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Lesson Plan

Myth and Truth: The "First Thanksgiving"

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Myth and Truth: The "First Thanksgiving"

Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Three 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Traci Gardner

Traci Gardner

Blacksburg, Virginia


National Council of Teachers of English



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By exploring myths surrounding the Wampanoag, the pilgrims, and the "first Thanksgiving," this lesson asks students to think critically about commonly believed myths regarding the Wampanoag Indians in colonial America. Students will begin by considering the difference between myth and historical truth by reading "Of Plymouth Plantation" by William Bradford.  They will then, in a full-class discussion, reflect on common myths related to the first Thanksgiving.  By using a "myth-breaking" process, groups of students will further explore one myth commonly believed about the Wampanoag and the pilgrim settlers.  Finally, students will share thier findings in group presentations.

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Behind every myth are many possible truths allowing us to discover who we were as peoples and who we are today. Although few young people realize it, understanding the myths that are part of their lives (throughout their history and in the present) is an important activity because their values and beliefs have been shaped by the stories they have grown up knowing, by the education they have received, and by the landscape within which they have lived. All these contexts have contributed to their world views as individuals, as members of families, and as members of communities.

This lesson, adapted from Dorothea Susag's Roots and Branches: A Resource of Native American Literature-Themes, Lessons, and Bibliographies explores myths regarding the Wampanoag, the Native Americans who interacted with the pilgrims in Massachusetts, traditionally thought of as the participants in the "First Thanksgiving."

Further Reading

Susag, Dorothea M. 1998. Roots and Branches: A Resource of Native American Literature-Themes, Lessons, and Bibliographies. Urbana, IL: NCTE.

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