K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

LEARN NC was a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education from 1997 – 2013. It provided lesson plans, professional development, and innovative web resources to support teachers, build community, and improve K-12 education in North Carolina. Learn NC is no longer supported by the School of Education – this is a historical archive of their website.

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Related pages

  • Teaching about Thanksgiving: Resources and activities to help you bring historical accuracy, cultural sensitivity, and a broader context to discussions about the quintessentially American holiday.
  • Museum of the Cherokee Indian: Official site of the museum of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina.
  • Guilford Native American Art Gallery: This art gallery focuses "sensitive critical attention on contemporary and traditional Indian art and culture." Visitors to the gallery will see the best in traditional and contemporary Native American art.

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Students will work in pairs or small teams to create individual book pages using the Mini Page story blocks and other historical resources, while learning that there may be different versions to every story. There are two sets of reading handouts for each topic: one for lower grades and one for higher grades. They will share their page with the class before the book is assembled by the teacher. This book can be shared with other classes in the school, and saved for next year’s students.

Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • learn about the historical record by reading different accounts of the same event.
  • compare the text and illustrations/photos about the first Thanksgiving, pilgrims in Plimouth, and the Wampanoag from multiple sources.
  • use this new knowledge to answer questions and create a Thanksgiving story book as a class.

Teacher planning

Time required

60 minutes

Materials needed

  • One copy of Thanksgiving Book Template. This includes the book images from The First Thanksgiving Mini Page and questions for students. There is also a teacher version with answers to the questions.
  • Copies of page four of The First Thanksgiving Mini Page for use in a center. To print, open the link in your internet browser. On the right side of the page, you will see a “thumbnails” column with an icon for each page. Click on the page you want to print. In some internet browsers, you will see a print icon displayed at the top of the Mini Page. In others, you may need to bring your mouse to the main Mini Page screen, and hover on the bottom right of this screen. Click on the printer icon and print the desired number of copies.
  • Markers/crayons
  • Pencils
  • Colored paper for book (cardstock or construction paper) – it should all be the same size
  • Stapler or hole punch
  • String or ribbon

Technology resources


Thanksgiving book template
Students work on various pages of this book while at their assigned centers during this lesson. Once the pages are complete, the teacher will put them together to create a class book about the first Thanksgiving.
Open as PDF (2 MB, 16 pages)
Thanksgiving book: Teacher’s guide
This is the teacher’s version of the first Thanksgiving book that the students work on throughout this lesson.
Open as PDF (2 MB, 16 pages)
Pilgrim handout for second and third grade
This handout, on a second – third grade reading level, provides information about pilgrims. It is used at center one in this lesson.
Open as PDF (291 KB, 2 pages)
Pilgrim handout for fourth and fifth grade
This handout, on a fourth – fifth grade reading level, provides information about pilgrims. It is used at center one in this lesson.
Open as PDF (261 KB, 2 pages)
Wampanoag handout for second and third grade
This handout, on a second – third grade reading level, provides information about the Wampanoag. It is used at center three in this lesson.
Open as PDF (216 KB, 2 pages)
Wampanoag handout for fourth and fifth grade
This handout, on a fourth – fifth grade reading level, provides information about the Wampanoag. It is used at center three in this lesson.
Open as PDF (196 KB, 2 pages)

Center preparation

  • Prepare centers with the following materials. Students at each center will be working on different parts of the Thanksgiving Book Template. In the teacher’s guide, each page has a different color highlighting on it. Pages with the same color highlighting go together at a center.
    • Center one – Materials: pages from the book template with purple highlighting (pages one, two, six, and seven), copies of the Pilgrim handouts; Students will read a handout about the Pilgrims and answer questions.
    • Center two – Materials: pages from the book template with yellow highlighting (pages three, four, and five), writing utensils, requires no outside material; Students will be reading the text and then using their imagination to answer questions.
    • Center three – Materials: pages from the book template with blue highlighting (pages eight, nine, ten, and eleven), copies of the Wampanoag handouts; Students will read a handout about the Wampanoags and answer questions.
    • Center four – Materials: pages from the book template with green highlighting (pages twelve, thirteen, fourteen and fifteen), four computers with internet access, and headphones. Label each computer with a page number, and have the appropriate websites and videos ready. Students will look at websites, watch videos (links in teacher guide), and answer questions.
    • Center five – Materials: pages from the book template with gray highlighting (page sixteen), copies of page four of The First Thanksgiving Mini Page; This could be combined with the yellow group. Students will read this page and answer questions.
  • Depending on teacher interest and the number of students, teachers may wish to take out some of the story blocks. This activity could easily start at page six and end on page fifteen, eliminating the last center.
  • Teachers should decide on the pairs or small groups before introducing the lesson. This could be used to differentiate. Students who either excel at reading or need more independent practice could go to centers one, three, or five. Students who are imaginative and like writing could go to center two. Students who are English language learners could have pages thirteen or fourteen, as this is just asking them to draw a picture, or page twelve, where they need to listen to a video to get the answer.
  • If there is a group that finishes their page much earlier than the others, you could allow them to draw a cover for the book.


  1. Explain to students that they will be learning about the first Thanksgiving story and making a class book using the Mini Page. This will not be like a normal storybook; in this book, they will be writing answers to questions and drawing pictures. To answer the questions, they will be reading information from additional history sources. This book will then be kept for next year’s students and may even be shared with other classes in the school.
  2. Explain that historians are always making new discoveries, and there may be some new things learned about Thanksgiving since this Mini Page was published in 1980.
  3. Explain to students that the only written record of what we now call “the first Thanksgiving” is from a letter. Project the following text, and read aloud Edward Winslow’s letter from December 11, 1621.

    Our harvest being gotten in, our Governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a more special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labours. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the Company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king, Massasoit, with some 90 men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted. And they went out and killed five deer which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our Governor and upon the Captain and others.

  4. Ask a student or students to summarize what is being said in this letter in their own words. Make sure that students understand the meaning of the word “fowl,” and that “plantation” in this context just means a place where people farmed, not a place where they owned slaves. Explain that the Indians Winslow is referring to are the Wampanoag people. Write the word on the board, and have students practice saying it aloud. It is pronounced Wam (short “a” sound)-pa-nog. The videos on the Scholastic page demonstrate this pronunciation.
  5. Tell students that because information about this time is limited, there have been many myths about the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag. Historians use written records from the Europeans and the oral history (stories passed down over the generations) of the Wampanoag people to try to piece together what happened.
  6. Explain that each pair of students will get one page from a Thanksgiving storybook from the Mini Page. In a center, they will find additional information about their page to answer questions. This way, the story will include different perspectives. Some students will get a page about the Pilgrims, while others will get a page focusing on the Wampanoag people. When everyone is finished, each pair will read their page and their answers in order. Later, the teacher will put the book together, and it will be used for future students.
  7. Divide students into pairs or groups of three, and direct them to their centers. Explain that the book pages they need are already at their centers. Make sure the students using the computers go to the correct one. Monitor the centers as the students work.
  8. When students are finished, have them all return to their normal seats. Starting with page one, have students read the Mini Page text, the questions, and their answers. Collect the pages, and remind students that you will assemble the book for the class.
  9. Facilitate a short class discussion asking such questions as “What surprised you? What did you learn about the Pilgrims? The Wampanoag?”
  10. Tell students that when they’re having Thanksgiving with their families, they can share their new knowledge about the first Thanksgiving.


During the sharing time, check the student answers against the teacher guide.


There are higher-level versions of the Pilgrim and Wampanoag handouts for advanced readers.

Critical vocabulary

pronounced Wam (short “a” sound)-pa-nog – the American Indian group living in Plimouth when the Pilgrims arrived
leader of a Wampanoag village; it was passed down through males in the same family, but if the people did not like a sachem someone else might take over.
peace treaty
an agreement between two groups of people to stay friendly
name given to a group of settlers from England


If more time and materials are available, each student could make a book of their own. If this option is chosen, the teacher may want to assemble the books beforehand.


The First Thanksgiving Mini Page
This Mini Page provides one story of the first Thanksgiving.
Teaching about Thanksgiving
This guide from LEARN NC provides resources and activities to help you bring historical accuracy, cultural sensitivity, and a broader context to discussions about the quintessentially American holiday.
Harvest Ceremony Myth Study Guide
This guide from the National Museum of the American Indian provides historically accurate information about the first Thanksgiving.
The Plimoth Plantation
This site contains excellent information for kids regarding this historical holiday.
Plimoth Plantation Virtual Field Trip: Video Tours and Slideshow
Students can watch these videos from Scholastic to learn more about the Wampanoag and the pilgrims of Plimouth.

  • Common Core State Standards
    • English Language Arts (2010)
      • Reading: Informational Text

        • Grade 4
          • 4.RIT.9 Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.
        • Grade 5
          • 5.RIT.6 Analyze multiple accounts of the same event or topic, noting important similarities and differences in the point of view they represent.
          • 5.RIT.9 Integrate information from several texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Social Studies (2010)
      • Grade 2

        • 2.H.1 Understand how various sources provide information about the past. 2.H.1.1 Use timelines to show sequencing of events. 2.H.1.2 Identify contributions of historical figures (community, state, nation and world) through various genres. 2.H.1.3 Compare various...
      • Grade 3

        • 3.H.2 Use historical thinking skills to understand the context of events, people and places. 3.H.2.1 Explain change over time through historical narratives (events, people and places). 3.H.2.2 Explain how multiple perspectives are portrayed through historical...
      • Grade 5

        • 5.H.1 Analyze the chronology of key events in the United States. 5.H.1.1 Evaluate the relationships between European explorers (French, Spanish and English) and American Indian groups, based on accuracy of historical information (beliefs, fears and leadership)....

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Social Studies (2003)

Grade 2

  • Goal 3: The learner will analyze how individuals, families, and communities are alike and different.
    • Objective 3.05: Identify historical figures and events associated with various cultural traditions and holidays celebrated around the world.

Grade 5

  • Goal 3: The learner will examine the roles various ethnic groups have played in the development of the United States and its neighboring countries.
    • Objective 3.03: Identify examples of cultural interaction within and among the regions of the United States.