count them. SEVEN! How many are on the Minorah? Eight. The candles on the Kinara don't represent days. They each represent a way to live."
We continue our conversation about the food and the preparations.
"Hmmmm, did you see any presents? I saw presents for Hanukah and Christmas. Yes, I see presents for Kwanza too. How fun."
I have made this writing activity pretty stress free. I used a dot to dot font to write the sentence. Even though this is an easy writing activity, I will be able to assess their comprehension of the story events by their drawing and their retell.
My sentence is; Kwanza is a celebration of African traditions and beliefs. It is a long sentence that will quickly be traced. I model the writing activity under the document camera. I read the words as I trace them. We discuss ideas that could be drawn in the picture. Modeling the writing gives clarification to my expectations.
"I will now show you the fun paper we will write and draw on. All you have to do is to trace in your best hand writing the sentence. Then you will need to draw a detailed picture about Kwanza. What are some of the things we can draw? The Kinara. How many candles will you put on the Kinara? Seven. That's right. You could draw a table of food with the cloth on it. You could also draw the presents. Please walk quietly to your cubbies when I call your row. Paper passers, would you make sure everyone has a writing paper? Thanks you."
I call each row to get their pencil boxes. My paper passers take their job so serious. They race around the room trying to get the papers on the tables before the students get their. I love having class jobs. They promote responsiblity and a sense of class community.
I walk around and offer suggestions about picture details. When they are finished I collect the papers and have them sit quietly on the carpet to read Holiday books.
When all the students are finished with their writing papers, I ask for the books to be put away and everyone to sit in their spots. We gather to share our writing.
I call each row up at a time to hold up their papers and one at a time to read their sentence and orally describe their picture. We applaud each student's efforts.