Last week my first-graders had a descriptive writing assignment. The focus was on thank-you letters. Since the school district had a video of a custodian going about his daily work, that video turned into the opening for the assignment. Kids brainstormed things the custodians did: turned on lights and furnace, vacuumed carpets, mopped floors, cleaned cafeteria and bathrooms, restocked fresh toilet paper, cleaned up playground and sand field, moved in desks into classrooms, emptied trashcans, and took out recycling. The kids were surprised at how much the school was taken care of. After the video, when kids were in the cafeteria they were very aware of the custodian there.
The next day they worked on the final drafts. They erased, added words, corrected spelling, and signed their names. The kids put in a lot of effort into the sentences and especially into the picture at the top. In the afternoon the custodians were invited into our classroom for a quick “thank you party”. They introduced themselves and the kids said thank you. Each child read his or her letter to the appropriate custodian. Afterwards everybody had a cookie and a cup of juice.
It was such a touching, memorable experience. Kids got a chance to really think about things they often take for granted and thank the people who were responsible for their comfort. The custodians were beaming when the kids were reading their letters and handing them over. The recognition they received was unusual and significant and I was so glad to be a part of it!