Top Teaching > Christy Crawford > Thanksgiving Plans

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Thanksgiving Plans

Turkey 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.


Pumpkinpie 2. At that "first Thanksgiving" they feasted on . . . 

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.


Dunce If you answered mostly Cs . . . 

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.)


Graduation cap If you answered mostly Bs . . . 

  • 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!

Screen shot 2010-10-19 at 7.45.26 PM 1. Easily evaluate the resources you have. 

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:

Screen shot 2010-10-19 at 7.30.01 PM

Get digital!

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

Thank you, Mayflower Society of New York!                                     Plimoth Plantation's Master Christopher wows our Bronx Press Club! 



NA Games

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 

Clambake: A Wampanoag Tradition, by Russell M. Peters. Kids love this book; it is full of pictures of a modern day Wampanoag boy and his grandfather. (Again, check out Oyate for more.) 

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





  • #1 Christy Crawford

    Wednesday, November 24, 2010 at 07:27 AM

    K. E.,

    I love your site! My kids will check out your storyteller videos today!


  • #2 K. Evenson

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 10:21 AM

    Thanks for the nice mix of concepts and ideas. If you’re looking for more content that features lesson plans and teacher resources you should check out these links:

    Diversity Memo: Thanksgiving and Native American Month

    The Spirit Survives featuring Native American Storyteller Dovie Thomason

    I Am Indopino featuring Native American Storyteller Gene Tagaban

    Thanksgiving: Who’s Missing From OurTable

  • #3 Christy Crawford

    Wednesday, November 17, 2010 at 04:35 PM


    Yes! The Scholastic links are awesome. My kids are crazy about the audio letters. We are using our blog to write (back) to the fictional 17th century letter authors.

    And thanks for your links. I love the Thanksgiving flash cards and the left-handed turkey! For more love for lefties, check out my colleague's post, Megan Power, my colleague, has a toddler who favors his left hand and so do I. She says a parent brought the topic to her attention. Every teacher should read the piece!

  • #4 Meredith Barnett

    Wednesday, November 17, 2010 at 04:04 PM

    Hi! Great links. The Scholastic digital links are really cool - I especially like the audio letters. Makes history come to life!

    If anyone's looking for even MORE Thanksgiving teaching resources, over on EdVoices, we have links to T-Day lesson plans, including some from Scholastic.

    Check it out:

  • #5 Christy Crawford

    Sunday, October 24, 2010 at 08:01 AM


    Native Tech is fabulous! And my kids were obsessed with the great print outs and games! THANK YOU for linking the site!


  • #6 Mitch Bleier

    Saturday, October 23, 2010 at 10:45 PM

    Oops, I missed that one. You are way ahead of me once again.

    Here's another link that will be useful:

    Native Tech: Native American Technology and Art

    This site has historical, informational, explanatory and instructional how-to areas.

  • #7 Christy Crawford

    Saturday, October 23, 2010 at 02:53 PM

    Thank you, Mitch. Check out the link for Vera Stenhouse's article "Rethinking Thanksgiving". "Rethinking Thanksgiving" appears in "Rethinking Schools". The site offers visitors free access to their archives for a limited time. But hooray for free Fall 2010 issues online!


  • #8 Mitch Bleier

    Saturday, October 23, 2010 at 10:58 AM


    One difficulty in education is that teachers have so much to know and do in the course of their work. This is an especially acute problem for elementary teachers who handle multiple content areas along with the record keeping, assessments, committees and other tasks that go along with working in a(n underfunded) school. Oh yes...some teachers also have their own schoolwork, children, the second job, medical short, their own lives to manage.

    Providing resources like the ones in this post assists teachers (and their colleagues with whom they share) in being even more wonderful than they already are because the time you save for them by sharing your research and resources is time that they can spend doing the million other things that they need to do.

    Here's another resources that you and they should check out: "Rethinking Schools," a progressive print and online publication that addresses a broad range of education and content issues. There is a modest subscription fee (which is well worth the money), but there are frequently free items on their website. Currently, the entire Fall 2010 issue is online at no charge. Their URL is:

    -- Mitch

  • #9 Christy

    Friday, October 22, 2010 at 07:08 PM


    Amen! Where were you when I was in high school?


  • #10 Mitch Bleier

    Friday, October 22, 2010 at 07:14 AM

    Nice stories about "historical" events--the first Thanksgiving, George Washington and the cherry tree, Pat Tillman's inspiring demise, etc.--serve to teach very simple "truths."

    But we live in a complex and nuanced world, and our students are quite capable of exploring the messiness of that world. We have the responsibility to help them develop a kit of critical tools to make sense of what is going on around them.

    Your links to the NY Times article on the Texas State Textbook Committee and to James Loewen's "Lies My Teacher Told Me" will help educators to begin to expand their repertoire for nutruring curious, critically thinking, well-educated learners. Thanks.

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