I am BEYOND thrilled to be a guest blogger today!! Denise is one of my very best friends, as well as one of the best teachers I know. Denise and I have known each other for almost 20 years....I just figured that out and I'm shocked. LOL! We are currently not teaching in the same school, but we did teach together for many years. We have collaborated on many lessons and activities and shared lots of laughs along the way! Denise is my bloggy mentor and my TpT cheerleader. For that, I owe you, Denise, a debt of gratitude. ♥
Thinking about Denise and gratitude leads me to one of my most favorite holiday activities. Using the mentor text, Silver Packages by Cynthia Rylant, students get a chance to think about who they might "owe a debt of gratitude" to and then create their own silver package.
This beautifully written story tells about the Christmas train that travels through Appalachia every year. A wealthy stranger, who was helped by one of the townspeople years before, repays the people by delivering silver packages to the children each Christmas. Frankie wishes for a doctor's kit each year, but instead gets things he needs. Mittens. Socks. Hats. Scarves and a few little toys. Frankie grows up, moves away, and becomes a doctor. He goes back to Appalachia to "repay his debt" to the town that gave him so much. I can not make it to the end of this touching story without a few tears.
After reading the story, I have a class discussion about what it means to "owe a debt". (For 3rd graders, this can take some time.) We discuss gratitude and being thankful for not just "things" we are given, but for what people do for us. I ask the children to think of someone they "owe a debt" of gratitude. We use our writer's notebooks for preplanning by making a list of people and what we want to thank them for (I'm saying "we" because I write with the students). We narrow it down to one person and draft letters. I guide students towards writing from the heart. I do help them edit their work as well. When the letters are published, they simply fold them in half twice and wrap them in tin foil. I give them a bow to place on top and a To/From label. A Silver Package. It is a simple, truly heartfelt gift!
Here are some my 3rd graders wrote this year. I was so impressed.
This one is my personal favorite. It's the first one that a student wrote to me! I was touched!
A few years back my now 12 year old son, Dane, was in my class and we did this activity. Dane put his silver package under the tree and gave it to his dad on Christmas morning who cried when he read it. Dane's letter is simple, and doesn't seem like much, but to his dad it meant the world!
I used to give the kids printed winter stationery for publishing their letters. Recently, I created lined paper for them. Click ❅here❅ to download a copy of the papers and some simple gift tags to add to your silver packages.
Enjoy the season and think about someone YOU might owe a debt of gratitude!