In this set of activities adaptable for grades K-3, parents and educators will find ideas for teaching about the history and customs of the Thanksgiving holiday. These activities are designed to complement the BrainPOP Jr. Thanksgiving topic page, which includes a movie, quizzes, online games, printable activities, and more.
Classroom Activities for Teaching About Thanksgiving
Explain to students that Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful. The Pilgrims were thankful for the help of the Wampanoag, especially Squanto. Have students make a thank-you list of people who have helped them through difficult times. Then have them make cards for each person on the list. Make sure students write in complete sentences and describe why they are thankful. Invite students to share their cards with the class and if necessary, help them mail the cards.
Remind students that a tradition is something that gets passed on to different generations. For example, sharing a meal of turkey and stuffing with family and friends every Thanksgiving is a tradition in many families. Have students think of other traditions in their family. The tradition does not necessarily have to be part of any holiday celebration. For example, some families go sledding every winter or sing a silly song for a birthday. Have students discuss a tradition in their family. Then have them draw a picture and write a few sentences about it. Collect the pages to make a tradition book.
Not everything that is part of our Thanksgiving meal today was present at the first harvest celebration between the Wampanoag and the Pilgrims. Research what food was available to the people at the time. Then discuss what students eat during their Thanksgiving meals, such as turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, and mashed potatoes. Have students make inferences and compare their traditional meals to the first harvest meal. Why didn’t the Wampanoag and the Pilgrims have pumpkin pie at their celebration? Did they have ovens? Did they have sugar?
Family and Homeschool Activities for Teaching About Thanksgiving
Together with your child, recall previous Thanksgiving holidays. Discuss how they were similar and different. If possible, find photographs of different Thanksgivings to make a scrapbook. Your child can also draw pictures of them if photographs are not available. Collect the pictures in a book and have your child write a few sentences about each holiday. Then as you and your family celebrate more Thanksgiving holidays, add to the book to create a family Thanksgiving history album.
Thanksgiving is more than just about the food, football, and parades. Encourage your child to think about how Squanto helped the Pilgrims during their first year in the New World. Together with your child, volunteer your time helping other people in need. You may want to work in a shelter serving Thanksgiving meals to the needy or delivering meals to the elderly. You can focus on helping other people in need or improve common areas in the community, such as a park or recreation center.
The Pilgrims and Wampanoag observed traditions of celebrating the harvest long before they met. Has your child ever witnessed a harvest? If possible, take your child to a farm to experience apple picking or visit a farm and observe workers bale hay or gather vegetables. If a farm experience is not an option, take your child to a local green market and walk around. What vegetables and fruits are available? Are certain kinds of produce available at certain times of the year? Because of the bounty available in modern supermarkets, your child may not realize that produce is associated with particular seasons. Encourage your child to think about why getting food in the winter was difficult for the Pilgrims.