Thanksgiving has always been my favorite time of year, especially as an elementary teacher. Report cards were sent, parent/teacher conferences were past, the first trimester had ended, and testing (for at least a few weeks) was over. The students and I were just beginning our festive mood. The week of Thanksgiving was a time when I could create a construction paper project with my students and tell an in-depth story of the first Thanksgiving with the help of some wonderful books. One of my favorite reads was a story called Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende Devlin. The author tells the story of a Mr. Whiskers who comes to Grandmother's house dressed in smelly clothes, and unshaven. Another man arrives for dinner. Unlike Mr. Whiskers, this fine gentleman smells of lavender and is quite poised and proper. Grandmother, who is hosting Thanksgiving, is suspicious of Mr. Whiskers and keen on her gentleman friend. This Thanksgiving Grandmother is baking her famous cranberry bread. She is very afraid that Mr. Whiskers has come to steal her secret recipe.
This is where I'd stop reading. "Let's describe Grandmother's two Thanksgiving guests," I'd say. The kids' hands shot up with descriptors of the story's two characters. They agreed that Mr. Whiskers was mean, bad, smelly, and a robber, though never does the story represent Mr. Whiskers in this way. My students then would describe Grandmother's gentleman friend as friendly, handsome, and charming. Again, these were the words of my students, not those of the author. When I read the rest of the story, the kids discover the truth of both characters. We discuss what it meant to judge a book by its cover. Later, as we ate cranberry bread--Grandmother's famous recipe, of course (and made the night before), my students constructed a turkey centerpiece for their Thanksgiving table. I wonder at times as I prepare another wonder Thanksgiving dinner, how many of my students still have their cherished centerpiece.
Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!