Unit 2: Rediscovering Thanksgiving: Fact vs. Fiction
Students learn about the Pilgrims and the first Massachusetts colonies, including why the Pilgrims came to the New World, their relationship with the Native peoples, and the truth behind the first Thanksgiving.
This unit challenges students to view history with a critical lens, and to notice how there is always more than one side to a story. The unit begins with the Mayflower and helps students develop an understanding of why so many colonists decided to leave England and travel to the New World. Students will explore the hardships faced by the colonists, both on the ship and once they arrived in the New World, and how the colonists persevered and relied on the geography and environment to meet their needs. Students will then learn about the Wampanoag, the people who were on the land before the Pilgrims arrived. They will learn about what the Wampanoag valued, how they viewed the Pilgrims, and how the arrival of explorers and settlers negatively influenced their tribe. Then, students will be pushed to analyze what really happened at the first Thanksgiving, and whose story is being told. Students will realize that the traditional story of the first Thanksgiving contains many myths that don't accurately reflect the Wampanoag and what really happened in 1621.
Students think about the ways in which events are connected. When learning about historical events and reading historical texts, students explore how they can use chronology to explain the connection between events. Students review how to use cause and effect to explain what happened with particular events and why. Students read texts on similar topics that include multiple perspectives of a historical event, allowing students to compare and contrast texts and critically analyze the perspectives that are present in each text.
When discussing the text, students continue to work on elaborating and supporting their own ideas, using examples and evidence to justify their own thinking. Doing so sets students up for success with discourse in later units when students are pushed to engage with the thinking of others.
Students continue to build their fluency with writing daily in response to the text and crafting sentences that show a nuanced understanding of content. In the second half of the unit, students write informational paragraphs, including a topic sentence and supporting reasons and facts. The unit culminates with students researching, drafting and illustrating their own informational books to teach others the truth about Thanksgiving.
Please Note: In January 2023, we released updated enhanced lesson plans for this unit, which now include answers to key questions and related student supports. In July 2023, we updated this unit and removed a lesson. You may notice discrepancies in previously downloaded/printed unit or lesson plans.
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Book: Pilgrims: A Nonfiction Companion to Magic Tree House #27 by Mary Pope Osborne (Random House Books for Young Readers, 2006)
Book: The Wampanoag (A True Book: American Indians) by Kevin Cunningham and Peter Benoit (Children's Press, 2011)
Article: “The English Colonies”
Article: “Letters from a Pilgrim Child (Letter 1)” (Scholastic Inc.)
Article: “Letters from a Pilgrim Child (Letter 2)” (Scholastic)
Article: “Notes from a Wampanoag Child (Letter 1)” (Scholastic Inc)
Article: “Notes from a Wampanoag Child (Letter 2)” (Scholastic)
Book: Squanto's Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving by Joseph Bruchac (HMH Books for Young Readers, 2007)
Book: The Thanksgiving Story by Alice Dalgliesh (Aladdin, 1985)
Book: 1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving by Catherine O'Neill Grace and Margaret M. Bruchac (National Geographic Children's Books, 2004)
Rubric: Grade 3 Informational Writing Rubric
These assessments accompany this unit to help gauge student understanding of key unit content and skills.
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Download Content Assessment Answer Key
Additional progress monitoring suggestions are included throughout the unit. Essential Tasks can be found in the following lessons:
Suggestions for how to prepare to teach this unit
Prepare to teach this unit by immersing yourself in the texts, themes, and core standards. Unit Launches include a series of short videos, targeted readings, and opportunities for action planning.
The central thematic questions addressed in the unit or across units
Events in historical texts are often described chronologically (in the order they happen). Readers use chronology to explain the connection between events.
To describe key events in a historical text, readers need to think about what happened and why.
Comparing and contrasting details from multiple texts on the same topic helps readers understand multiple perspectives of a historical event.
Introduce a topic using a topic sentence.
Develop the topic with reasons, facts, and details.
Conduct short research projects to build knowledge.
Take notes and sort evidence into categories.
Include illustrations and text features to aid in comprehension.
Elaborate to support ideas. Provide evidence or examples to justify and defend a point clearly.
Use specific vocabulary. Use vocabulary that is specific to the subject and task to clarify and share their thoughts.
Literary terms, text-based vocabulary, idioms and word parts to be taught with the text
To see all the vocabulary for Unit 2, view our 3rd Grade Vocabulary Glossary.
Fishtank ELA units related to the content in this unit.
In order to ensure that all students are able to access the texts and tasks in this unit, it is incredibly important to intellectually prepare to teach the unit prior to launching the unit. Use the intellectual preparation protocol and the Unit Launch to determine which support students will need. To learn more, visit the Supporting all Students teacher tool.
Explain what motivated the settlement and colonization of the New World and what challenges the explorers faced.
Describe the conditions on the Mayflower and why so many people decided to take the journey.
Describe Lizzy's experiences on the Mayflower and the challenges she faced.
Describe what life was like on the Mayflower by writing a variety of compound sentences.
Explain why the Pilgrims were not satisfied with Cape Cod and why they were satisfied with Plymouth.
Explain what readers learn from Lizzy about what life was like in the "New World."
Writing – 2 days
Write a few sentences describing the challenges and rewards of being in the New World.
Describe who the Wampanoag were and what they valued.
Describe key aspects of Wampanoag culture.
Analyze how the Wampanoag viewed the Pilgrims and explain why.
Explain how the arrival of European explorers impacted the Wampanoag.
Explain why Squanto chose to help the Pilgrims.
Use subordinating conjunctions to write more interesting and complex sentences.
Analyze what information is missing about the Wampanoag.
Describe the Wampanoag's relationship with the colonists.
Discuss unit essential question using information from multiple texts and sources.
Draft a paragraph describing what it was like to be a Wampanoag in 1621.
Analyze an account of the first Thanksgiving and explain what happened.
Analyze an account of the first Thanksgiving and explain what happened.
Discuss unit essential questions using information from multiple texts and sources.
Informative Writing – 4 days
Students will research, draft, illustrate, and create books to teach younger students about the real story of the First Thanksgiving.
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The content standards covered in this unit
— Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
— Ensure subject-verb and pronoun-antecedent agreement.
— Use coordinating and subordinating conjunctions.
— Produce simple, compound, and complex sentences.
— Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
— Capitalize appropriate words in titles.
— Describe the relationship between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text, using language that pertains to time, sequence, and cause/effect.
— Distinguish their own point of view from that of the author of a text.
— Compare and contrast the most important points and key details presented in two texts on the same topic.
— Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 3 topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.
— Come to discussions prepared, having read or studied required material; explicitly draw on that preparation and other information known about the topic to explore ideas under discussion.
— Explain their own ideas and understanding in light of the discussion.
— Speak in complete sentences when appropriate to task and situation in order to provide requested detail or clarification.
— Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.
— Introduce a topic and group related information together; include illustrations when useful to aiding comprehension.
— Conduct short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.
— Recall information from experiences or gather information from print and digital sources; take brief notes on sources and sort evidence into provided categories.
Standards that are practiced daily but are not priority standards of the unit
— Use conventional spelling for high-frequency and other studied words and for adding suffixes to base words (e.g., sitting, smiled, cries, happiness).
— Use spelling patterns and generalizations (e.g., word families, position-based spellings, syllable patterns, ending rules, meaningful word parts) in writing words.
— Consult reference materials, including beginning dictionaries, as needed to check and correct spellings.
— Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning word and phrases based on grade 3 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.
— Determine the meaning of the new word formed when a known affix is added to a known word (e.g., agreeable/disagreeable, comfortable/uncomfortable, care/careless, heat/preheat).
— Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate conversational, general academic, and domain-specific words and phrases, including those that signal spatial and temporal relationships (e.g., After dinner that night we went looking for them).
— Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words.
— Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.
— Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.
— Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 3 topic or subject area.
— Use text features and search tools (e.g., key words, sidebars, hyperlinks) to locate information relevant to a given topic efficiently.
— Use information gained from illustrations (e.g., maps, photographs) and the words in a text to demonstrate understanding of the text (e.g., where, when, why, and how key events occur).
— By the end of the year, read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, at the high end of the grades 2—3 text complexity band independently and proficiently.
— Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking clearly at an understandable pace.
— Create engaging audio recordings of stories or poems that demonstrate fluid reading at an understandable pace; add visual displays when appropriate to emphasize or enhance certain facts or details.
— With guidance and support from adults, produce writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task and purpose.
(Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1—3 above.)
— With guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, and editing.
— With guidance and support from adults, use technology to produce and publish writing (using keyboarding skills) as well as to interact and collaborate with others.
— Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.
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