Thanksgiving Lesson Plan

Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

Teach your students the true meaning of Thanksgiving with the help of a fun and engaging classroom activity and a text lesson. To take it even further, we have included suggestions for related activities and lessons.

Learning Objectives:

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • identify key figures of the first Thanksgiving
  • explain the historical significance of Thanksgiving
  • design a menu based on the foods consumed at the first Thanksgiving
  • analyze the evolution of Thanksgiving


1 hour


  • Photos/images of turkey, deer, rabbit, lobster, fish, chicken, squash, beans, nuts, maple syrup, honey, radishes, cabbage, carrots, eggs, cheese, cornbread, and berries
  • Plain white paper
  • Markers, crayons, or colored pencils

Curriculum Standards


Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.


Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.

Key Vocabulary

  • Pilgrim
  • Pokanoket Indians


  • Display the photos/images of turkey, deer, rabbit, lobster, fish, chicken, squash, beans, nuts, maple syrup, honey, radishes, cabbage, carrots, eggs, cheese, cornbread, and berries for the class to see.
  • Have students read the Introduction, History, and Why Did They Feast sections of the text lesson First Thanksgiving: History, Facts & Foods.
  • Next, have students create a list of the foods that they usually eat on Thanksgiving. Do any of the displayed items appear on their Thanksgiving menus?
  • Divide the students into two groups and explain that Group One will be the pilgrims and Group Two will be the Pokanoket Indians.
  • Now ask students to read the remainder of the text lesson.
  • Have each group of students design an authentic Thanksgiving menu using the paper and markers based on the photos/images on display and the content of the text lesson. Group One's menu should focus on the kinds of dishes that could have been prepared and shared by the pilgrims. Group two's menu should consist of what the Pokanoket Indians might have brought to the feast. The recipes should be in keeping with the available resources of the time.
  • Finally, ask students to compare their typical Thanksgiving dinner to the authentic menus they created. What are the similarities? How about the differences?

Discussion Questions

  • What are some possible reasons for the changes in the menus over time?
  • Gratitude is usually a theme for Thanksgiving. Was this true of the first Thanksgiving? If so, how and why?


  • Have students dress in attire representative of the pilgrims and Pokanoket Indians. Ask each student to bring a dish using ingredients representative of the first Thanksgiving and have a feast!
  • Ask students to research and report on a few of the key individuals that attended that first Thanksgiving. What might they think about the way Thanksgiving is celebrated today?

Related Lessons

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