Thanksgiving Lesson Plans

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Have you mapped out your Thanksgiving lessons yet? Perhaps you are struggling to find something different to spice up your holiday activities. Last year on this blog I shared some ideas for finding and using primary sources. This year I’d like to share an excellent source for lesson plans for all grade levels.

You may already be familiar with the NEA (National Education Association) website. It contains many resources for teachers including discussion of issues and events in education, provides grant and funding resources, and other support tools for teachers across the nation. This site is well worth saving as a favorite on your computer for your many educational needs.

In addition to items mentioned above, the NEA site includes lesson plans and activities for all grade levels. Easily find lessons by topic, grade level, or the month from the Lessons Plans landing page. Be careful as you browse through this site; it is easy to get off track as you find more and more useful resources for your classroom!

Find Thanksgiving Ideas for the Classroom here. Choose your grade level band to find books, videos, trivia, and more. Before leaving this page, also check out the links to The Great Thanksgiving Listen and Best of Works4Me from NEA staff editors.

Here are some highlights I found within each grade level band:

  • Grades K-5
    • American Indian Perspectives on Thanksgiving – this lesson plan features information and ideas about teaching Thanksgiving from the perspective of the Wampanoag Indians. Recommended for grades 4-8.
    • History of Thanksgiving videos – this collection of videos from History.com provides short, insightful tidbits of knowledge about Thanksgiving.
    • Lesson ideas and activities from Scholastic include several ideas. My favorite is Colonial Customs with three learning activities teaching about the customs of the Pilgrims and Wampanoag people.
  • Grades 6-8
    • Myth and Truth: The “First Thanksgiving” – this critical thinking lesson from Read, Write, Think encourages students to consider the differences between myths and historical truth related to the first Thanksgiving using the writings of William Bradford.
    • Pilgrim Hall Museum was founded in 1820 to preserve Plymouth, Massachusetts’s history. One activity shared by the museum is Painted Pilgrims, a curriculum unit based upon 17th-century portraits found in this museum.
    • We Shall Remain: After the Mayflower is the first of a five-part PBS documentary telling the story of 300 years of pivotal moments in American History from the Native American viewpoint.
  • Grades 9-12
    • The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe timeline tells the story of these Native Americans beginning in 1616 through 1763 when the tribe was stripped of its negotiating rights to lease or control natural resources on their land.
    • Thanksgiving Census Facts provides a starting point for information including the number of turkeys raised for Thanksgiving, number of pies produced, and more.
    • Learn about the passengers who traveled on the Mayflower at Mayflower History. In addition to a passenger list, discover the genealogy of these passengers. The site also includes an extensive list of resources for researching the Pilgrims and Plymouth.

I hope you find something new and exciting to include with your Thanksgiving lessons. Don’t forget to visit the Edge on our TeachersFirst website to choose from the latest technology tools to incorporate into your use of these sites.

What are your favorite sites for Thanksgiving lesson planning ideas? We’d love to hear how you use them in your classroom in the comments below.

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About the author: Sharon Hall

Sharon Hall was a recipient of the Presidential Award of Excellence in Math teaching. With over 15 years of classroom experience as a National Board Certified teacher, Sharon shares her content knowledge and reflections on ideas for basic classroom technology integration with us.


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