How to Teach Thanksgiving to Kindergarten Kids: A Primary Pilgrim, Wampanoag, and the First Thanksgiving Lesson Plan

By the time US students enter Kindergarten many are familiar with Thanksgiving either by celebrating it with their families or by seeing it on television, but not all know the historical significance of the day.

Kindergarten teachers can use the trade book One Little, Two Little, Three Little Pilgrims by B. G. Hennessy [Puffin Books, 1999] to teach students about the Pilgrims, Wampanoag, and the first Thanksgiving.

First Thanksgiving Social Studies Lesson Objective for Kindergarten

Kindergarten students will identify who was at the first Thanksgiving and why they were there.

Introduce the First Thanksgiving to Kindergarten Students

  1. The Kindergarten teacher will begin the lesson by activating students’ prior Thanksgiving knowledge. She will have them share their Thanksgiving experiences by asking the students who in the class celebrates Thanksgiving and what they do to celebrate.
  2. The teacher will then ask the class why Thanksgiving is celebrated and use the discussion to determine the students’ background knowledge about the first Thanksgiving. She will then tell the students that the first Thanksgiving was celebrated almost 400 years ago.

Use a KWL Chart to Teach About the Pilgrims, Wampanoag, and the First Thanksgiving

  1. The teacher uses chart paper to draw three columns for a KWL chart. At the top of the chart the teacher writes The First Thanksgiving and labels each of the columns.
  2. The first column is labeled with a K for what the class knows about the first Thanksgiving. The second column is labeled W for what the class want to know about the first Thanksgiving and the third column is labeled L for what they have learned about the first Thanksgiving.
  3. The Kindergarten teacher explains the chart to the class and guides them to use the introductory discussion to list facts that they know about the first Thanksgiving in the K column. She then models how to write questions that they want to know in the second column.
  4. The teacher chooses the questions based on the level of knowledge of the class. Examples of questions the class might want to know about are, “Who was at the first Thanksgiving?” and “Why did people have the first Thanksgiving?”

Read the book One Little, Two Little, Three Little Pilgrims by B. G. Hennessy

  1. The teacher tells the Kindergarteners that they are going to read the story One Little, Two Little, Three Little Pilgrims by B. G. Hennessy to try and answer the questions on the chart. She reads the rhythmic story to the class and invites them to join in with her during the predictable parts of the story.
  2. The Kindergarten teacher models how to use the words and the pictures in the story to answer the questions from the W column. She writes the students’ answers under the L column to summarize what they have learned about the first Thanksgiving.
  3. If the students have any unanswered questions about the Pilgrims, Wampanoag, or the first Thanksgiving, the teacher can help them use other Thanksgiving books and websites to find more information.

Use Pilgrim, Wampanoag, and Turkey Puppets to Demonstrate Thanksgiving Knowledge

  1. After the chart is completed the students can make paper bag puppets to show what they have learned about the first Thanksgiving.
  2. Depending on the ability of the students and the amount of time for the lesson the teachers can precut Pilgrim, Wampanoag, and turkey parts or have the students create their own. The teacher passes out a lunch size paper bag for each Kindergarten student to decorate as a Pilgrim, Wampanoag, or turkey from the story.
  3. The bottom of the bag becomes the face of the puppet. The students use the illustrations in the story to create their puppet with the classroom art supplies. The teacher rereads the book with the class and they use their puppets to act out the story.

The Kindergarten teacher can create a first Thanksgiving learning center in the classroom by setting out a box filled with items that are found in the story such as fish, nuts, and corn. The students can then use the items and their puppets to act out the first Thanksgiving during pretend play time.

Kindergarten teachers can teach students about the first Thanksgiving using B. G. Hennessy’s One Little, Two Little, Three Little Pilgrims. The students use a KWL chart during language arts instruction to help them acquire and organize information about the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag. The kindergarteners then create Pilgrim, Wampanoag, and turkey puppets to demonstrate and use their new knowledge about the history of Thanksgiving.

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