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What's For Thanksgiving Dinner?--Then and Now

written by: Laurie Patsalides • edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch • updated: 10/27/2012

Teach students about the foods that were available at the first Thanksgiving and compare them to some of the foods that Americans enjoy at Thanksgiving dinner today. After doing the history about these foods, let the students enjoy creating a Thanksgiving plate and separate foods into groups.

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    Health Food Choices For Thanksgiving

    Thanksgiving is a great time of the year to teach about health and nutrition and about the history of the American tradition of Thanksgiving Day by Gail Gibbons Thanksgiving. I use this lesson to teach students to avoid overindulgence. Focus on the healthy food choices that are available at Thanksgiving dinner.


    • Thanksgiving Day, by Gail Gibbons
    • Thanksgiving Day, by Anne Rockwell and Lizzy Rockwell
    • My Plate poster to review food groups
    • Large Styrofoam plates
    • Thanksgiving food pictures, can be created on clip art, one sheet per student
    • Glue

    Send a letter to parents describing the activity: Ask parents to create a list of foods that are a tradition to eat at Thanksgiving at the student's Thanksgiving Day by Anne Rockwell home. Be sure to remind them to include desserts. This list should be received by you no later than the second week of November.

    Prior Knowledge:

    Students need prior knowledge of the food groups for this lesson.


    Read both books indicated above. Talk to students about the foods that were included in the first Thanksgiving feast, and chart them. As you chart them indicate which food group they belong to. Talk to students about the foods that most Americans enjoy at Thanksgiving today. Chart the foods, the group they belong to and compare the two lists.


    Prior to this activity read each food list from the families and create a graph of the student name and the different foods. Graph the foods that the student's traditionally eat at Thanksgiving dinner. Count and compare the foods on the graph. Students will see the commonality and some differences between families.


    Give each student a Styrofoam plate and Thanksgiving day foods. Ahead of time prepare the plates by drawing a pie shape into six sections with a black marker. The sections are grains, vegetable, fruit, milk, meat and beans, and other (that is dessert). Have the students cut out the food pictures and sort them into food groups, by gluing them into groups onto the plate.

    Optional: Use a hole punch to punch a hole and hang in the classroom for display.


    Can students sort the foods into food groups?

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    Read More

    For a Thanksgiving Mini-Series, please click here.