PILGRIMS, WAMPANOAGS & THANKSGIVING {books and teaching ideas}

We teach about Pilgrims and Wampanoag People as part of our 3rd grade state frameworks, but I know many of you choose to incorporate related lessons at this time of year so I wanted to share some resources and ideas.  It's one of my favorite units and I love teaching it in November because the kids relate to it more with Thanksgiving coming up. Also, our study starts with why they left England, takes them through the first winter, and culminates with Thanksgiving so the start of the Thanksgiving break a nice, neat way to wrap up the unit.

A few years ago, I started having my students compile their work related to this study into a folder. It was neat to see all of the pieces of work together, but it didn't feel organized. So I recreated all of my templates and printables to make a PILGRIM AND WAMPANOAG PORTFOLIO PROJECT. The packet is available in my Teacher Store and includes all of the necessary measurements, directions, printables and photos to guide you. They are cheap and simple to put together using construction paper. I typically assemble the booklets myself ahead of time and then have the students add their work in as they complete the different components. These look amazing when they are finished. I wanted to save them to display at open house, but the kids were too excited about them and wanted to take them home in time for Thanksgiving. A lot of families reported to me that their children proudly showed them off at family gatherings and shared the abundance of knowledge they had gained in the process. Oh how I heart project-based learning!
{click to access and print the Pilgrim & Wampanoag Portfolio Project}

Because we are within an hour(ish) of Plymouth, Massachusetts we will often take a field trip to Plimoth Plantation.  {Sidenote: Be sure to check out my "Tips and Printables for a Stress-Free Field Trip" packet that you can use with any field trip you take with your class.}

I use a lot of children's books throughout the unit. Some I read aloud to the class and others I have them use as resources to complete their portfolio project. While I have collected a lot of books on the subject over the years, these are my go-to books that I would recommend.

Books about the Pilgrims, Wampanoags and First Thanksgiving:

If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620 by Ann McGovern is organized in a way that allows you to read it sequentially or by skipping around to answer specific questions. The short sections hold my students' attention and the illustrations help them to visualize what they are reading about.

Another great Ann McGovern book for introducing the topic is The Pilgrims' First Thanksgiving. I feel it is a much more simple book than the first one and would be very appropriate for Kindergarten through Third Grade. 

If You Were At The First Thanksgiving by Ann Kamma is another book written in the same format of If You Sailed on the Mayflower. The "Table of Contents" is a list of questions with short, but detailed explanations. I do like using both of the books together.

Because my students are always interested in what life was like for the children of that time, the three books pictured above are always favorites with them. Tapenum's Day: A Wampanoag Indian Boy In Pilgrim TimesSamuel Eaton's Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Boy, and Sarah Morton's Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Girl were all written by Kate Waters. They include wonderful photographs and rich vocabulary. Each has a glossary. 

Mayflower 1620: A New Look at a Pilgrim Voyage and 1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving were both collaborative efforts by Plimoth Plantation and National Geographic. Needless to say, they are both historically accurate and include amazing photography. Another book that falls into this same category is Pilgrims Of Plymouth which uses stunning photos and simple text to again relay to students today how different life was for children their age in the 1620s.

I find it more challenging to find good literature to support the teaching of the life and culture of the Wampanoag People, but throughout my unit we spend a lot of time focusing on them and their role in that era. I do find a lot of the books available to be inaccurate and lack cultural sensitivity. The main book I use is The Wampanoags (True Books: American Indians), but it seems like it may be hard to get at a decent price.

Most of the books I recommended do include a lot of information about the role the Wampanoags played in the settling of Plimoth Colony. I also use online sources. Although not specific to the topic, Life in a Longhouse Village does cover quite a bit of information about the Native Americans of the Northeast.

And as a special treat on the day before the break we watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving  which includes the bonus feature: The Mayflower Voyage...a surprisingly fact-filled cartoon featuring that wacky Peanuts Gang. We do spend some time afterwards talking about the facts presented and how Squanto was depicted and it really shows how much they learned throughout the unit. As an added bonus, the end-of-unit assessment for Treasures will have my kiddos reading a biography about Charles Schultz and I found in the past that many of the students had no idea who the Peanuts were so it's nice to give them a little schema. :)

Websites and Online Resources for Teaching About the Pilgrims and Wampanoag People

The Plimoth Plantation website is a treasure trove of images and information. This would be great to use with an interactive white board or on individual student computers.

You'll also find wonderful information on the Scholastic Website.

One of our state assessments included a passage titled, "Don't Throw Your Bones on the Floor." It's about the eating habits of the Pilgrims. You can access and print the passage along with the comprehension questions online at this link. I usually create a different open response activity to go with it and send it home as homework during the shortened Thanksgiving week in place of our usual homework packet.Keywords: pilgrim lesson plans, lesson plans for teaching about pilgrims, wampanoag lesson plans, lesson plans for teaching about wampanoags, pilgrims and indians, the first thanksgiving, thanksgiving day projects, thanksgiving lessons, thanksgiving lesson plans, the first thanksgiving story, activities, social studies lesson plans, first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade, fifth grade, kindergarten, preschool, 1st grade, 2nd grade, 3rd grade, 4th grade, 5th grade, the pilgrims and the first thanksgiving, writing projects, art projects, maps, food, shelter, clothing, jobs 

Will You Be Teaching About the First Thanksgiving? Do you have any books to recommend? 

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