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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Last Minute List of Thanksgiving Lesson Resources

Throughout the fall I've shared some resources for teaching about (American) Thanksgiving. If you have school tomorrow and you're looking for some last minute lesson resources that you can use right away, take a look at my round-up of resources below.

Where Does Thanksgiving Grow? is a neat data set produced by Linda Zellmer at Western Illinois State University. The data sets contain information about where the main ingredients in Thanksgiving meal come from. The data sets are displayed on maps showing you which states produce the most and least of each ingredient. For example, click on the turkey production data set and you will see that in 2007 Minnesota and North Carolina were the leading producers of turkeys. You can access the data sets individually or as a comprehensive PDF poster.

If you're looking for a writing activity to do with the students in advance of Thanksgiving, National Geographic Kids offers a Mad Libs-like story writing activity. Funny Fill-In generates a funny Thanksgiving story based on the words that kids write in response to Thanksgiving prompts. Quiz Your Noodle is another fun Thanksgiving game available on National Geographic Kids. 

James Hollis at Teachers Love SMART Boards has developed an excellent list of Thanksgiving lessons that can be done using a SMART Board or other interactive whiteboard.

ABC Teach has numerous free lesson plans, coloring pages, and offline games that are designed for elementary school use.


 History.com has a dozen videos related to the origins and history of Thanksgiving as well as video about current Thanksgiving traditions. Below I've embedded History of Thanksgiving, but I also recommend watching Mayflower Deconstructed.


The Year We Had Two Thanksgivings tells the story of Thanksgiving 1939. In 1939 Thanksgiving was going to fall on the last day of November which caused merchants to be worried about a shortened shopping season. In response to this concern President Roosevelt proclaimed that Thanksgiving would be moved up one week. Some states chose to ignore this proclamation and celebrate Thanksgiving on the last day of the month anyway. The conflict was finally resolved in 1941 when Congress passed a law stating that Thanksgiving would always be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of the month. The Year We Had Two Thanksgivings is supported by ten primary source documents. Included in those documents are letters from merchants appealing to FDR to change the day of Thanksgiving and letters opposing the change.


If you're one of the millions of Americans who is tuning-in to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade this morning, this photo essay may be of interest to you. The History of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, produced by Time, takes us through the 85 year history of the parade in sixteen photos. After going through the photos you might also want to read How They Make Those Thanksgiving Day Floats.

You Are the Historian: Investigating the First Thanksgiving is an interactive exploration of the facts and myths associated with the story of the First Thanksgiving. Students can explore the facts and myths through the eyes of a Native American child or through the eyes of a female Pilgrim. Through the eyes of each character students discover the culture of giving thanks in the Native American and English cultures. My favorite part of the investigation is "The Path to 1621" in which students hear the perspectives of Native Americans and Pligrims about events prior to 1621.

Scholastic has put together a nice little collection of online resources to help elementary school students learn about Pilgrims, Native Americans, and The First Thanksgiving.

Voyage on the Mayflower has two parts for students to explore. The first part is an interactive map of the journey across the Atlantic Ocean. Students can click on placemarks on the map to read and hear about the journey. The second part of the Voyage on the Mayflower takes students "inside" the Mayflower to see and hear about the parts of the ship.

Daily Life is a comparison of the lifestyles of the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag. Students can click through each aspect of daily life to see a comparison of housing, clothing, food, chores, school, and games.

Finally, Scholastic has partnered with Plimoth Plantation to produce three video tours of Plimoth Plantation, a Wampanoag homesite, and a Pilgrim homesite.

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