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Lesson Plan

Packing the Pilgrim’s Trunk: Personalizing History in the Elementary Classroom

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Packing the Pilgrim’s Trunk: Personalizing History in the Elementary Classroom

Grades K – 2
Lesson Plan Type Unit
Estimated Time Nine 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Devon Hamner

Devon Hamner

Grand Island, Nebraska

Publisher

National Council of Teachers of English

 

Student Objectives

Session One: An Introduction to the Pilgrims

Session Two: Preparing for the Mayflower Voyage

Session Three: Packing for the Trip on the Mayflower

Session Four: Our Treasure Boxes

Session Five: Pilgrim Children and Us

Session Six: The Life of a Pilgrim Child

Session Seven: The Pilgrim Child's Role in Farming

Session Eight: Planning Our Own Harvest Feast of Thanksgiving

Session Nine: Celebrating!

Extensions

Student Assessment/Reflections

 

STUDENT OBJECTIVES

Students will

  • investigate the Pilgrims—who they were and why they came to America.

  • problem solve and evaluate items needed for coming to the New World.

  • compare life today with the life of Pilgrims.

  • learn about Pilgrim farming techniques.

  • understand and be able to communicate why the Pilgrims had a harvest feast.

  • compare and contrast your life with the life of the Pilgrims and the life of the Wampanoag.

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Session One: An Introduction to the Pilgrims

  1. Encourage students to share what they already know about the Pilgrims. This can be recorded on a KWL chart, which can be added to each day of the theme.

  2. Read and discuss books about the Pilgrims, their voyage on the Mayflower, and their first year in America such as the following:

  3. Invite students to share their own stories of moving to another place. Encourage students to share their feelings as well as the events of their move. Ask students how their moves were like or unlike the Pilgrims' journey. If there is time, you can read children's books about moving.

  4. As a journal entry, ask students to draw and write about something they've learned about the Pilgrims.

  5. Send home a note to the families telling them about your exploration of the lives of the Pilgrims. Invite families to help their children collect items they would want to take with them on such a move to a faraway place. Ask them to help their children put the treasures in a shoe box or other small box and send them to school for Session Four.

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Session Two: Preparing for the Mayflower Voyage

  1. The teacher is invited to dress up and play the part of a Pilgrim living in England, or invite a guest speaker to portray the part.

    • Explain to the students your reasons for wanting to come to America, your hopes and fears about your new life there.

    • Explain that there is limited space aboard the Mayflower, but that you need to pack items for your life in a new world.

    • Invite the students to help you choose items to take with you in your trunk.

    • Help the students brainstorm and record a list of items you might want to take with you.

    • Review the list and help students decide what items need to be eliminated because they hadn't been available in the 1600s.

    • Save the revised list.

    • Before the next session, collect as many of the actual items as possible for students to use as they help you pack your trunk.
  2. Did this discussion bring up any new thoughts about moving from the children? You can use this time to have students again share their own stories about moving and the feelings they experienced.

  3. Update your KWL chart.

  4. Provide time to explore other books about the Pilgrims and Websites about Pilgrims and Plymouth.

  5. As a journal entry, ask students to draw at least three things that a Pilgrim might need to take on his or her trip.

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Session Three: Packing for the Trip on the Mayflower

  1. Read and discuss a book about the Mayflower voyage such as On the Mayflower: Voyage of the Ship's Apprentice & a Passenger Girl by Kate Waters.

  2. Review the items from the list created yesterday. Encourage the students to revise the list as needed: Did they think of new items that would be necessary for life in America? Should any items be removed from the list?

  3. Display two trunks, an older wooden trunk that might have been similar to one used by the Pilgrims and a plastic storage crate that we might use today.

  4. Provide an assortment of items to pack. A sample list of things that might be included is provided, but also try to include items the students generated on their packing list in the previous session.

    • Have the students sort the items that might be included in the Pilgrim's trunk and which might be items you would pack for a journey today. (Note: Some items might fit in both trunks.)

    • The students will need to problem solve and evaluate their choices. Will everything that is chosen fit in the trunks? What will be needed and what might have to be left behind?

    • Encourage students to discuss each of the items and their reasons for including it in the trunk(s).

    • In small groups or in pairs, encourage the students to share what they have learned from packing the two trunks. What items are the same? Which are different? Why would the two trunks not have the exact same items?

    • Meet again as a whole group and encourage students to share their observations and ideas.
  5. As a journal entry, ask students to draw and write about the Mayflower and the voyage of the Pilgrims.

  6. Update the KWL chart.

  7. Provide time to explore other books about the Pilgrims and Websites about Pilgrims and Plymouth.

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Session Four: Our Treasure Boxes

  1. Encourage the students (in whole group, small group, or paired format) to share their treasure boxes. Suggest they discuss questions such as:

    • What would you take with you if you were moving to a new land?

    • Why did you choose these items?

    • What items did you want to bring, but were just too big to fit in your box?

    • What other items did you think about putting in your box? Why did you decide not to include them?

    • What was hardest to leave behind?
  2. Encourage students to think about their treasure boxes and the decisions they had to make. Discuss this question: How were the decisions you had to make when you packed your treasure boxes like the choices the Pilgrims had to make when they packed for their trip on the Mayflower?

    • Was there enough room on the Mayflower to allow them to take their beds and furniture?

    • Do you think they had to leave lots of things behind, things they really cared about?

    • What kinds of things do you think they might have had to leave behind?

    • How do you think that made them feel?
  3. As a journal entry, ask students to draw and write about items chosen for their treasure boxes.

  4. Provide time to explore other books about the Pilgrims and the Websites about Pilgrims and Plymouth.

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Session Five: Pilgrim Children and Us

  1. Read and discuss more books about the Pilgrims, such as Kate Waters' books Samuel Eaton's Day: A Day in the Life a Pilgrim Boy and Sarah Morton's Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Girl.

  2. Discuss the clothes the Pilgrim children wore in these books. Compare and contrast with the clothes kids wear today.

  3. Discuss how the children had to stand to eat, how they could only speak at the table when spoken to, how they had to eat off of pieces of wood and share cups if their families didn't have enough wooden bowls or plates. Ask the students about the rules or expectations at their own homes.

  4. Compare and contrast our lives with those of the Pilgrims, discussing how our lives are different from the Pilgrims and how they are the same.

  5. Working as a class, in small groups, or in pairs, students could fill out the Interactive Venn Diagram, using the information from the class discussion.

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Session Six: The Life of a Pilgrim Child

  1. Introduce new information about the Pilgrims including such interesting facts as:

    • Pilgrims bathed about once a month in warm months and less often in the winter.

    • Schools weren't established for some time, so most children were taught at home. Often only boys were taught to read and write.

    • There were few toys or books.

    • Both girls and boys wore dresses when they were small. Boys were allowed to start wearing "breeches" when they were about seven years old.

    • Children seldom had more than two outfits, not a whole closet of clothes.

    • Children were expected to do chores for most of the day with little time to play.
  2. Read related books or visit appropriate Websites to look at children's clothing.

  3. As a journal entry, ask students to draw a picture of what they might wear if they were Pilgrim children. Ask them to include something they might do during their day if they were Pilgrim children.

  4. Update the KWL chart.

  5. Provide time to explore other books about the Pilgrims and Websites about Pilgrims and Plymouth.

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Session Seven: The Pilgrim Child's Role in Farming

  1. Review the books that talk about the hard winter that the Pilgrims had during their first months in America. About half of the Pilgrims died because of lack of food and illness. Discuss questions such as the following:

    • Why were the Pilgrims lucky to learn about farming from Native Americans the next spring?

    • What things did the Native Americans teach the Pilgrims about planting and hunting for food?
  2. Dramatize the process of harvest in Pilgrim times recorded in Samuel Eaton's Day: A Day in the Life a Pilgrim Boy:

    • Reap the grain with a sickle.

    • Bind the grain into sheaves and stack them to dry.

    • Thresh them by beating them and knocking off the heads of grain.

    • Save the straw to thatch your roof, fill your mattress, and use as bedding for your animals.

    • Winnow the grain by putting it in big pans or baskets and tossing it into the air to get rid of the husks.

    • Grind the grain into flour with a mortar and pestle.

    • Make bread.
  3. Compare and contrast harvest activities in Pilgrim times with how we harvest crops today using tractors, combines, trucks, and so forth. Again, students could use the Interactive Venn Diagram to record their discussions and comments.

  4. Discuss why the Pilgrims were so grateful for a good harvest that fall.

    • How did they hope this winter would be compared to their first winter in America?

    • Why would that make them want to celebrate with a harvest feast that we now call the first Thanksgiving?
  5. As a journal entry, ask students to draw a picture of farming and planting the way the Pilgrims would have done it in the 1600s.

  6. Send home the note about the celebration on the last day of this theme exploration.

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Session Eight: Planning Our Own Harvest Feast of Thanksgiving

  1. Read and discuss books that encourage children to think about things they are thankful for such as: Thanksgiving Is For Giving Thanks by Margaret Sutherland and Feeling Thankful by Shelley Rotner and Sheila Kelly.

  2. Compare and contrast our modern Thanksgivings with that of the Pilgrims by reading and discussing a book such as Giving Thanks: The 1621 Harvest Feast by Kate Waters.

  3. Plan your own harvest festival of Thanksgiving. What do we do today that is similar to the Pilgrims? What is different?

  4. Encourage the students to celebrate the things they are thankful for by decorating place mats with some of their favorite people and things.

  5. Complete the KWL chart and look up any information you haven't yet found the answers to.

  6. As a journal entry, ask students to draw a picture of the Pilgrim's harvest festival. Draw another picture of how they will celebrate Thanksgiving this year.

  7. Visit the Plimoth Plantation Website to see and hear about a comparison between a Pilgrim child and a Wampanoag child.

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Session Nine: Celebrating!

  1. Review favorite books shared during the study of this theme.

  2. Make cornbread and johnny cakes, foods also made by the Pilgrims for their harvest festival.

  3. Collect the fruit brought by each student and prepare a friendship salad to share and enjoy with the cornbread.

  4. Set the table with the place mats decorated yesterday.

  5. As you share the treats, discuss what the Pilgrims were thankful for and what you are thankful for.

    • Are some of those things the same?

    • What things are different?
  6. Discuss the following questions together to reflect on the project:

    • Who were the Pilgrims and why did they come to America?

    • Why did the Pilgrims have a harvest feast?

    • How are you and the Pilgrim children the same?

    • How are you and the Pilgrim children different?
  7. Allow the students to complete their journals by drawing and writing about what they've learned about the Pilgrims.

  8. Encourage them to share their favorite journal entries. Allow them to take their journals home and share them with their families.

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EXTENSIONS

  • Invite families or community members to share stories of their own journeys to America. Some of these could be very recent immigrants.

  • Read and discuss books such as Eve Bunting's How Many Days to America? or Dreaming of America: An Ellis Island Story.

  • The journal entries by the students can be made into a mini-book using the Stapleless Book interactive or the Printing Press.

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STUDENT ASSESSMENT/REFLECTIONS

Through the journals, the level of participation by students during the activities and discussions, the preparation of the KWL chart, and through the quality of answers and responses given to the questions during the final reflection time, the teacher will assess the students’ knowledge levels and understandings.

  • Journals
    Use students’ entries as learning logs to record what is learned during this lesson. Encourage students to share their journals with a partner or a small group each day and to share their favorite entries with the whole group during the celebration that concludes this lesson. These journals are a good way for students to share what they learned with their parents and family members when they take them home at the end of the study of this theme.

  • Oral Reflection Questions
    These questions, asked as part of the final reflection and discussion following the celebration feast, provide the opportunity to determine whether students have met the objectives for the lesson. Take advantage of the opportunity during this discussion to ask follow-up questions that challenge students to connect their own stories with those of the Pilgrims, making connections as they compare and contrast their experiences. This informal assessment also provides opportunities to correct any misconceptions and make suggestions for further study.

    • Who were the Pilgrims and why did they come to America?

    • Why did the Pilgrims have a harvest feast—a feast now known as the first Thanksgiving?

    • How are you and the Pilgrim children the same?

    • How are you and the Pilgrim children different?


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