I am reposting a paragraph I wrote last year about Thanksgiving:
I know there is a lot of controversy about teaching about Native Americans and accuracy in the history of the first Thanksgiving. But I also think that children enjoy the fun and traditions that have long been associated with this holiday. I guess I don’t have a big moral issue over this, I just want to play. If I had any families with Native American roots I invited them to share any traditions or cultural things they would like. I talked about why people called Native Americans Indians. I tied this back to my Columbus Day activities when I first talked about the original occupants of this land. I genuinely hope I don’t offend anyone.
ANYWAY – I usually introduced Thanksgiving by telling my Kindergartners a story about the Pilgrims, using flannelboard pictures or laminated pictures with magnetic tape on the back. I always found that my kids really listened and remembered a story better when I just told it to them, instead of reading the information.
I never wrote this story down before, but here is the basic story I told. I put up the figures of the King, the Pilgrims, etc. as I mentioned them in the story.
After telling this story I also read several children’s books about Thanksgiving, I thought giving this background information helped the children understand these books a little more easily.
Here are some pictures that you might use if you choose to tell the story. Originally I found pictures from a coloring book that I traced on Pellon interfacing and colored with markers, those work great on a flannelboard. These could be placed in a pocket chart or backed with magnetic tape.
I had a very large Mayflower ship that I put on a wall of our classroom in early November, before I told the story. This was also at a point in the year when I was encouraging the children to label things in the classroom using phonetic spelling. As a class we wrote the word Mayflower – using traditional spelling. I pointed out that Mayflower is a compound word – one word made up of two smaller words. This is a wonderful time to introduce the concept of compound words:
From that point on children were always noticing and commenting on compound words for the rest of the year. I also liked introducing it because I was really reinforcing leaving spaces between words – when we saw that a compound word did not have a space between the 2 smaller words it was another reason to draw their attention to the whole concept of spaces.
When I introduced the history of Thanksgiving we also began making our Thanksgiving book – check out that post under the category November and Thanksgiving.
Each child also made a very simple Pilgrim boy or girl using geometric shapes. We covered the big Mayflower with these Pilgrims – very cute! Ah, if only I had taken pictures!
I gave the children tracers for the faces, hats and bodies – I cut the rest of the rectangle pieces on the paper cutter so we wouldn’t waste as much paper – finished Pilgrims were 10-12 inches tall. I encouraged the children to use scrap paper to add details like hands, shoes, belts, etc.
Later in our Thanksgiving study we made a cooperative class book about Thanksgiving – check that out in last year’s post too!