First, read the book Silver Packages: An Appalachian Christmas Story by Cynthia Rylant.
If you have never read this book PLEASE do so TODAY! It is a beautiful story that can spark really meaningful discussions. The story is about a wealthy man who feels he "owes a great debt" to someone who helped him. He repays his debt by bringing the Christmas Train through Appalachia every December 23rd. (This is a real train.) Find out about Frankie, a little boy who waits for the train and a special gift.
I have my students create their own silver packages for someone special. After reading the book and having a great deal of discussion about what it means to "owe a debt", I have my kids draft a letter to a family member. I prefer they write to their parents or parent, but all families are different. The students write thanking their family member for something they have done or taught them. I try to encourage the kids to not thank someone for toys or things, but to dig deeper. Write from the heart.
During our discussion, my kids came up with such ideas as thanking their parents for cheering them on at sports or taking the time to drive them to activities or planning trips for the family. Some mentioned thanking their parents for helping them learn. Some brought up thanking their parents for teaching them good manners. This seems to be the one that stuck with many of them. I had one student thank her mom for teaching her responsibility. This little girl often has to help take care of her big brother with special needs and her younger siblings and she feels like she's learned patience. It was very sweet.
I had forgotten to snap some pictures before they wrapped their letters, but here are two for you to peek at.
Click HERE to download a freebie that explains the directions for this project, as well as writing paper and the gift tags, too. I hope you and your students find this just as enjoyable as my class does!