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Elementary Lesson Plan on the First Thanksgiving: Embracing Diversity

written by: bcronin • edited by: Donna Cosmato • updated: 10/27/2012

This lesson for elementary grades discusses the basics of the first Thanksgiving. It further explores relationships between the Pilgrims and the Native Americans. Extensive looks at the similarities and differences between the two groups are discussed.

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    Overview

    Students will learn about the first Thanksgiving feast. They will discuss who attended and how they were different from each other as Turkeys, Pilgrims, and Indian Corn well as how they were alike. The teacher will guide them in an in-depth look at how the Native Americans were different from each other and ways in which the Pilgrims were different from each other. Students will learn about how the feast has changed, including customs and meanings and how it remains the same.

    Preparation:

    • Choose books about Thanksgiving with a variety of viewpoints.
    • Find websites that discuss important facts about the first Thanksgiving.
    • Display a map to be used to highlight were attendees were from.

    Timeline:

    One or two class periods.

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    Part One: The First Thanksgiving

    • Discuss with students what they know about Thanksgiving.
    • Uncover facts/myths about the first Thanksgiving (who attended, when it was, the purpose, the outcome, etc.)

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    Procedure:

    • Divide the class into groups of 3 or 4.
    • Ask the class to utilize various methods to learn more about the first Thanksgiving (computer, in-class books, library, magazines, etc.)
    • Have each group write a list of the similarities and differences between the Native Americans and the Pilgrims (at least 3 items on each list).
    • Next assign or have each group choose two of the Native American tribes that attended the first Thanksgiving.
    • Using similar research tools students should research each tribe and record items about each such as region where they lived, foods eaten, customs, dress, shelter, etc.
    • Have each group create lists about the Native American tribes:one of similarities, one of differences.
    • Ask each group to share their lists. Discuss as a class.
    • Next have the class follow the same routine and learn more about the Pilgrims who attended Thanksgiving.
    • Create lists of similarities and differences amongst them.
    • Ask each group to share their lists. Discuss as a class.
    • Using the four lists have groups create a new list of similarities and differences between the Native Americans and Pilgrims.
    • Discuss how this second list is different from the first list of the same topic.

    Final Discussion:

    • Discuss what they found that was similar between the Native Americans and Pilgrims that they didn’t know or that surprised them. Emphasize similarities but don’t ignore differences.
    • Finish the lesson by reading a book about the first Thanksgiving.

    Suggested Books:

    1) Barth, Edna. 1975. Turkeys, Pilgrims, and Indian Corn: The Story of Thanksgiving Symbols. New York: Clarion Books.

    2) Kamma, Anne. 2001. If You Were at the First Thanksgiving. New York: Scholastic.

    3) Grace, Catherine O'Neill, and Margaret M. Bruchac with Plymouth Plantation. 2001. 1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving. Washington, DC: National Geographic.

    4) McGovern, Ann. 1993. If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620. New York: Scholastic.

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