With this set of Common Core-aligned lesson plans and The First Thanksgiving online activity, your students will explore the relationship between the Pilgrims and Wampanoag, including their experiences, actions, and decisions relating to the settlement of Plimoth colony.
- Use technology tools to access, explore, and synthesize information on the Mayflower and the Pilgrims
- Develop an understanding of the Pilgrims' motives in establishing a settlement in the New World
- Interpret information from timelines
- Read for detail
- Participate in a variety of active writing activities
- Reflect on what has been learned after reading by formulating ideas, opinions, and personal responses
- KWL Chart printable
- The First Thanksgiving online activity
- Voyage on the Mayflower
- Computers for student use
- "On the Mayflower" Pilgrim interviews from the First Thanksgiving Reader's Theater Ideas collection
- Of Plymouth Plantation Excerpts printable
- Of Plymouth Plantation Answer Key printable
- Optional: Nonfiction books for print research
- Depending on the grade level and maturity level of each class, activities can be facilitated as independent work, collaborative group work, or whole class instruction.
- If there are fewer computers than students, group the students by reading level. Assign each student a role: a driver who navigates the activity, a timer who keeps the group on task, and a note taker. If there are more than three students per computer, you can add roles like a team leader, a team reporter, etc.
- If you are working in a learning station in your classroom, break your class into different groups. Have rotating groups working on the computer(s), reading printed background information, holding smaller group discussions, etc.
- You may want to create a special display of thematic books in your classroom library. Check out our Colonial America and Native Americans Book List for suggested print materials. Include room for the projects that your students will create throughout the unit.
- Make class sets of the KWL Chart printable and the Of Plymouth Plantation Excerpts printable.
- Print a copy of the Of Plymouth Plantation Answer Key printable for your own use.
- Optional: You may want to print out copies of the "On the Mayflower" Pilgrim interviews from the First Thanksgiving Reader's Theater Ideas collection for individual reading.
Part I: Preparation
Step 1: Before discussing the voyage of the Mayflower, hand out the KWL Chart printable and have students fill in any information they know about the ship, its voyage, and its crew and passengers.
Step 2: Ask volunteers to share their knowledge with the class.
Note: As students work through the following activities, have them periodically return to their KWL charts to compare, correct, or add new information.
Step 3: Invite students to explore the Voyage on the Mayflower, including Tour the Ship and the Pilgrim Timeline.
Step 4: Direct students to the "On the Mayflower" interviews from the First Thanksgiving Reader's Theater Ideas collection. Provide time for students to read — either individually or in small groups — the interviews with the passengers and crew members.
Optional: If you want students to learn more about the travelers' experiences during the voyage before moving on to the next activity, have students search and refer to additional online resources, as well as books in your class library or books collected for the unit.
Part II: Of Plymouth Plantation Close Read
Step 5: Have students read excerpts from William Bradford’s Of Plymouth Plantation, a primary source text about the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving. For the first reading, have students read portions of the text that have to do with the Pilgrims' lives in Europe and setting sail for America (the Religious Beliefs, Moving to the City of Leiden, Holland (1609), and Deciding to Emigrate to America sections). You may want to read the excerpts aloud with students to help them with difficult phrasing and vocabulary.
Note: Students will return to the Of Plymouth Plantation text as they work through the First Thanksgiving lesson plans. At each subsequent reading, have students consider the text in the context of what they are learning about the lives of the Pilgrims in the New World.
Step 6: Have students answer the text-dependent questions included in the Of Plymouth Plantation Excerpts printable. Check students' understanding and reading comprehension using the Of Plymouth Plantation Answer Key printable.
Part III: Notices and Wonders
Step 7: Have students examine the Voyage on the Mayflower area of The First Thanksgiving student activity. Ask students to record what they notice about the journey and the questions that they have as they study the information. Have students make a list of their notices and wonders. You can also prompt them to use question words: Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How?
Part IV: Research Component
Step 8: Ask students to imagine they are writing an online encyclopedia entry. Students should research the Pilgrims' experience using the information from Voyage on the Mayflower. Their encyclopedia entries should cover the major events of the voyage across the Atlantic, the experience of sailing on a ship, and the layout of the ship.
Part V: Persuasive Letters
Step 9: While students are in a Pilgrim mindset, take a poll to find out which of them, if any, would have chosen to turn back to England when the voyage became perilous. Invite students to discuss the reasons for their choices.
Step 10: Ask students to take a firm stand on the issue — to continue the voyage or return to England — after they've heard others' opinions. Then have them research the settlers' motivations and preparations for going to the New World using print or online materials.
Step 11: Have students, using the information they've gathered, compose a letter to try to persuade others to agree with their position on the issue.
Part VI: Mayflower Memories
Step 12: Give your students the following writing prompt. After they have had time to write and prepare, have them share their account with the class.
Imagine that the Pilgrims could have told other people in Europe who were planning to come to the New World what the journey across the Atlantic was like. What information should the Pilgrims share to encourage the travelers? What hardships should they be honest about? Write your account as if you were a Pilgrim talking to another traveler from Europe.
- Invite students to use the information from their letters and their powers of persuasion in a class debate about whether to continue the voyage or turn back. Additional topics students might research and debate include: whether or not the trip should be made given the problems with the Speedwell, the resulting delays, and the impossibility of taking along all the original passengers; whether or not the settlers should remain united once they left the Mayflower to build their settlement; and whether or not the settlers should return to England when the Mayflower set out for its return trip.
- Have students research the Massachusetts Bay Company, the joint-stock company that funded the Pilgrims' voyage to America. Invite them to discuss what they discover about the company and its leaders, motives, and agreement with the settlers. Have students create promotional or protest posters to show their support or opposition to the company and its objectives.
Common Core State Standards
Of Plymouth Plantation Close Read
Notices and Wonders