Family Literacy Night-Dreamcatchers

When I was brainstorming about what to utilize my Family Literacy Night on, I was trying to think of something that is hands-on, creative, and educational. I first loved the idea about connecting it to culture in some way. Then, I wanted to connect it to a craft/project of some kind. Luckily, my husband had just recently shared precious childhood memories with me and I had my “A-HA” moment. A little back story, my husband and I both come from the Native Cherokee Tribe. His grandma was born on the reservation in Oklahoma. He shared numerous stories with me about the traditions she tried passing on to him. One of these special traditions was that she would hand-make a dreamcatcher every birthday for him. She would use natural resources that can be found in nature, without cost. Seeing how special this tradition was for him, I decided to utilize my Family Literacy Event in appreciation of the Native American culture.

At first, I knew I needed to get the facts about the origin of the dreamcatcher. As I did my research, I was surprised I had never heard or learned about the origin story. All I had known was that dream catchers bring you good dreams while you sleep at night. I was pleasantly surprised by learning the real origin story and couldn’t wait to share it with the students! In the beginning of the event, I taught them about the tribe that dreamcatchers originated from, the Ojibwe tribe. Then, I read them the Ojibwe legend of the mystical Spider Woman who created the first dreamcatcher as a sign of protection. This was so interesting to me-she created it for the tribe members to carry around as a symbol of her protection as they travelled farther and farther away from their homeland. Lastly, we discovered the meaning and exactly how the dreamcatcher works to protect you. The dreamcatcher is constantly catching good and bad thoughts. As the sun rises, it burns and destroys the bad thoughts that are caught in the webbing and allows the good thoughts to travel down the strings and feathers into the person sleeping below it. This got the students even more excited to create their very own dream catchers.

The students used embroidery hoops, yarn, beads, feathers, and glue to assemble their very own dream catchers. I had my husband help me pick out materials that resembled the ones his grandma used throughout his childhood. They were given these materials with make-and-take kits that we could assemble over Zoom together. They were also invited to have family members join next to them to make their own dreamcatchers too. I was pleasantly surprised to see a few family members join our Zoom meeting while making the dreamcatchers.

Once we finished, I had the students write about their experience from Family Literacy Night. I asked about what they learned, and how they felt about spending time with their families and classmates while creating the dreamcatchers. I was very happy to see in their writings that they had a lot of fun and retained information behind the origin of the dreamcatcher. At the end of the meeting, I even heard a student say that they think we must appreciate Native Americans because their culture is so unique. I took that moment as an opportunity to point out that we ALL come from unique backgrounds and it’s important to appreciate all different cultures.

When I think about how well this night went and how I can utilize future events, I think they can be used to highlight the different cultures we all come from. Every year, I have students that come from several different cultural backgrounds. I’m working on improving not only how I connect with my students, but how they connect with one another. Students tend to forget that they are all human with real thoughts, emotions, and unique lives. By showing how “human” they are to one another, it will only further the positive and accepting classroom culture I strive for every school year.  In the future, it would be great to have multiple literacy nights that highlight a specific culture. Then, at the end of the school year, we can have one last literacy night to reflect upon and share the background of our individual cultures. I hope it also motivates my students to reflect on the culture they come from and to appreciate something that is unique to their own culture. I can’t wait to implement this process again in the future!