While the Thanksgiving Day story may have changed with the passing of time, today students have plenty of opportunities to learn about this day from different sources and multiple perspectives. Learning about the first Thanksgiving with these two activities will give students a chance to use higher-level thinking skills while imagining what the past would have been like had they been there to see it for themselves.
Then vs Today
The first Thanksgiving looked different from the holiday most of us celebrate today with our families. However, there are still some similarities to be found. Students in grades K-2 will enrich what they know about the events of the first Thanksgiving with the book El primer Día de Acción de Gracias, which is a part of the Fácil de leer series from Dos Tomatillos. Once students have read the book, have them complete a Venn Diagram comparing and contrasting the Thanksgiving of today with the original event. Encourage students to use both pictures and text in their work. Afterward, students can create an invitation to a modern day Thanksgiving celebration addressed to the participants of the First Thanksgiving that includes advice on what dishes to bring and a few helpful hints about what to expect.
Cause and Effect
The first Thanksgiving came to be after a sequence of extraordinary events. Students can learn details about these historical events in ¿Qué fue el Primer Día de Acción de Gracias?, a book from the engaging ¿Qué fue…? series. After learning about how Thanksgiving Day came to be, encourage your older elementary students to piece together how decisions made in the distant past still affect our lives today.
Fun, historical books give students robust background knowledge that will sharpen the lens through which they see present day. Based on their research, have students fill out a cause-and-effect chart leading up to the feast we call Thanksgiving. Students can write a paragraph from the point of view of one of the puritans who decided to make the voyage to the New World or they can write from the point of view of someone who decided to stay in Europe. Can they convince others they are right? Have students read their paragraphs to the class and vote for the most persuasive argument.
By Kelli Drummer-Avendano