In the Netherlands, Saint Nicolas comes bearing gifts on December 5th, Sinterklaasavond, or Saint Nicolas’s Eve. December 6th is the feast of Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of children. Saint Nicolas arrives by steamboat from Spain with his helper Zwarte Piet. Saint Nicolas rides a white horse and there is a parade from the dock in Amsterdam to the Palace where Saint Nicolas asks the princes and princesses if they have behaved well through the year. If they’ve been good, the children of the royal family receive presents.
Children all over the Netherlands leave their shoes out the night before Saint Nicolas’s Eve and wake to find that he has left treats for them in exchange for hay or carrots for his horses. In addition to the Saint Nicolas traditions, families also give gifts to one another on Sinterklaasavond but the identity of the gift giver is a secret. The giver tries to surprise the receiver by using rhymes and riddles that often poke fun at the receiver. Small gifts can be wrapped in big boxes and clues might be left around the house for children to follow to find a sack of presents left by Saint Nicolas.
The Netherlands is probably the source of our Santa Claus, since Dutch settlers brought Sinterklaas with them to America. As you study Christmas Around the World, create a chart of gift bringers and their helpers. Some of the information you might choose to capture:
- the name of the gift bringer, such as Santa Claus
- the name of any helpers, such as Santa’s elves
- the animals, such as reindeer, that help or travel with the gift bringer
- where the gift bringer comes from — Santa Claus comes from the North Pole
- the method of transportation used
- whether the gift bringer is male or female
- when the gifts are brought
- where the gifts are placed
- what kids leave for the gift bringer — in the U.S., milk and cookies are often left for Santa
Once you’ve completed the chart, sort all the gift bringers into groups: you’ll find that the most common are some version of Saint Nicholas or Father Christmas, but there are many variations.
Christmas itself is a more quiet holiday in the Netherlands, and is known as Kerstfeest. Christmas in the Netherlands mainly revolves around food and family. On Christmas Eve families go to church and return home to a large feast in the early hours of the day, eating traditional Dutch Christmas foods, like kerststol. On Christmas morning, families might go to church again. On Christmas day, families enjoy sitting around the Christmas tree and telling stories to each other or catch up on missed sleep from the night before. December 26th is known as Second Christmas and many families dine out on this day and enjoy large, lavish meals together.
Some traditional Dutch foods include these:
- Kerststol, or Christmas fruit stolen
- Kerstkransjes, or Christmas wreath cookies
- Jan Hagel cookies
- Banketstaaf or banketletters, or almond paste filled pastry logs
- Speculaas, or spice cookies
- Oliebollen, or donuts
- Appelflappen, or apple fritters
Banketletter or letterbanket is the name for a special cookie made in the shape of letters. You can easily find recipes for this treat online, or you can make this simple version:
- Give students small amounts of refrigerated pie crust (the rolled type, not the type in pans) and marzipan (also available in rolls in grocery stores at Christmastime).
- Each student can roll the marzipan into a snake, wrap the pie crust around it, and form the first letter of his or her name. Get help from the kitchen to bake the letterbankets.
- Alternatively, use the Dutch tradition as inspiration for using clay to form letters. If you choose to use Model magic or another self-hardening clay, you can hang the letters on your class Christmas tree.
Twente, a region in east Holland, has another unique tradition for Christmas. Midwinter horns and ox horns are blown at different times, usually on Christmas Eve or every night as a call for residents to attend church after dusk during Advent until the Epiphany in early January. The horns have different sounds created by blowing the horns into wells or by blowing them into the air. Students can learn about how water changes instruments with our Water Drum Lesson Plan. Students can hear the midwinter horn being played here.
Sequoyah, a Cherokee silversmith who was also known as George Gist (or perhaps Guist or Guess), developed the Cherokee syllabary and has become a hero not only to the Cherokee, but for all Americans. His image is on one of the doors of the Library of Congress, in the National Statuary Hall in the nation’s capitol, his name was proposed as the name of a state, and his likeness has been on a stamp.
Sequoyah’s childhood, birth year, and birthplace are difficult to pinpoint because of so many conflicting reports. Some say Sequoyah was born in a village in Tuskegee, Tennessee, but others claim Georgia or Alabama. While his birthplace isn’t known for sure, all historians agree that it was in that area of the country. Historians are also unsure about Sequoyah’s father. Some say he was a German trader named Nathaniel Gist (or some variation on that name), but there is general agreement that Sequoyah was a member of the Paint Clan in the Cherokee community. The most conclusive thing historians can say about Sequoyah is that he was born somewhere in the lower Appalachian region, between the years 1755 and 1775, and that his mother was Cherokee.
Historians also know that Sequoyah’s mother traded goods and that after her death, Sequoyah moved to Willis Valley in Alabama, where he married and became a silversmith. There are no known examples of his work identified today.
It is not known how Sequoyah first encountered the concept of writing. Some say he wanted to sign his work as other silversmiths did, and others say that he had seen other soldiers writing letters home when he served in the Civil War. Either way, Sequoyah recognized the power of the written word and was convinced that he could create written Cherokee himself.
Some say that the Cherokee community thought that writing was a form of witchcraft or that it was something imposed on the Cherokee by other cultures. Others claim that Cherokee had previously had a written form and that Sequoyah rediscovered it. Neither of these stories is supported by historical evidence.
Sequoyah spent a lot of time and effort working out how to write Cherokee and originally used logograms to represent whole words, but found they were too numerous and difficult to remember. Instead, he developed the Cherokee syllabary, which is based on syllable sounds.
Sequoyah taught his daughter Ah-yo-ka to read and write using his Cherokee syllabary. He convinced others that it worked by showing that he and his daughter could communicate without being near one another, through the writing. In 1821, the Cherokee government accepted the syllabary and it soon was used for newspapers and books. Some claim that by 1830, 90% of the Cherokee were literate. The General Council of the Eastern Cherokees voted to give Sequoyah a large silver medal as a mark of distinction and he is often depicted wearing the medal of honor. Sequoyah became a trusted leader in the Cherokee community and was sent to negotiate with other members of a Cherokee delegation for land for the Cherokee people. In 1839, Sequoyah was elected President of the Western Cherokees.
Sequoyah continued his work and began attempts to develop one universal written language for all Native American tribes to use. He started travels across the country to learn about other tribes. Accounts of the end of his life claim that all his works were washed away while camping out in a cave, waiting for others in his traveling party to return with horses after theirs were stolen. Sequoyah died in July or August of 1843.
Lesson Plan Activity
- Share the story of Sequoyah with students in your own words, acknowledging the varying stories and the uncertainty about the facts.
- Ask students why they think that the biography of Sequoyah is so filled with uncertainties. Elicit the idea that, since the Cherokee did not have a written language, information about people’s birth, parentage, and early life was not written down. Instead, it was shared as oral history.
- Ask students to retell the story of Sequoyah to one another in pairs.
- Ask students to then write down the story in their own words once they finish retelling the story.
- Choose a few students to read their biographies of Sequoyah and ask students how they are different. What parts do the stories include? Are there parts of the story left out? Has anyone added to the story?
- As a class, create sentence strips with sentences that describe events in the life of Sequoyah.
- Mix up the strips and place them on a table or other work space. Ask the students to put the story sentences in order chronologically.
- Discuss with students how writing down the story helped clarify it and made it easier to remember.
- Add the events to the class timeline.
Discuss any remaining questions and finish up with an individual writing assignment. Students can either copy out or begin with the sentence strips. Older students can research Sequoyah’s life, noting how many versions of the story can be found and how little evidence there is. You might like to complete the study with a brief video from Georgia Stories.
- Photos of Cherokee people during Sequoyah’s lifetime
- Why Sequoyah’s biographical information difficult to pinpoint from Oklahoma State University
- This lesson pairs well with a lesson about the Cherokee syllabary.
- Cherokee Heritage Center and FreshPlans Visits a Cherokee Village
- Cherokee Water Drums
- Sequoyah: The Cherokee Man Who Gave His People Writing
- Cherokee Voices: Early Accounts of Cherokee Life in the East (Real Voices, Real History Series)
- Cherokee Language and Dictionary
- Signs of Cherokee Culture: Sequoyah’s Syllabary in Eastern Cherokee Life
- Sequoyah and the Cherokee Alphabet
Cherokee is one of the few Native American languages with its own writing system. Perhaps in part because of this, Cherokee is also one of the few Native American languages which has a growing — not a shrinking — number of speakers. Studying about the Cherokee writing system can not only help students understand an important part of American history, but also encourage them to think about language more deeply.
Understanding Written Cherokee
English uses an alphabet, with letters representing sounds. Cherokee is written using symbols to represent syllables. For instance, the Cherokee word for “you are going” is written “hega” phonetically in English. We need four symbols (letters) for the four sounds. In Cherokee, the same word is written with just two symbols: ᎮᎦ, one for each syllable.
The Cherokee syllabary was developed by a Cherokee man named Sequoyah, who was a silversmith. He wanted to write his name on his work as the English speaking silversmiths did. He began with logograms, symbols that represent whole words, but Sequoyah quickly decided that it would be impractical to make symbols for all the words he wanted to write. Instead, he started to develop a syllabary. There were first 115 characters but after revision, Sequoyah eliminated some and brought the number down to 85 when the syllabary was published. Another symbol was added shortly after to bring the total to 86.
The syllabary was developed in the beginning of the 19th century, and by 1830, it is said, an astonishing 90% of Cherokee were literate. Though the use of Cherokee and its syllabary decreased during the 20th century, courses are now being taught in Cherokee at the university level and there are efforts to teach the language and its writing system in schools, too.
- Hand out a copy of the Cherokee syllabary to each student accompanied by the worksheet.
- Review the concept of syllables. Compare the Cherokee syllabary and the English alphabet.
- Explain to students the history of the Cherokee syllabary written above.
- Play audio clips for students and have them listen to basic words in Cherokee.
- Using the syllabary, ask students to write out some of the words they hear and fill in the worksheet.
- Find Cherokee words for animals at Native-Languages.org. These have transliterations, or phonetic spelling of Cherokee words with the English alphabet. Have students work to write the words with the Cherokee syllabary.
- Have students choose a color word (from the worksheet) and an animal name and create an illustration of the animal they have imagined. Have them write the animal’s name and color on their illustration.
- Cherokee Language Worksheet
- The Cherokee Language and audio clips for worksheet
- Videos from a Eastern Cherokee speaker
- Cherokee Syllabary
Healthy eyes are part of overall health, so eating right, exercising, and getting enough rest are important for healthy eyes. Recent research confirms, however, that certain foods and nutrients are especially good for the eyes; in fact, people who eat these foods throughout their lives have less age-related vision loss as they age. Help your students develop good eating habits that will protect their eyes from now on — and get some math and social studies practice at the same time.
The foods that make the difference:
- leafy green vegetables
- citrus fruits
- oily fish like sardines and salmon
- nuts (increasing numbers of students have allergies to nuts, but those who are not allergic can benefit)
Clearly, these are healthy foods in any case, but they may be new to many students. These foods contain Omega-3 acids and lutein, nutrients that researchers have found are important for eye health.
Introduce the eye with an interactive experience on your smartboard or computer center:
- The Children’s Museum of Manchester has a simple cartoon introduction to the parts and functioning of the eye.
- The National Eye Institute offers a more detailed interactive diagram.
- The Exploratorium has a virtual dissection of a cow’s eye.
Then collect some data and create visual representations of it — understanding visual representations of information is a key skill for the 21st century.
Practice gathering data while encouraging the consumption of these super healthy foods. Create a bulletin board display of the charts called “Eye See Data” or “Eye See Graphs.”
- Ask student each morning who ate the listed foods, count, and mark the number on the calendar. At the end of the unit, week, or month, use the numbers to create a line graph. Did the class consumption of these foods increase?
- Have a classroom tasting. Bring a variety of leafy greens such as spinach, chard, kale, mustard greens, collard greens, and cabbage. Have students taste the various greens and chart who likes or dislikes them. Give each variety a pie chart showing its popularity. Finish with a vote on the best one, and create a pie graph showing that preference.
- Give students incentive charts and stickers to take home. Have them create bar graphs showing how many friends and family members like each of the listed foods.
Where do people eat these eye-healthy foods? Everywhere! From the Dutch herring rollmops (pickled herring) to Vietnamese sardines in tomato sauce, from Southern style collard greens to Portugese kale soup, from Spanish orange cake to South African citrus salads, you can find traditional recipes for all these foods on every inhabited continent.
Have students research the foods on the list, searching for traditional recipes from many different places. As recipes are found, add stickers to the class map to show the locations. Once a country has a sticker, students may not add another but must keep looking till they find a new recipe from a country that does not yet have a sticker.
Use Google’s Map Maker to create a map of traditional foods. This can be as simple as adding a marker and typing the name of a dish, or as complex as creating a report for each dish with photos and music, so it’s good tech skills and writing practice for every grade.
Challenge students to try the recipes at home, or create a recipe book for students to give parents for a holiday gift. Get some tech practice by making this a computer-generated project. There are lots of ways to do this:
- Use a free Microsoft Office cookbook template to build a cookbook if you have the software on your classroom computers already.
- Use the Family Cookbook Project‘s free software to create a PDF cookbook you can download.
- Create a Pinterest board. Pin the recipes from the sites where they’re found, or you can upload student drawings and type in the entire recipe to make a self-contained recipe board. Share the link on your classroom website so parents can try out the recipes with their kids.
Both the Chart It and the Map It options lend themselves to the creation of infographics. If you’re working with upper grades, click through and use our Infographics Lesson Plan as a culmination of the unit.
Are your students clear about the difference between Pilgrims and Puritans? Understanding the differences between the two is important because they form the foundations of New England—without the differences between Pilgrims and Puritans, today’s northeastern states wouldn’t look the way they do. In fact, county lines in Massachusetts are drawn from the original border between territories of Pilgrims and Puritans.
Understanding the difference between Pilgrims and Puritans also help us understand other historical events. For instance, there’s the famous Puritan Cotton Mather, who wrote a number of influential books and treatises at the beginning of American history. His religious views impacted his writing and the predominate theories of his time, including views of witchcraft. Without Cotton Mather’s writings, the Salem Witch Trials might have taken a different turn.
The Pilgrims and the Puritans were both religious and political groups. Depending on your curriculum, you may want to go more deeply into these and related issues. If you’re taking advantage of a new slant on Thanksgiving, the background information below may be sufficient.
A good starting point is the lesson plan The Voyage of the Mayflower, which is designed to teach students about Pilgrims. Explain to students that during the 1500s, Henry VIII of England broke from the Roman Catholic Church and created a new church called the Church of England, today often called the Anglican Church. Since the head of the church was the king, everyone in England was required to belong to the Church of England. It was a hard time for Catholics in England, but it was also a hard time for some Protestants. Some groups didn’t believe that the king should be the head of a church and didn’t like the ways in which it resembled the Catholic Church.
One group was called the Separatists, and this group included the people whom we call the Pilgrims today. Under the leadership of William Bradford, the Pilgrims set sail on the Mayflower in September 1620 towards Virginia but ended up in Massachusetts and formed Plymouth Colony. Pilgrims believed that anyone could commune with God on their own terms by reading the Bible and they did not want to belong to the Church of England.
Another group was known as Puritans. The Puritans did not want to separate entirely from the Church of England; they wanted to make reforms or changes. King Charles I threatened the Puritans with harsh punishments if they did not conform to the views of the Church of England; therefore, they sought freedom in America. The Puritans received a charter from the Massachusetts Bay Company to settle land in New England. John Winthrop led approximately 1,000 Puritans to America and established the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The colonists wanted to base the colony on the laws of God. They believed that God would protect them if they obeyed his laws. Winthrop wanted to make this colony a model for all other colonies to follow. Like the other colonies, the Massachusetts Bay Colony established a government. All men who were church members were able to vote for governor and for representatives to the General Court. The General Court would then make laws for the good of the colony.
Tape large sheets of paper on two different walls. Label one “Puritans” and one “Pilgrims.” Pass out markers of one color and ask students to write as many facts as they can on the two sheets before beginning any research.
Watch this video and have students complete this worksheet. The resources below will help students fully understand the two groups.
Once students have completed the exercise, revisit the sheets of paper. Give out a different color of markers and have students cross out false information and add new information.
- US History Scene: The Puritans V. The Pilgrims
- Context and Developments, University of Virginia
- Full Video of How the States Got Their Shapes, Episode One
- Comparing two speeches, Stanford University
- 6th Grade Lesson Plan with worksheets
- Thanksgiving Day in Leiden KMZ to view in Google Earth
- Quizlet Pilgrims vs. Puritans flashcards
One of the things that changed when the Old World of Europe and Asia met the New World of the Americas was what the people ate. Peppers, corn (though the English used the word for something else before importing our corn to their country), potatoes, tomatoes, chocolate, peanuts, pineapple, cranberries, sweet potatoes, vanilla, and zucchini were all New World foods. Old World foods included apples, cucumbers, onions, oranges and other citrus fruits, rice, wheat, sugar cane, lettuce, almonds, cinnamon, carrots, and grapes.
Here we share a few of our favorite lesson plans and classroom activities for grasping this important concept.
For the youngest students, prepare a table with a map of the Americas at one end and a map of Europe on the other. If you have projects on the Pilgrims and Native Americans or on explorers, group the projects at either end of the table.
Bring foods or pictures of foods representing both the New and Old Worlds and have students sort them into stacks on the New World and Old World maps. If you use pictures, you can create either an interactive bulletin board or a center once you’ve presented the lesson. Of course, if you bring foods, you’re ready for snack time!
Ask students to think about where tomato sauce might have come from. If they think of Italy, they’re right — except that while the tomato sauce we’re most familiar with was an Italian invention of the 1700s, tomatoes are a New World food. Pizza, which is an Italian invention from the late 18th century, could never have existed without the tomatoes of South America.
Have students choose some favorite foods and use the Food Timeline to identify when and where they originated. Then use one of these options to map the foods, making sure to distinguish between Old World and New World foods:
- Add pictures of the foods to the classroom wall map.
- Use Google Maps to create individual or group maps showing where specific foods originated.
- Have student create reports on their foods, post them on a bulletin board, and use yarn and pushpins to link the reports to their locations on a world map.
The Ngram Viewer is a wonderful tool at Google Books which searches out the frequency of words at time depths from 1500 to 2008. In the screenshot at the top of this post you can see how Old World foods were most popular in books in English at the beginning of this time, how New World foods began to be mentioned in the 1500s, and how they gradually increased in popularity.
The Ngram Viewer is very easy to use. Have students type a term into the search box. By default, the viewer is case sensitive, but you can deselect that as shown above. We can see in this screen that chocolate was being written about shortly after it was taken to Europe by explorers, but that it became much more popular after English speakers began to live in the Americas, with a big jump during the 20th century. Try the same search within the corpus of Spanish (that is, the books in Spanish) and you will see a very different pattern.
The Ngram Viewer is a fun tool to use and it allows students to create charts in moments. Use it to practice the use of charts and to work on technology skills and visual learning.
Have students explore the use of the names of various Old and New World foods and look for patterns. Ask them to think about what they already know about the use of these foods and to conduct research on them. Then ask each student to choose one food to report on or two foods to compare.