With Thanksgiving just a couple of weeks away, you're probably in the middle of planning lessons and activities. Read on for my favorite books to read when teaching about the reality of Pilgrim life — and for some activities to extend the learning.
The Pilgrims’ First Thanksgiving by Ann McGovern will give your students a glimpse of the hardships that the Pilgrims faced on the Mayflower, the struggles of their first year in Plymouth, and the events leading up to the first Thanksgiving.
A strategy that works exceptionally well with this book is a narrative input chart. A narrative input chart features simple, sequential drawings to make content more comprehensible to students. Using a piece of paper and a pencil, your students can create their own narrative input chart. Students can refer to the chart to recall important details from the story.
The book Sarah Morton’s Day by Kate Waterswill give your students a firsthand account of a Pilgrim girl's average day. I enjoy reading this story because it uses photographs of real people portraying Pilgrim life.
Waters wrote another Thanksgiving book that students easily relate to. Giving Thanks: The 1621 Harvest Feast is told from the point of view of a 14-year-old Native American boy and a 6-year-old Pilgrim boy. Once again, the photographs capture the essence of the time period.
For a great extension activity, have students dress up as either a Pilgrim or a Native American, with hats, aprons, Native American headdresses, and collars, and take a picture of each one. Students can then write about what a typical day would be like if they lived in the 1620s. To extend this activity even further, students can compare it to a typical day in 2011.
The book that I most look forward to sharing with my students each year is Oh, What a Thanksgiving! by Steven Kroll. In this creative story, a young boy's imagination takes him on an adventure back in time to experience what Pilgrims did to get ready for Thanksgiving. This book gives your students a memorable visual of Pilgrim life as compared to present day.
After reading the book, you might have students present it in a readers theater. The students can work in cooperative groups to create the script. Have students portray present-day David, his father, his mother, Mr. Sanderson, Jim Holden, and Jeff. Another group can portray Pilgrim David, his dad, his mom, Mr. Sanderson as Captain Miles Standish, Jim Holden as Samoset, and Jeff as Squanto.
Share with us your favorite Pilgrim-themed books and ideas that we can use in our classrooms!