- Column 1: What do you Know about the topic?
- Column 2: What do you Want to know?
- Column 3: What did you Learn?
They can work individually or with partners to fill out the first column, of everything they know about the origins of Thanksgiving, its history, the role of the colonists and the American Indians, etc. After discussing as a class, have them work on the second column. Sometimes students have a more difficult time coming up with what they might want to know (and sometimes they think they already know it all, and sometimes they feel they know nothing). It is helpful to ask the wh- questions of “who? what? where? why? when?” and “how?”
The National Museum of the American Indian (of the Smithsonian Institution) has compiled several free educational resources to teach kids ages 7-14 about the origins of Thanksgiving. They include a 10-page printable poster with activities and images of American Indians to be used throughout the year, a complete study guide, and different media on American Indians’ perspectives of Thanksgiving. All of these prepared lessons can be printed and easily incorporated into your class. While you are presenting the information to the students with the images and stories, students can work on the third column of their K-W-L charts: what they have learned. When you are finished with the lesson, it is important to have a discussion about how their perspectives of American Indians and Thanksgiving might have changed.
The poster asks:
What new things have they learned about American Indian relationships with the environment, communities, and encounters with outsiders?
What have they learned about the agricultural contributions and innovations of Native peoples?
How does the information about Native agricultural innovations give them new perspectives on Thanksgiving?
Noted in the materials from the National Museum of the American Indian: Historically, stereotypes and misconceptions have blurred our vision of Native cultures (learn more about teaching kids to avoid stereotypes). Our lack of knowledge or misunderstanding about the huge diversity of indigenous people in the Americas has people grouping hundreds and thousands of different cultures and languages into a single group of “Native Americans.” Just as Asian, African, and European countries are inherently unique and different from one another, the distinct indigenous groups of people are equally diverse. At the same time many American Indians retain certain traditions, and maintain their language, they live modern lives adapting and changing to the contemporary world in which we all live. And a final note to share with your children:
American Indian cultures and languages are intimately tied to the land… [their] traditional worldviews are often grounded in a recognition of the interrelationship among humans, animals, plants, water, winds, sky and earth… Many traditional Native values and practices are relevant
to issues of worldwide importance today, such as care of the earth.
Finally, if your students are studying American Indian culture this November, check out this infographic on the different homes used in the past: