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Thanksgiving will soon be upon us, and your little turkeys are getting restless! You want to stay on track with your math curriculum, but you know it is going to be a daunting task. Why not use three days to work on a mini unit where students review skills you have previously taught this year such as multi digit multiplication and division, and sneakily introduce a few new skills such as decimals within the context of money, fractions within the context of servings and pie cutting, measurement in terms of pounds and ounces, and mean when rating original story problems! Reviewing and teaching these skills within the context of shopping for holiday groceries and calorie counting and burning is a meaningful and practical way to stay on track during the holidays… and allowing students to use calculators for totaling shopping costs ups the engagement factor by 100%!
This mini unit takes three days to complete with the ultimate goal of creating original story problems incorporating information from a variety of Thanksgiving topics presented in this mini unit. I incorporated our school’s food drive for our community with this as well, as students recorded their name and donated item on a die cut turkey each morning and taped on my closet doors to create a turkey pictograph. In our interactive notebooks, students recorded, for the first time ever, decimals and fractions as we calculated class participation each day using a different color turkey for each day of the week. By quickly calculating under the document camera the number of students bringing in food for the day divided by the total number of students in a class, students could quickly see fraction and decimal equivalents for future lessons. We continued this for five days, and for my more advanced students, for lack of a better way to say this, they ate it up! They loved learning new information that they knew was a higher-level skill, and those students who weren’t quite there yet, were exposed to decimals and fractions in a meaningful and realistic way.
This mini unit can be as extensive or as limited as you wish it to be beginning with the Day 1 lesson on comparative shopping using local grocery ads. In the future, I will have students use both paper and online ads because the online ads are more inclusive, less cumbersome, and do not need to be refolded! Day 2 includes a lesson on Thanksgiving food calories as well as chores around the house to help burn those extra calories off. The student activity sheets can be glued into math interactive notebooks or made into packets. The culminating activity, Day 3, includes writing an original story problem using any of the information presented in these lessons: prices of items, calories taken in or burned, amount of food needed to feed guests, and the Macy’s Day Parade interesting facts.
Not only is this a mini math unit, but a chance to share a Thanksgiving experience with students, presenting the material on a Thanksgiving timeline so to speak: discussing first the shopping, then the cleaning and rearranging of furniture, bringing up tables and chairs, decorating, cooking, watching the parade the morning of, eating the dinner, and then playing cards and eating more the rest of the day! The bell work activity for Day 2 includes students writing a favorite memory or holiday tradition which students later put in stockings and hang on my fireplace bulletin board the day after our simulated Thanksgiving experience to continue the timeline! Bringing in a warmer with a cinnamon tart to burn as well as cinnamon scented pine cones in baskets gives the classroom a homey feel to introduce this unit designed to promote community and family in the classroom.