The first Thanksgiving was held in 1621 when it is said that the Plymouth colonists known as the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast. Since then, Thanksgiving has become an annual commemoration of the survival of those first colonists with the help of the Indians, and a celebration of bounty and abundance in our lives. It was first observed in November of 1863 when President Lincoln proclaimed that an annual day of thanksgiving was warranted after a pivotal victory during the Civil War; it was designated an official national holiday in 1941 by President Roosevelt and has been observed every year since in the United States, on the fourth Thursday in November.

 

Before family and friends gather together to enjoy time with one another, many children have classroom celebrations as they learn about Thanksgiving. Since the earliest celebrations of the Thanksgiving holiday, the details and meaning within school lessons have deepened–teachers are presenting the story of Thanksgiving from the points of view of both the colonists and the native people who were there when the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth; and some details are not happy ones. But mostly, in classrooms across the country, students learn about the first Thanksgiving as a history lesson, and work together to think of ways they can practice showing gratitude and appreciation for family and friends.

 

Many teachers plan special activities with a Thanksgiving theme for their students. The youngest students in preschool and elementary school often participate in arts and crafts projects that yield paper Pilgrim hats and handprint turkeys, or journal writing assignments in which they respond to a Thanksgiving-themed prompt. Middle school students often complete  math lessons with word problems or graphing activities involving the holiday, have Thanksgiving vocabulary lessons with crossword puzzles, or answer comprehension questions after reading about the history of Thanksgiving.

 

No matter what the lessons and activities are ahead of the Thanksgiving break, teachers know how important is to teach students of every age and stage about the overarching theme of gratitude that is at the center of Thanksgiving celebrations everywhere. Before departing for the holiday break, teachers make sure their students know that being thankful and showing gratitude is not just good advice, but a tool. They want their students to know that these things can help them to use the related positivity, optimism, and confidence to better their grades, improve their relationships, and upgrade their overall quality of life inside and outside of the classroom.

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