Have you made Thanksgiving plans yet? You've got fewer than five weeks to figure out who's hosting, who's cooking, and what you'll be teaching. What did you learn about Thanksgiving in school? What did your teachers tell you? Test your knowledge about one of our most revered American holidays with the following short quiz:
1. The "pilgrims" wore . . .
A. black and white garments with big black hats and shoes adorned with large silver buckles.
B. brightly colored garments woven by hand.
C. absolutely nothing. No one had clothes back then.
A. pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and cranberry sauce.
B. venison, cod, waterfowl, and nasaump.
C. processed, over-priced items out of a box.
3. Name the time and the place of the "first Thanksgiving."
A. 1621, Plymouth, Massachusetts.
B. 30,000 B.C.?? Native Americans have given thanks and feasted at harvest festivals since existence.
C. 1621, Jamestown, Virginia.
4. The "pilgrims," English Protestants called Separatists, came ashore from the Mayflower and . . .
A. found an uninhabited promised land of bountiful corn, tools, pots, beads, and fields cleared, tilled, and divinely ready for the taking.
B. found a society so ravaged by the diseases of earlier European travellers that its original population was ridiculously reduced in number — a number small enough to allow the Separatists to steal from storage pits or gravesides without being challenged.
C. realized this land was only "new" to them and played nice with the original inhabitants.
5. Thanksgiving became a national, annual holiday . . .
A. when the Wampanoag and the Separatists decided to break bread together.
B. right after President Lincoln decided he needed a comforting tale to unite the country.
C. when Macy's realized that it was the best time for a parade.
6. During Thanksgiving, many American Indians . . .
A. wear ornate feather headdresses and pop out of tipis for Thanksgiving parades.
B. gather for a National Day of Mourning.
C. give thanks for colonial domination, bloodshed, and theft.
You are just joking!
If you answered mostly As . . .
You learned what your teachers taught you. Perhaps truth and historical accuracy inadvertently took a backseat to tradition or image-making in your teachers' textbooks. (You may also believe in the Easter Bunny. One day you may even get suckered into buying tickets to see Plymouth Rock.)
- You laughed at the notion of pumpkin pie! "Hello? Try not-so-sugary stewed pompion!"
- You scoffed at the mere suggestion of a tipi. "That was a dwelling for Plains Indians. Totally different Indian nations! Let's talk wetus!"
- Congrats, proud scholar, you are a critical thinker — a true American historian!
As teachers, we often fail to realize our powerful influence in the classroom. (Remember how you ran around the house quoting everything your teachers said?) Teacher . . . because of you, years of misinformation and hurtful stereotypes can be broken — or nurtured; empathy and tolerance for differences will increase or decrease in our country; and the next generation will curb — or further — the negative effects of manufactured history.
Unfortunately, under the overwhelming demands of the classroom, the majority of teachers have fallen prey to textbook companies that are more concerned with making proud, smiley Americans than a critical, enlightened citizenry. But, thank goodness, there are millions of 21st century teachers who have mastered the art of using multiple digital and print sources to answer the needs and curiosities of each student. These pedagogues question who wrote the text and why. They ask, from whose perspective is the story told and who benefits in each perspective? They also ask if there is a different way to accurately tell the story.
Teacher, use technology to claim thy power!
The Boston Children's Museum and a host of Wampanoag Indian advisors have prepared a list of 10 quick and easy questions you can review to evaluate the cultural responsiveness of sources dealing with Native Americans.
Also check out Oyate, a publisher and reviewer of Native American books, especially those aimed at children.
2. Try these resources that rock:
Every year after my class on the myths of the "First Thanksgiving," many of my college students (undergrad teachers) were panicked about what to teach. And every year I sent them to Scholastic and Plimoth Plantation. Now the Plimoth slide shows, videos, and Mayflower voyage images are bigger and better than ever!
So grab the popcorn, some hot cider (I buy a couple of cheap jugs, pour them into a crock pot, add a couple of cinnamon sticks, and instantly my students are ready to talk Thanksgiving), and your interactive whiteboard for all of Scholastic's digital Thanksgiving offerings! If you are really adventurous, project the image of the slide shows, videos, or Webcast on a cafeteria or gymnasium wall so the Wampanoag and English Separatists become larger than life. (Sign up for the Webcast and have your equipment ready to go before the Nov. 16th deadline!)
I use the site's digital resources to:
- digitally travel in time to compare and contrast the daily lives of the Wampanoag and Separatist children.
- foster a sense of empathy in youngsters as they listen to the audio letters of Wampanoag and Separatist children. Kids then blog or tweet to the imagined authors of those letters.
- create take-home KWL charts of the Mayflower voyage and the Thanksgiving feast to foster family discussions before and during Thanksgiving.
- create young anthropologists who will challenge the accuracy of Thanksgiving "facts" through critical Webquests and then critically evaluate text and images in their daily lives.
Join me in the next post for step-by-step plans for adventures that your historians will love in school and at home over the holiday break, or check out these great lesson plans in Scholastic's teacher resources.
Try these treasured books:
I've had these in my library since I started teaching, and I'm always reluctant to let others borrow them!
1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving, by Catherine O'Neill Grace and Margaret M. Bruchac
Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message, by Jake Swamp
Colonial Times: 1600–1700, by Joy Masoff
Samuel Eaton's Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Boy, by Kate Waters
Sarah Morton's Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Girl, by Kate Waters
Native American Games and Stories, by James Bruchac and Joseph Bruchac
Read these teacher's guides for critical thinkers:
There are several guides worth checking out, either for teaching purposes, or just because they're interesting reads. Judy Dow and Beverly Slapin's "Deconstructing Myths of 'The First Thanksgiving'" is a must read for teachers and older students. No educator should go into the classroom without skimming James Loewen's Lies My Teacher Told Me. Vera Stenhouse's "Rethinking Thanksgiving" and Monica Edinger and Stephanie Fins' Far Away and Long Ago: Young Historians in the Classroom are also very good.
All of us want our students to be captivated by lessons and encouraged to be critical thinkers. This school year, let's make it our mission to use technology to make multiple points of view accessible and entertaining. Please share your tips and resources for Thanksgiving lesson plans with our online community.
Super Quote : "History . . . I don't need to defend it, justify it or attack it. I just explain it to understand it."
—Robert M.S. McDonald, Associate Professor of History, U.S. Military Academy, West Point