My Painted House, My Friendly Chicken, and Me Mini-Unit

The Mini-Unit Designer

Faith Wint, Gifted and Talented Teacher

East Longmeadow Public Schools, Western Massachusetts

Mini-Unit plan created: July 14, 2015

Introducing the Mini-Unit

I am the Gifted and Talented teacher for a suburban public elementary school in western Massachusetts.  All first and second grade students in our district participate in the G&T program that is designed to be a “push in” program.  Each class meets once a week for an hour.  Currently, there are eight classrooms at each grade level-about 360 children in total.

The goals of the Gifted and Talented program are:

  • To provide enrichment for all students through high levels of engagement and the use of enjoyable and challenging learning experiences that are constructed around students' interests, learning styles, and preferred modes of expression.
  • To focus primarily on social studies and science.  The children learn a particular subject area in depth depending on the needs and interests of the children.

In order to differentiate the curriculum, lessons are presented in a wide variety of ways using Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences.  In planning the curriculum and activities, many of the ideas put forth in the approach of Reggio Emilia municipal early childhood programs of Northern Italy have been adapted and applied.

My Painted House, My Friendly Chicken, and Me was chosen for it provides an opportunity for students to learn about who they are and where they come from.  It allows them to share their own cultural background while learning to respect people who are different from themselves.

Learning Experience Design #1

Learning Experience 1: Introductory experience and read aloud

MUSIC-An established routine in my classroom is that children listen to music as they enter and sit on the rug.  The music selections always relate to our learning experience.  Music is also played at different times during our time together so that children have an opportunity to hear longer pieces as well a variety of different selections. 

Students are also given some opportunity to incorporate movement with the music that they are hearing. 

ACTIVATOR-Prior to engaging with the book, the students will participate in a small group activator.  Provide each group of students with some feathers.  Then ask them to cooperatively create a list of as many things possible that they can do with feathers.  After 5-10 minutes, the students can share their brainstorming ideas during a class discussion.  (The students learn after reading the story that Ndebele women traditionally used chicken feathers to paint houses.)

VISUAL THINKING STRATEGY ACTIVITY-Show students an enlarged photograph of one of Margaret Courtney-Clarke’s photographs from the book i.e., the one opposite the text “my mother painted them” and use Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) with them.  VTS incorporates these three main inquiries:  What's going on in this picture? What do you see that makes you say that? What else can you find?

SHARING THE TEXT-Using the Whole Book Approach and Interactive Read-Aloud strategies present and read the book. 

The Whole Book Approach expands engagement by including opportunities for students to discuss how the pictures, design, and other elements of the book interact with the text.  For this book, place an emphasis on the layout of the pages.  Each layout is different as well as the font size and style.  Another point of discussion can be the use of color photography as the means of illustration.

Interactive Read-Aloud is a systematic method of reading aloud, which allow teachers to scaffold children's understanding of the book being read, model strategies for making inferences and explanations, and teach vocabulary and concepts.  For this book, focus students’ attention to the author’s point of view.   Also, an area of discussion may be for the students to describe their best friends and what characteristics make a good friend as well as communicate about their families.

SCHOOL-HOME CONNECTION ASSIGNMENT-WHAT’S IN A NAME-In class today we read aloud My Painted House, My Friendly Chicken, and Me.  Maya Angelou's wrote this story about Thandi, a South African Ndebele girl whose name means hope in her language.

For homework, find out more about your name.  Does it have a special meaning?  Were you named for someone else? Research it tonight and share with the class tomorrow.

Learning Experience Design #2

Learning Experience 2: South Africa, The Ndebele Tribe and Shosholoza

In this lesson, the students will be provided with a general overview of South Africa (location, ethnic divisions, language, culture, beliefs, origins) as well as more specific details about the Ndebele tribe.  Then they will learn a traditional song called Shosholoza.

Shosholoza (lyric translations)

"Shosholoza" is a Zimbabwe Ndebele folk song that originated in what is now Zimbabwe but was popularized in South Africa. The song is a traditional South African folk song that was sung by Ndebele all-male migrant workers that were working in the South African mines in a call and response style. The song is so popular in South African culture that it is often referred to as South Africa's second national anthem.

Learning Experience Design #3

Learning Experience 3: Art of the Ndebele

My Painted House, My Friendly Chicken and Me introduces the distinctive beadwork and trademark geometric mural art on the South African Ndebele homes.  Share with students the significance of art to the Ndebele people with regard to communication, tradition, social status, economy, and expression.  Also, discuss how culture and history have influenced art-making over time.  Show additional still images of Ndebele art.  Then focus on the traditional and contemporary mural art and artists (i.e., Esther Mahlangu).  Finally, students will create a painting that is inspired by the house paintings.  The students’ paintings will feature geometric shapes, bright colors, and symmetrical designs.

Summative Learning Experience

Summative Learning Experience: Book/Letter

Using My Painted House, My Friendly Chicken and Me as a mentor text, children create their own books about their culture and customs.  They can write it as if they were talking to Thandi or someone who has never experienced their lifestyle.  They can use the same opening “Hello Stranger-friend.  I am ___, a ___ girl/boy in ___.  I am ___ years old, and my best friend is ___.”   They should include a “tour of their life” including information regarding family, friendship, home, community, traditions and hope.  Families will be asked to submit photocopies of photographs for use in their books.  Photographs can also be taken at school if needed.   Once complete, the children will read aloud their books to the class.

Afterwards students are asked to write a friendly letter to Thandi and describe similarities and differences between them in the hopes that they can become friends.