Teachinghistory.org’s Thanksgiving website is a true wealth of resources for history teachers looking to make the Thanksgiving school lesson a memorable one. Among these resources are engaging lesson plans, fun quizzes, and a cornucopia of information about the first Thanksgiving and its key players. But perhaps the most important aspect of the site is that it provides a great set of tools for students to gain a better, and broader, understanding of the Thanksgiving holiday—past and present. Read on for some resources from the website, and find plenty more at teachinghistory.org.
The “Jennifer Orr on Teaching Thanksgiving” post from the Teachinghistory.org blog tackles the challenge of teaching a holiday that in most schools is inaccurately taught. As a resource she points out the Plimoth Plantation’s You Are the Historian interactive activity site, where students can learn, among other things, myths and facts about the first Thanksgiving within the framework of being a “history detective.” At the end, kids can design and print out their own Thanksgiving history panel.
Orr also highlights other great resources she herself uses, such as Eve Bunting’s How Many Days to America? A Thanksgiving Story, which she’ll be reading with her first graders. For primary source information, Orr highlights the Library of Congress’ resources, which include letters, photographs, and paintings about Thanksgiving.
The “What Really Happened? Comparing Stories of the First Thanksgiving?” lesson plan from The Learning Network tasks students to understand and evaluate different secondary sources that provide varying perspectives on the first Thanksgiving. Divided into groups, the students will discuss the varied accounts and analyze the differences. This lesson plan can be modified to match students of different levels by choosing accounts of the first Thanksgiving of appropriate difficulty. Rubrics and secondary source accounts can be found through the Learning Network link above.
Teachinghistory.org has three great Thanksgiving quizzes that are sure to be great fun in the classroom. How much do you know about the history of presidential turkey pardons, the history of the first Thanksgiving, and Thanksgiving in 1943 (with World War II rationing in effect)?