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November 14, 2012 Plentiful Thanksgiving Resources By Shari Edwards
Grades 1–2, 3–5

    Last week, we finished our fall research bulletin board that we titled “How Animals Prepare for Winter.” My students enjoyed using our autumn and animal books to find information. They created an autumn scene and wrote the information they learned on colorful leaves. November is a busy month in the classroom with Election Day, Veterans Day, and now, Thanksgiving.

    If you're anything like me, you have asked yourself, in a voice edged with surprise or panic, "Can Thanksgiving really be so soon!?" It's true . . . but, never fear, Scholastic is here!



    For the next week, my class will focus on the treasured American holiday Thanksgiving. It won’t be difficult to find activities. Scholastic has so many resources to offer that I could make my plans totally from their website and a few read-alouds. I can’t wait to dig in and reap the harvest!

    students presenting part of a pilgrim letter to the class

    Letters From 1620s Children

    Last week, we began receiving email letters from a pilgrim girl and a Wampanoag boy because I had signed up to receive them on earlier in the year. They are great for building anticipation for the unit, and my students enjoy reading them. Each letter contains good information to help my students build background knowledge on life in the 1600s on a merchant ship and in the Americas. I pull vocabulary from the letters for my students to learn. We first attempt to figure out the meanings for ourselves, using context clues and our own schema, as we practice our comprehension skills. If we need help, there is a great vocabulary list to refer to on the website.

    I chose a jigsaw activity to help my 2nd graders investigate the first letter. I divided it into five parts, made enough copies for each student to have a section, and handed each student one section. My students then grouped themselves by the part they were given. They read it together, underlined important words, and drew a picture on the back to represent the main idea of their section of the letter. When they were finished, I called them to the carpet and each group read their part of the letter to the class after talking about the main idea of their section. I was pleased that most groups could talk about main idea, saying things like, "Our section told about the food they ate" or "Ours was about what the Mayflower was like."

    Click on the image below to download the first letter, divided into sections for a jigsaw activity.

    picture of letter

    I also plan to have students examine the points of view that are represented by these two children and use our new learning to write statements from another person’s point of view.

    Didn’t sign up? You can still find these historically based letters right on the Scholastic website!

    Video and Multimedia

    I paired the jigsaw letter activity with an exploration of the Mayflower on Students clicked on different parts of the ship and listened to crew members describe the area and how it was used as they “toured” the Mayflower. The newest virtual field trip is all about the Mayflower. They take you on a tour of the Mayflower II, an authentic, working replica of the actual ship.

    There are four 20–30 minute virtual field trip videos, well put together and very informative. Actors from Plimoth Plantation and the Mayflower II are featured, in character and full costume, to answer questions that children have asked. I will be sharing one of these per day with my class this week.

    Bountiful Resources

    This post is just a sample of what is available. If you haven't checked out  Scholastic's First Thanksgiving, do it now! (You can also access this page by clicking on the Thanksgiving artwork that appears at the very top of every page on the site.) You will find just what you need, and everyone will think you've been planning for Thanksgiving for months!


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Susan Cheyney