November 11, 2012

Why teach about Thanksgiving?

I teach EFL in Croatia, a small country in Europe. Should I include the holidays like Thanksgiving in my English lessons? A lot of teachers, parents and others who are interested in what children learn at school think it is a good idea, while others say that the children in Croatia have their holidays and don't need American holidays, too.

I teach my young students about a few holiday that belong to other cultures, Thanksgiving included, and my reasons are numerous:
  • Children should be aware of how similar and how different countries are, which holidays people celebrate and how. School is the best place for them to discover the world, learn how to ask the right questions and learn.
  • Holidays always tell stories that include history, geography, singing, dancing and acting, crafts. They are excellent opportunities for children to make sense of all the school subjects they usually learn separately and to show their talents.
  • Thanksgiving in particular is a holiday that can teach my students a lot of positive messages of how to see the world not only through how much of material things we have but what else we have to be thankful for.

This year I've made a selection of great websites with ideas for the use in the classroom. I am going to use them with different groups of students I teach:

- an activity book with pages for colouring , word search, writing a poem, even doing some Maths :)

- a very simple (and simplified as a story) play for a group of students; seems interesting to combine it  creating some finger puppets of the characters or simplified paper costumes;  or simply as a reading activity after watching a video about Thanksgiving;

- a great listening and reading activity, with a timeline of events, great pictures, a lot of useful information about history and geography, presented in a very interesting way, e.g. The Mayflower virtually, Daily Life at the time of the first Thanksgiving, etc.

- a funny fill-in activity.

I have discovered some great resources:
I am thankful to the people who created these materials and shared them with students and teachers.