*** If you’ve ever put money under a kid’s pillow for the tooth fairy or answered a “Dear Santa” letter, you’ve played host at a party that celebrates a child’s imagination. Holidays provide fertile soil for adventures in historical fiction, adventures that develop young imaginations and teach history. Use Scholastic's audio letters from a Wampanoag boy and a Pilgrim girl to easily harvest a fresh batch of holiday historians in the classroom. Read on to learn how our class traveled back in time.
Scholastic's "First" Thanksgiving letters provide a quick and easy way for my elementary students to jump back in time and engage in substantive discourse on life in the 1620s. We load the letters on an interactive whiteboard, close our eyes, and listen to voices of the past. Tales of mice as big as cats on the Mayflower, kids'drinking beer, and the horrors of 17th-century lavatories make reading historical fiction fabulous.
Scroll to the bottom of any "First" Thanksgiving letter and click on the audio icon for sound. Not familiar with the terms wetu, sachem, or sobaheg? No problem. Many of the letters include a small glossary.
Fun and learning ensues when kids enter their questions and concerns about the time period on our school blog. I then monitor all submissions and answer back in the voice of one of our fictional characters. The blog allows them to begin a digital relationship with Lizzy (an English Separatist) and Pometacomet (a Wampanoag from the Pokanoket tribe). The digital relationship also allows me to assess students' understanding of the period and provide even more lessons via new letters tailored to their needs.
Below, take a look at a couple of my favorite student posts to Pometacomet and Lizzy.
For more holiday historical fiction resources loaded with video and audio, see Scholastic’s the "First" Thanksgiving.
*** Thanks to the generosity of The Society of Mayflower Descendants in the State of New York, we usually get to meet one of the historical figures that has been “corresponding” with us.