Saturday, November 20, 2010

Digging Deeper into the First Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving in America is a time for students and teachers to take a little break from school to reflect on the history of our country and to give thanks for all that we have. For many, it’s a time to take a vacation where we eat WAY too much and get up at crazy hours of the morning to get a head start on the Christmas shopping! In an attempt to help students understand the origin and the meaning of the holiday, many teachers teach Thanksgiving lessons during the time before the holiday. Some teachers choose to focus on the gratitude associated with the season, hoping to instill some of that thankfulness in their students. Other teachers choose to focus more on the historical events in the United States that inspired the holiday. Interactive internet resources can bring the classic study of pilgrims and Indians to a new level. We can do more than make neat hats and hand turkeys!

My search of The Gateway to 21st Century Skills for Thanksgiving activities led me to a couple of good resource collections that I want to share with you. The first group of activities is from The Learning Network: Teaching and Learning with the New York Times. These current event based activities extend the topic of Thanksgiving in many unconventional ways. Their lessons are divided into three categories: food and meals, history and culture, and politics and current events. Some lesson topics include the biological effects of overeating, challenges of cranberry farming, American Indian Art, and considering the phenomenon of Black Friday. The site also includes printables, related New York Times articles, and older primary sources for student research.

Scholastic has also put together an extensive compilation of First Thanksgiving activities. Their “Everything for Thanksgiving” site includes lesson plans, interactive web tools, archives of live chats and webcasts, book recommendations, and a virtual field trip to a re-creation of the Plymouth plantation (or Plimoth, as the pilgrims would have spelled it). We tried out the virtual field trip and the virtual tour of the Mayflower. They were both very nicely done. The lesson plans include guides to help teachers use the online tools in classrooms of all different levels.

Using Plimoth Plantation’s “You are the Historian: Investigating the First Thanksgiving” site is like taking your students to an interactive museum exhibit, without all the hassle. The site allows students to view a letter written by a Plymouth colonist, the only eyewitness account of the 1621 harvest celebration, including a translation and a historian’s notes. They can tour a typical colonist’s home and see what daily life was like for members of the Wampanoag tribe. The investigation includes an online tool for students to create their own mini museum exhibit (a printable poster). You might also choose to use this activity as a starting point for a larger investigation. If you do that, you could consider assigning a slide show (try Animoto), a glog, or something we recently discovered: a Museum Box as a culminating project. We found Museum Box in an iLearn Technology blog post. Thanks to Kelly Tenkely for always sharing her finds!

I hope this Thanksgiving season finds your class full of grateful students who are ready to learn all about how the holiday started. Between these collections, Joann’s picks for this week, and our suggestions on Facebook and Twitter, you will be sure to find a Thanksgiving activity that will tie nicely into your plans.

~Peggy's Corner - 11/19/2010~

1 comment:

  1. Glad you found my Museum Box post...old posts can get buried and forgotten. Great tool, can be a little glitchy.


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