The grade 4-5 class has taken home care packages that will help facilitate the rhythms they are comfortable with in our classroom, familiar workbooks and a range of art supplies. We will be doing a block lesson that is ideally suited to being worked on at home. It combines local history and geography with hearing the stories of immigrants to Nova Scotia, We are starting with the Acadians, and continuing up to the present. Everyone has been sent an invitation to our new google classroom where there will be stories, art, blackboard drawings and activities as well as parent support files.. At home, I ask that families share the story of how your family came to Nova Scotia, get on the phone with grandparents, share photo albums, tell stories from your own childhood. We will make a main lesson book entitled “My Nova Scotia Home” to share with the class when we can all be together again.
There are many ways to make a family tree, just as there are many types of families.
The most basic information on a family tree is your heritage. You came from your parents, they came from their parents, your grandparents came from their parents, and so on. In many families there are several trees all together in a grove because families blend, or there are adopted and fostered children brought in.
Maybe what you’d like to explore is where in the world you came from. In this case you can begin with where you live now, and then draw lines to where your mom is from and where your dad is from. Then you do the same with all 4 grandparents, and if you can your great grandparents. This kind of family tree can be very concentrated on one part of the world, or maybe it extends out far and wide, the further you go back.
Some families can trace their heritage all the way back hundreds and hundreds of years, others can’t because of conditions they faced where that information was lost. When immigrant children were orphaned the families that took them in often changed their names. For some families, ancestors fled persecution and they changed their names to hide their roots. For other families being displaced resulted in being nation less and when you wander it is very hard to keep track of births and marriages.
Every family tree is different. They make a varied and beautiful forest, and in the end they are all related.
Here are some ways you might like to explore your family tree:
The basic information spreading up through the branches are the names of parents and grandparents but you can add your siblings, aunts and uncles and cousins if you’d like too.
Maybe if you are a blended family you’ll have a grove of trees with branches intertwining.
Below the tree the roots can travel to places near and far to represent where in the world everyone came from. Here is a good place to record what family tell you about your history even if you can’t tie it to a specific person. I know my family goes back to Ireland and then later still to Scotland but it is hard to trace once they were in Ireland because they became travellers after losing their land in Scotland. I find this information really interesting so my drawing of my tree will focus on the roots instead of names in the branches.
Family trees can be much more personal too. Perhaps you would like to tell a little something about the family in your tree. You can use photographs to tell a visual story. Or you can write a bit about them like: What they do they love to do. and adjectives to describe them. Maybe you’d like to share an interesting fact about them? These kinds of biographical family trees can help us make wonderful poems.
A Family Tree Poetry Project
The poet Carl Sandburg used his family history to help him write many poems. They don’t look like they are family biographies but they are.
Shine on, O moon of summer.
Shine to the leaves of grass, catalpa and oak,
All silver under your rain tonight. An Italian boy is sending songs to you tonight from an accordion.
A Polish boy is out with his best girl; they marry next month;
Tonight they are throwing you kisses An old man next door is dreaming over a sheen that sits in a cherry tree in his backyard. The clock says I must go – I stay here sitting on the back porch drinking white thoughts you rain down. Shine on, O moon
shake out more and more silver changes.
I will put in suggestions for where to break for the day. Every day we review the day before, practice what we’ve learned, then introduce something new.
Day 1. For this poetry project first talk about your family tree, and then help your child write down these things about their family. Do this for each grandparent, each parent, and about themselves.
Name and Title (parent, grandparent, self) Date of birth
Place of birth
Two adjectives to describe them
One interesting fact about them
You can do this for siblings, and aunts and uncles and cousins – as far as you’d like! If people have passed on, family stories and recollections will help fill this in.
Day 2. Do a brainstorming page. Please circle each topic and its answers to make the next step easier.
4 adjectives to describe where you are from
3 words to describe your future
3 adjectives to describe an important person in your life 3 things you do with your family
2 living things in nature
2 non living things in nature
3 adjectives to describe your favourite food
2 things you fear
2 things you love
Poetry is all about combining the right words to describe something! In many poems you will find numerous adjectives, metaphors and similes that the poet has used to paint a powerful image in the readers mind. Using your completed brainstorming sheet select two answers from any of your circle so that when combined they paint an image in a reader’s mind. Then using those combined words create a powerful sentence that can be used in your poem. 4-5 times.
Try this out
Two non living things from nature 1 lake
Four adjectives that describe where I’m from 1 green
Words combined – lake + tiny
Sentence – My childhood was spent on a tiny lake we named “the teacup”.
Day 3. Next we’ll gather ideas for our poem using this template.
Part 1: Where am I from? Questions to consider: Where were you born? What does it look like there? Are their mountains, oceans, deserts, forests? Where are your parents and/or grandparents from? What language(s) does your family speak? What sort of foods does your family eat? What are some things you have in common with your family? What are some things that you family values? What is unique about your family?
Part 2: Who am I today? Questions to consider: Where do you live today? What does it look like? How would you describe it? What activities do you do with your family, friends or on your own? What is important to you today?
Part 3: Where am I going? Questions to consider: What do you aspire to be? What are your hopes and dreams for the future? Where do you want to live?
Allow your child to start the first draft of their poem. Make sure to encourage students to use their completed activity sheets to assist them with their writing.
Day 4. Once they have completed their first draft have them read their poem and remove any excess language. Remind students that poetry is condensed language and that they are trying to express ideas using meaningful words versus using a lot of words!
You may want to give them a few examples such as:
Sentence: I am like a falcon that soars for long hours above the city, watching everyone down below.
Edited Sentence: I am a falcon soaring above the city, watching everyone below.
Next have your child circle all the adjectives in their poem and using a thesaurus (find one online if need be!) look up the circled words. They may elect to change a word based on their findings.
Next they should read their poem once again with this question in mind: “Is there a better way to express a particular line(s) in my poem?” Encourage them to use metaphors and similes.
You may want to share an example such as: Sentence: I grew up in the Ottawa Valley.
Revised: A white moose was once my neighbour, waterfalls and sun dappling through pines my first memories.
Continue to review and edit as they feel necessary.
Day 5. Before writing a final version students should check their poem for punctuation and grammatical errors.
Then they can do one page in their main lesson book with the good copy of their poem and a border, and a page that illustrates it.
Advice to Parents on our block “My Nova Scotia Home”
How to use the Main Lesson Book?
The Main Lesson Book (MLB) is filled with the student’s drawings and writing and used as a learning tool as well as documentation of the student’s work. The creation of a main lesson book nurtures qualities of thoughtfulness, intention, perseverance, and creativity. It becomes a showcase of the student’s work as well as a cherished keepsake.
They need practice paper for rough drafts first.
Start with a cover page with the title of the block project – My Nova Scotia Home. Encourage them to decorate the cover page.
I always encourage kids to do a border first then their writing and finally their drawing. Remind them they have all the time in the world to embellish drawings and borders but try to set time limits to get the writing down. I never ask for more than 20-30 minutes of writing at a time.
* If your child has trouble getting started help them get key points down which they can elaborate on.
* If they feel more comfortable with copywork, work with them to get the ideas down and let them copy your words.
* If they really struggle with writing feel free to help them and reduce their writing load to labeling and titles. I find the children who struggle with this have lots of ideas but often need help organizing them. In the classroom I team them with peers who have those skills. You can be that peer. Get them talking, helping you find better adjectives and more descriptive verbs and adverbs.
* If they don’t seem to know when to stop with their writing, encourage them to write as much as they want but pull out the most important parts to put in their main lesson book.
No matter what, work together to proofread their work. Keep a dictionary handy. It’s good for them to see adults use these tools too. Say sentences out loud that are grammatically incorrect. We can hear errors more easily than see them. This is especially fun with punctuation – they love when I read run on sentences or act out sentences with too!many!exclamation!points!!!
As you talk about your family history and lore help them identify the themes and plan a page on a theme.
Figure out your family tree.
Gather stories from grandparents and other relatives.
Look at old family photos and take new family photos.
If you are recent immigrants gather your and your children’s own memories of arriving here.
Share family lore and tall tales.
Look at maps together and trace your path.
We have drawn maps from memory in class so don’t ask your child to recreate a map in any kind of precise detail; but definitely try doing an artistic version instead, a map that tells a story. You can draw one, paint one, make a salt dough map.
Try some recipes from the places you came from. Put your favorite recipes in your book.
All of us came here from other places at some point in time, do a bit of research to find out about those other places. Talk about what you may have brought from these cultures. Talk about what makes you feel uniquely Nova Scotian.
Use one of your sheets of watercolour paper to make a poster about this quote “Canadians are born all over the world, it just sometimes takes them a bit of time to get here.”
I’d love to see each student write a poem, letter, or a journal to their future descendants about what it is like growing up today (and we are making history right now). Their memories of this time will make up family lore in the future.
As I bring them historical fiction about the Acadians, listen to the stories, read the background information I provide, and look at the images together. If your child is inspired by the story, discuss how they feel about the deportation. Make room for all their emotions around it. This story has elements they will recognize from the story of Moses and the Israelites, as well as how the Mi’kmaq were treated. I will follow it up with stories of more recent immigrant groups – particularly those who took refuge here after a similar deportation/flight.