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Turkeys, Pilgrims and Indian Corn: The Story of the Thanksgiving Symbols



Last updated Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Author: Edna Barth
Illustrator: Ursula Arndt
Date of Publication: 2000
ISBN: 0618067833
Grade Level: 5th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Nov. 2004

Synopsis: This is the story of the most truly American holiday and the development of its symbols and legends. Each of our holidays has its own familiar traditions: Trick-or-treating on Halloween, eating turkey on Thanksgiving, waiting for Santa Claus on Christmas, exchanging cards on Valentine's Day. But where do these customs come from, when did they begin, and why do we continue to observe them?

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  List all of the book's topics (18) on the board. Which topics are the kids familiar with? Pick three that they are most familiar with. Read one of those chapters and discuss the difference between what they knew about the topic previously and what they just learned. Repeat for the other two chapters.

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  Which topics would the kids most like to learn about next? Pick three, and let the kids take notes as you read one of the chapters. Try to emphasize certain passages that you'd like the kids to take notes about. Leaf through the chapter, and ask some questions that are pertinent to or interesting about the chapter's topic. For example, in the the "Thanksgiving" chapter, ask "Why did Governor Bradford proclaim 11/9/1623 to be a day of thanksgiving?" "On what day of what month is Thanksgiving Day held in Canada?" "Who came to the rescue of the 126 Mexicans who reached San Diego in 1769, and why were they in dire straits?" Again, try to tip the kids off, as you read these passages, that you may ask them about later. Repeat the exercise for the remaining two chapters. If time permits, pick three more topics from the board and repeat the exercise.

Craft ideas:
•  Make Thanksgiving flash cards listing interesting facts that you didn't know before regarding each of the topics covered in the book. For example, on the front of the card, list the topic (e.g., "Thanksgiving Day") and on the back, list the things you didn't know (e.g., "In Canada, Thanksgiving Day is celebrated on ...")

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!