Another holiday I'd normally be celebrating with my elective class is about to come. In class we'd culminate our short unit on thankfulness with a well-earned Charlie Brown Thanksgiving party complete with popcorn, pretzels, dry Cinnamon Toast Crunch and jellybeans while we watched the cartoon. We turn the desks to make two big tables and just enjoy our time together. Well, not this year... thanks COVID!
So, I decided to build out the learning part of the lesson. It is now a full 3 part lesson that would fit well with many electives or homeroom/advisory classes. We're all about that SEL this year right?
Here's Being Thankful!
I start the lesson with a reading analysis of an article from 2014 about Child Homelessness. Most people, myself included, don't understand how much of an issue child homelessness is. We rarely see homeless kids on the streets. This article helps to open student's eyes to the fact that A) it is a real problem and B) homelessness can be measure in different ways. It closes with an analysis of a song from Kutless called, fittingly, Perspectives.
Next we start a discussion of what it means to show appreciation. We read and analyze Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree. This powerful story helps students to see, especially those in middle school and high school, how much their parents do for them and how little gratitude they truly show. I follow up this discussion with another song, either Cats in the Cradle by Harry Chapin or Someday by Trans-Siberian Orchestra. It closes with students write a short thank you note or email to someone who has done something for them.
This ties the first two parts together as students deeply consider their place in the world today. It opens with a analysis of the music video to Van Halen's Right Now. I use a slightly edited version for my middle schoolers but even the original is probably okay. There is some imagery that I'd rather not have to talk to them about but the lyrics are fine. It is important they see the video as it is far more important to the discussion than the song itself. The video asks the viewer to consider all the things happening around the world in a given moment - right now. We transition into a discussion of where students fit in the world's wealth scale. They choose a job find the annual income. Using a web tool they find out where that puts them (almost always in the top 1%). We review some statistics on poverty and freedom from around the world with that in mind. We close with a couple reflection questions on thankfulness overall.
Social media has convinced our kids (and adults) that their lives are terrible. Think about it. They have a profit motive to do so. In our consumer society, we get small bits of joy from buying things. Social media companies make money from ads. If they can make us feel bad were are far more likely to click on that ad and make a purchase, earning them money. If adults are so easily manipulated, even more so are our kids. We have to combat this. 2020 isn't the "worst year ever." Anyone with any perspective on history would know better. It hasn't been great, that's for sure, but we still have it so good in our country. I'm reminded of an online conversation I had a few months ago. In a long thread of Americans whining about 2020 a man from the Middle East responded with, "What you feel about 2020 is what my people have felt since the Middle Ages!"
It's a tough world and a tough time but the constant downplaying of our excellent country and largely comfortable lives does a huge disservice to our kids. I love the discussions that come out of these lessons. Kids start to see how good they really do have it and that even when things don't look or feel so good, we still have plenty to be thankful for.
I hope you and your students benefit greatly. Happy Thanksgiving!