This engaging book, Oh, What a Thanksgiving, was published by Scholastic in 1988, uses an intriguing literary device to illustrate concepts of then and now. This is done by Pilgrim times being portrayed on one page and present times being shown on the next page.
As you teach about Thanksgiving, consider using this wonderful book for enjoyment and skills.
Story Summary for Oh What a Thanksgiving
A student named David was enthralled with a history lesson and began to let his imagination run with ideas, finding that things in the world around him reminded him of historical connections. At first, he was convinced that the people involved in the early Thanksgiving feast had a much better time than people do nowadays. His teacher, Mr. Sanderson, gently guides him to appreciate his own Thanksgiving experience and realize that Pilgrim children would have loved today’s celebrations.
Classroom Activities to Develop Historical Awareness
During guided reading, the class can be put into two groups labeled “Now” and “Then”. It can be read orally using someone from the now side to read pages about modern times. Then have a child from the then side read a page from the past. This method develops historical perspective.
There are many other classroom activities to generate learning after reading this book. Divide the class into Pilgrims, Native Americans, Modern Americans. Then role-play selected pages from the various viewpoints.
Writing to Develop Understanding of History
Have students choose one of the three identities. Then have the Native Americans and Pilgrims write about being transported in time to a modern Thanksgiving. Likewise, those choosing to be modern boys or girls can write what they would experience if they were there at the first Thanksgiving.
A child can write a paragraph or story (or sentences for younger writers) from the chosen point of view.
Dialogue skills can be developed by writing a dialogue between any two characters in either period of time. It would have to include who the student chose to be, which time period, and the identity of the other person in the conversation.
Compare and Contrast
First discuss, then use a graphic organizer (Venn diagram works well) to delineate the likes and differences of any two groups. That could be past and present or any two of the three identities (Pilgrims, Native Americans, and modern children).
A sense of order can be reinforced with timeline and listing activities.
Using large construction paper folded in half (hamburger fold so both sides are rather square) have the students list, in order, events leading up to the original Thanksgiving on one side and current Thanksgiving on another. (The number of events could vary from three or more, depending on the age and level of the students.)
Since a prerequisite for such awareness is empathy, using this lesson to role-play and experience different points of view as well as comparing and contrasting different historical perspectives generates better understanding of different cultures.
Any of the above can be used as anchor activities and/or set up in your classroom centers. So as you teach about Thanksgiving, in addition to studying the scarecrows and food for the feast, enjoy watching the students increase their understanding of history by writing, comparing and contrasting, sequencing, and noticing differences in cultures across time.