Friday, January 31, 2014

Changing Family and Community Traditions

My grade 2 social studies curriculum is somewhat "tricky".  We are supposed to examine families and learn about traditions and celebrations.  Easy enough?  Not really considering our classrooms are made up of a variety of family dynamics.  So a racked my brain trying to figure out how to cover the curriculum, allow each of my children to feel that their family is special and unique and not add more to their stress level because they have step-parents and step-siblings.  Then it hit me like a strike of lightning!  Patricia Polacco!!!  Her books are fantastic and they are full of traditions and celebrations.  Finally I had a springboard for my unit!  Yippee!!

First and foremost I do NOT claim to be an expert on families. While we all have them – they are complex at best. In many of our classrooms, discussions about family have to be done “carefully.” It is often no longer just about having a mom and a dad. Celebrations, such as Christmas can be stressful for our students has they struggle with spending some time with mom and some time with dad. Step-siblings are a reality for many and this can get very confusing as you talk about family trees. I have attempted to create images of families that capture those similar to our students. I have chosen Patricia Polacco books as mentor texts because I feel her stories can enable us to have many rich conversations about family.

This is a list of the books I used:
*When Lightning Comes In A Jar
*Thunder Cake
*In Our Mothers' House
*Some Birthday
*An Orange For Frankie
*Trees of the Dancing Goats
*Rechenka's Eggs
*The Keeping Quilt

Other Books: (not by Patricia Polacco) ~ These three books are fantastic!!
*The Matchbox Diary
*The Family Book
*Throw Your Tooth on the Roof

In the unit I have included a booklet/project for students to complete at home with their family.

I have included many "interactive notebook" style pages, covering topics, such as different families, traditions and heritage, origins of traditions, and celebrations past and present.

We are not finished the unit yet but I wanted to share so pictures with you:)  The kids have learned so much about how traditions and celebrations are passed down to future generations.

We started out by looking at lots of pictures of different types of families, including same sex families.  This sparked a lot of discussion about their own families, too:)  Then we did a little follow-up about how their family is similar and different.  At the bottom of the page they wrote what they thought was the most important thing about a family.

The next day I read the book "In Our Mothers' House".  The book is about a female couple that adopt three children so it was a great story to help the children to see that families are not always made up of a mom and a dad.  But the story focuses on how they are just like every other family - full of love!  The kids completed a Venn diagram flapbook that focused on how their family and the family in the book were different and similar. 

I read the book "The Keeping Quilt" because it is a wonderful story about how a family quilt is passed down through the generations.  It also talks about how celebrations change over time.  It's like it was written for my curriculum.  After we did a little sorting activity I had the kids colour code each generation.

"Thunder Cake" is another wonderful story about how Patricia's Babushka helps her to overcome her fear of thunderstorm.  We talked about how our families make us feel safe and secure and we recorded our stories in this little flapbook activity.

We also did a timeline activity as a group.

The next book up was "Lightning Comes In A Jar".  This story was about a wonderful tradition in Patricia's family ~ a family reunion!  After the story we made a chart of all the traditions that were talked about in the book.  Each child picked two to record under the firefly flaps and then they wrote about two of their own family traditions under the other two flaps. 

"Some Birthday" is a funny story about one of Patricia's unforgettable birthdays!  They kids loved this book!  Then we made a flap book to record two of our favourite birthday traditions.

I needed to talk about how traditions and celebrations change over time so I thought that Thanksgiving Past and Present would be a good activity to cover that expectation.

That's as far as we've gotten so far.  We still have two activities about Christmas (traditions in our own family and what countries some of our traditions come from), and we will finish with a fun activity about tooth traditions around the world.

Okay I'm done!

If you stuck with me to the end ~bravo to you!  If you are interested in taking a closer peek at this unit you can click HERE and it's still 20% off until tonight at midnight!

Enjoy your weekend!


  1. This makes me wish I still taught grade 2. I love the Social Studies curriculum for grade 2, and had so much fun doing this. I know you have already started your unit, but my colleague and I would start the unit with Franklin Celebrates (about Goose and her family's migration celebration) and we talked about traditions common to most celebrations (food, dance, family and friends, etc.). Then we made geese that hung from our ceiling. If I ever go back to grade 2, I will be purchasing this for sure!

  2. Thanks for the book suggestion Jackie! I can't believe that I hadn't thought of that one:)