Tag Archives: colonial era

Teaching Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Proclamation by William Shirley, the Royal Governor of the province of Massachusetts Bay, Boston, 1746; broadside.

Thanksgiving is here again with all the trimmings–turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie galore. But don’t forget to add that side of historical significance!  Here are a few lesson plans and resources to help get your students thinking about the history of the holiday.

Whats Wrong With This Picture: The True Story of the First Thanksgiving” by Patricia Scott Deetz is a short, colorful, and engaging article from MUSE offering a critical explanation of the holiday using documents and historical clues.

Harvest Ceremony: Beyond the Thanksgiving Myth” is a study guide from the National Museum of the American Indian geared more toward High School students offers counter evidence to the traditional Thanksgiving discussion.

What Should a House Do?” is a lesson plan from EDSITEment! highlighting the differences in Native American and English settlement homes.

First Thanksgiving Meal” is a short article from the History channel that addresses whether modern Thanksgiving foods were present at that first feast.

Looking into Holidays Past: Through Primary Sources” is a document based resource from the Library of Congress.

Also be sure to check out our “Thinking Through Thanksgiving” blog post from last year. We included some resources, Toolbox Strategies, and an image to get your Thanksgiving lessons  started.


Constitution Day!

“New Constitution Sep. 17, 1787.” The Federalist banquet at ten tables, symbolizing the ten states that had ratified the new US Constitution by July 1788. Six thousand attended the New York City banquet celebrating New York’s ratification, 1788.


September 17th  is Constitution Day commemorating the signing of the U.S. Constitution by thirty-nine delegates. Constitution Day provides an opportunity to revisit this important document and spark student’s interest in citizenship. And your in luck! The National Constitution Center has put together some fabulous resources designed to get students thinking about the writing and ratification of the the Constitution.

Separate lessons, documents, and online teaching tools designed for elementary, middle, and high school students provide a wealth of ways to fold Constitution Day into your lessons.  Whether it be through Town Hall Walls, Meet the Founders, Yankee Doodle, or a Constitutional Duel, there are tons of grade specific resources available to create the perfect Constitution lesson for your classroom.

Make a multimedia day of it with these online games and quizzes all about the Constitution.

  • Ever wonder how the constitution would turn out if your students had to decide, the “Which Founder Are You?” test will tell you how many Washington’s, Madison’s, or Hamilton’s you have in your class.
  • Link your immigration lesson to the Constitution with this online “Naturalization Test.” Student test their knowledge of the United States and see the types of questions new immigrants answer to gain citizenship.
  • The “Bill of Rights Game” takes a page straight from mission impossible. “Your mission…rebuild the document by finding the missing rights and freedoms in Freeville”
  • Or run for office with the “Headed to the White House” game. Students can either participate as a candidate, a campaign worker, or an active citizen.


Native American Women in the Colonial Era

Women and Work series, part 1

Looking for ways to improve your lessons? Need ideas for primary sources that will engage your students? Stay tuned this week for another Women’s History Series that offers some great primary sources and lesson ideas.

The first topic in this series is how the construction of gender roles varied tribe to tribe based on their relationship to economic means, trade, and interaction with European settlers. This serves as an interesting “jumping off” point for discussing the role of women in various types of work.

Native women in an agriculturally based society tended the crops, fished, ground corn and other grain, and created the goods essential for their homes and trade (baskets, mats, etc). Women in a hunting based society, prepared hides for trade, cured the meat, and fashioned other good for trade and tribe use as well.  Look into the lives of Cherokee women for a fascinating study into a matrilineal society.

Timucuan women in Florida, working in agriculture side by side with men. Men plowed and women planted beans and maize, 1560s


“Clal-lum [Salish] Women Weaving a Blanket” from dog-hair yarn, Vancouver Island, painted 1848-56

Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) women grinding corn or dried berries, with baby in backboard.

An interesting discussion to have with students is the impact that European interaction had on native women’s lives. For example Huron women, a fur trading society, saw their role dramatically altered due to European influence.  Prior to contact, their dedication to preparing pelts for trade gave them influence in the tribe. But with the increased importance of trade with the French and the overwhelming number of furs to prepare, Huron women both gained importance for their role in the process, and lost influence in the private sphere (for more on this read The Middle Ground suggested below).

An American beaver, slaughtered in the hundreds of thousands for their pelts, 16th century.

For more on Native American women, try these excellent sources: