Using Favorite Books to Teach About Thanksgiving
- Grades: PreK–K
After the excitement of Halloween bats and skeletons comes to an end, we are greeted with a peaceful holiday full of food, family and fun. In this light, I want to share some of my favorite Thanksgiving books that I use in my classroom.
By David R. Marx
This book is a great way to build background knowledge about Thanksgiving. The simple text allows some of my students, who are able, to read it independently. This year many of my students had no knowledge of Thanksgiving besides the name of the holiday. When I asked about what foods they have on their Thanksgiving table, they looked at me with blank faces. This book did a great job of helping to introduce the historical background and customs for our Thanksgiving tradition.
By Norman Bridwell
Clifford is our kindergarten class mascot and he is a student favorite. Throughout the year we read Clifford stories to learn about holidays, friendship, and so much more. I use this book as a read aloud in my classroom. While reading this book we discuss what is happening and what Clifford is learning. When we finish, we discuss where they go for Thanksgiving and what family members are there. I make sure to talk about the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC because it's mentioned in this book. And as a child, I grew up in New Jersey and have warm memories of watching the parade with my father every year.
By Brandi Dougherty and Kirsten Richards
Here's another story that my students just adore. It is about a little Pilgrim that is too little to do anything. She learns that she is not too little to make a friend. My students easily relate to Mini, the littlest Pilgrim. They have many experiences of not being able to do something because of their size or young age. I also love the theme of friendship that this story covers. This is always an important topic for younger grade levels. After reading this, my students draw a picture of a friend and write about how they have helped a friend.
By Dav Pilkey
This poem makes my students laugh out loud! They love the fact that the children who went on a field trip save the turkeys from their dismal fate of being Thanksgiving dinner. After reading the story we love to fantasize about what we would do with a turkey instead of eating it. A colleague of mine, Betsy Healy, had her students do a fun project that I would like to try next year. Each child took home a turkey pattern with instructions to disguise their turkey so that it doesn't become dinner. Her students and their families had a wonderful time creating ballerina turkeys, superhero turkeys and more.
By Kate Waters
Although the language in this book is difficult for our young students, the photographs help give them an understanding of what life was like for a pilgrim girl. While reading this book and the books, Samuel Eaton's Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Boy and Tapenum’s Day: A Wampanoag Indian Boy in Pilgrim Times, my students discuss and compare our lives to that of pilgrims and Native Americans. Students can visualize this more concretely through hands-on learning. In my class, we do an activity where we fold a piece of paper in half, draw and write on one side about something we do now, and use the other side of the paper to compare that to what we would do if we were Pilgrims. For example, I ask students to think about the different style of clothes we wear, types food we eat, tools used, etc. You can also introduce the concept of comparing and contrasting using a Venn diagram.
By Ann McGovern and Elroy Freem
I love how this book looks at the story of Thanksgiving through the eyes of children. By telling the story in this way, my students understand what is happening and relate to what the kids were going through during this time. I use this story as a read aloud, followed by a discussion of what they learned about Pilgrim life. We also talk about how different our lives are from the Pilgrims and this usually springs into a discussion about what we are thankful for today.
Along with these important books please take a look at The First Thanksgiving activities here on Scholastic.com. My students really enjoyed all parts of this collection, especially the section on Daily Life. We compared and contrasted the Pilgrims daily life to the Wampamoag Native Americans, as well as our own lives. My students were amazed to learn that kids had to walk to get buckets of water – when we can just turn on the faucet inside our house!
Thank you for taking a look at some of my favorite Thanksgiving books. I invite you to share your favorite books or Thanksgiving activities here. As always, I too am very thankful for my wonderful readers and your comments!