Thanksgiving Origins


Thanksgiving Origins teaches students about the origins of Thanksgiving. Students will learn how Thanksgiving began, how it evolved, and the lasting impact of its beginnings today. This lesson plan delves into the role of the Native Americans in the first Thanksgiving, what foods they served, and how it became a national holiday.

The “Options for Lesson” section of this lesson lists suggestions for activities to add to the lesson or substitutions for the ones already in the lesson. One option, for instance, is to add prices to the food items in the activity.

Buy Now For $1.95


What our Thanksgiving Origins lesson plan includes

Lesson Objectives and Overview: Thanksgiving Origins teaches students all about the beginning of a holiday they probably celebrate with their family every year: Thanksgiving! With this lesson, students will learn all about the first Thanksgiving, how it became a national holiday, and more. This lesson is for students in 1st grade, 2nd grade, and 3rd grade.

Classroom Procedure

Every lesson plan provides you with a classroom procedure page that outlines a step-by-step guide to follow. You do not have to follow the guide exactly. The guide helps you organize the lesson and details when to hand out worksheets. It also lists information in the yellow box that you might find useful. You will find the lesson objectives, state standards, and number of class sessions the lesson should take to complete in this area. In addition, it describes the supplies you will need as well as what and how you need to prepare beforehand. For this lesson, the only supplies that you need are the handouts. You can prepare for this lesson ahead of time by pairing students for the activity and copying the handouts.

Options for Lesson

Included with this lesson is an “Options for Lesson” section that lists a number of suggestions for activities to add to the lesson or substitutions for the ones already in it. One option is to add prices to the food items in the activity and give students a budget to spend on the meals they create. You could also serve some of the actual foods that people would have had at the first Thanksgiving. Another idea is to ask parents to bring in a special food that they usually serve on Thanksgiving. Or you could have one new parent send in food every day for the month of November, which can be designated as “Thanksgiving Month.” You could invite a Native American or expert on a specific tribe’s culture to speak to the class. One last idea is to study words and place names with Native American roots, such as many of the state names.

Teacher Notes

The teacher notes page includes a paragraph with additional guidelines and things to think about as you begin to plan your lesson. It notes that there are many additional resources that you can use to supplement your lesson, including many informative videos from the History Channel that you and your class could view during this lesson. This page also includes lines that you can use to add your own notes as you prepare for this lesson.


Origins of Thanksgiving

The Thanksgiving Origins lesson plan includes three content pages. The first section of this lesson gives a brief overview of the history of the celebration and how it became a national holiday in the United States. Thanksgiving is an annual holiday in the United States that happens on the fourth Thursday in November every year. Students will learn that the editor, Sarah Josepha Hale, of a popular women’s magazine was one of the biggest advocates for making Thanksgiving a national holiday.

Students will also learn that Abraham Lincoln was the president who finally made Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863. The holiday did not always include turkey, pumpkin pie, football, and days out of school. In fact, when Lincoln made it a holiday more than 250 years after the first Thanksgiving, he declared that it was a holiday to give thanks for “general blessings.” This is still true today. Many families all over the United States gather on the holiday to give thanks and celebrate with friends, family, and a big meal.

First Thanksgiving

The next section of this lesson goes into detail about the first Thanksgiving. The first Thanksgiving occurred in 1621, more than 250 years before it would become an official holiday. This section describes the who, what, why, when, how, and where of the first version of the holiday. Students will learn that the first Thanksgiving was celebrated by about 50 English Puritans, the Pilgrims, and about 90 Wampanoag people. The Wampanoag people had lived on the land for over 12,000 years!

The first feast was three days long. It kicked off with settlers hunting for the food for the celebration. The Wampanoag people thought that the settlers were preparing for war. However, when they visited the Pilgrims and found out that they were preparing a feast, they gathered their own food as well and joined the festivities.

The people ate deer, corn, shellfish, duck, goose, lobster, eel, and other fish, but no turkey or pumpkin pie! This celebration happened in what is now southeastern Massachusetts and eastern Rhode Island. Several other states like Florida, Texas, Maine, and Virginia also claim to have held the first Thanksgiving, but the official first Thanksgiving happened in Plymouth County, Massachusetts.

Thanksgiving Myths

Students will then learn the truth about some popular Thanksgiving myths. Though many paintings and drawings of the Pilgrims depict them wearing silver buckles on their shoes and black clothing, they actually wore bright and colorful clothing during this time. The Native Americans, on the other hand, did not wear blankets on their shoulders or the large feathered headdresses painters often depicted them in. It’s much more likely that they wore moccasins, deerskin leggings, jewelry, and body paint instead.

Finally, the settlers did not actually call themselves Pilgrims. Historians created this term later to describe them. At this time, they called themselves either Puritans or Separatists. Despite the facts and the myths, we widely agree that Thanksgiving is a celebration with family and friends. It’s a way to give thanks for our blessings.


The Thanksgiving Origins lesson plan includes three worksheets: an activity worksheet, a practice worksheet, and a homework assignment. Each worksheet will help students solidify their grasp of the lesson content and material they learned. You can refer to the guide on the classroom procedure page to determine when to hand out each worksheet. These worksheets will test student’s understanding of the lesson material.


Students will work in pairs to create three Thanksgiving meals. They will use foods from two lists: Thanksgiving foods from 1621 and Thanksgiving foods from today. They have to include a certain number of drinks, meats, fish, vegetables, and more for each meal. The three meals they will create are a 1621 meal, today’s meal, and a meal that includes food items from both time periods. Students can also work alone or in groups of three for this activity if you want them to do so.


For the practice worksheet, there is a list of 25 total statements. For the first 20 statements, students will circle the correct choice from the two options listed next to each statement. The final 5 statements require students to determine whether the sentence is true or false and circle the correct response.


Students will create an acrostic poem using the letters in Thanksgiving. For each letter, they will write something they are thankful for at home, school, or with friends and family. This assignment will allow students to think more deeply about the meaning of the holiday. They’ll also reflect on the things that they are thankful for.

Worksheet Answer Keys

This lesson plan includes answer keys for the practice worksheet. Answer keys are not provided for either the activity worksheet or the homework assignment. Student’s answers for both of those worksheets will vary. If you choose to administer the lesson pages to your students via PDF, you will need to save a new file that omits these pages. Otherwise, you can simply print out the applicable pages and keep these as reference for yourself when grading assignments.

Additional information


1st Grade, 2nd Grade, 3rd Grade


Social Studies, Video

State Educational Standards

LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.1.7, LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.2.3, LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.2.7, LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.3.3, LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.3.7

Lessons are aligned to meet the education objectives and goals of most states. For more information on your state objectives, contact your local Board of Education or Department of Education in your state.

Customer Reviews
4.9 Based on 10 Reviews
5 ★
4 ★
3 ★
2 ★
1 ★
Write a Review

Thank you for submitting a review!

Your input is very much appreciated. Share it with your friends so they can enjoy it too!

Filter Reviews:
United States United States

Excellent Resource

This is a well put together resource with excellent teaching materials that are easy to follow.

Andrea D.


The lesson was very engaging for my students , the images and videos really paints the picture of the lesson for my visual learner. thank you so much!! hopefully I can donate the next time.

Laurie R.


Love your papers thanks for making them.

Kelly H.

Great Thanksgiving teaching resource.

Used this with my homeschooled 7 year old. He was completely engaged--and isnt' that what we dream of?

Haroldine K.

Great resource

I used this resource in a 6-8th grade class for my Social Studies lesson on Thanksgiving. It was very informative and interesting.