American Thanksgiving 8 Th

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American Thanksgiving

8Th Grade U.S History DBQ Lesson

Take a journey as a class and discover the first Thanksgiving in the New American Colonies


Students will be able to describe the events that led up to the first thanksgiving, how the events took place. Students will use prior knowledge, and the information in their textbooks to gain the background knowledge needed to complete the DBQ lesson. Students will read a children’s book that explains the first thanksgiving and a little on the life the pilgrims had. Students will then have a chance to analyze some pictures, and article from a primary source set the Library of Congress have made available. Students at the end of this lesson will be able to explain “What really took place at the First Thanksgiving, and what events led to it”?

Items needed:


Printed Primary sources from the Library of Congress ( enough for every table to have 2)

( See Below)

A copy of the book “The Pilgrims and the First Thanksgiving” by Mary Englar

A printed copy of the primary source analyzes worksheet. (one for every student)
A copy of the DBQ questions which can be found at the end of this lesson.
Background Teacher Guide from Library of Congress:


In your classroom group students in sets of 4, and on the board write this question. Why was the first thanksgiving an important event to the Colonist, the Native Americans and to the future of America?

Explain to your students over the next few day you are going to be studying about American first thanksgiving, you will be reading the story “The Pilgrims and the First Thanksgiving” by Mary Englar, and studying primary sources from the Library of Congress.


Have the students individually on a sheet of paper write down 4 things that think of when they hear first thanksgiving. Then read to the students the book “The Pilgrims and the First Thanksgiving”. After reading the story have students in their groups work on writing down all the things they observed in the pictures, and what the story says about thanksgiving. Have students make questions they would ask to those early colonists about first thanksgiving.

Day 2:

Print out the primary sources from the library of congress primary source set from the address below.

Place about 2 or 3 at each table and allow the student’s time to look over them and observe what is taking place in the pictures. Hand out the Analyze a primary source worksheet that can be accessed from the web link.

Allow students enough time to complete a worksheet for all photo’s the group has been given, then as a class have a discussion on the photos that were given out

Day 3:

Have students answer the DBQ question individually, then allow for a group discussion. After all groups have had enough time to discuss the DBQ questions, have a class discussion on the DBQ, making sure all students understand the importance of the first thanksgiving.

For Homework: Assign a small essay on what students have learned over the past 3 day, and if they were in the position the colonist would they have done anything different.

Primary Sources:

  1. The First Thanksgiving 1621

This photo should be used to help explain what we think Thanksgiving is.

  1. A proclamation for a day of fasting and prayer November 21, 1678

This is a document that was sent from England to tell the settler to take a day for fest and Prayer

  1. School children's Thanksgiving Games, 11/27/11

This photo will allow students to use critical thinking skills as they try and figure out what is taking place.

  1. Royal Progress", Pilgrim Tercentenary Pageant, Plymouth, Mass., 1921

Can be used with the lesson as it makes students question some of the activities that led up to the feast

  1. Landing of the pilgrims

This photo can get students to think of how all groups come together to enjoy the first Thanksgiving.

  1. Thanksgiving

This cartoon drawing is not from the first Thanksgiving, but allows students to look and see how thanksgiving might have been treated as the years went by.

  1. First Thanksgiving by: Block, Herbert, 1909-2001

Small photo of a cartoon drawing, have students use critical thinking skills to try and create a dialogue for this cartoon, that has to include topics that refer to America’s first Thanksgiving

  1. The First Thanksgiving in the New World.  By Marylyn Wynn

This Photo comes from a secondary source, have students compare and contrast this photo with the First Thanksgiving photo from the Library of Congress. What are some things that are similar or different.

  1. The Pilgrim's First Thanksgiving

This is a secondary photo that will allow students to view what the Pilgrims thought of the First thanksgiving.

  1. A Thanksgiving toast

This photo from the Library of Congress will allow students the chance to think about what this group of people think about thanksgiving years after the First Thanksgiving.

Follow up DBQ Questions

For each photo have the students answer the following questions.

  1. Divide the photo into quadrants and discuss the people you see in each part.

  2. How does this photo show how life was different compared to now?

  3. What questions do you have about the image/title?

  4. Put yourself somewhere in the photo, tell me what you hear, smell, see, taste, or any other observations you might have?

  5. Why is it important to understand what the First Thanksgiving was like, and how does that understanding effect your knowledge of Thanksgiving from today?

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