Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8

In this lesson plan, adaptable for grades 3-8, students explore BrainPOP resources to discover the true story of Thanksgiving.  After learning about the settlers’ dangerous trip to America and the struggles they met there, as well as the issues facing the Native Americans, students will take on the roles of settler or Wampanoag and interview each other about life in the Plymouth colony.  


Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Watch a BrainPOP movie and review resources about Thanksgiving.
  2. Take notes about the settler's struggles and about the Wampanoag's previous experiences with settlers from Europe.
  3. Prepare interview questions for a Wampanoag or a settler, and conduct an interview.
  4. Present the interview to the class.


  • Internet access for BrainPOP
  • Interactive whiteboard
  • Recording device, such as smartphone (optional)


  • Preview the movie Thanksgiving to plan for any adaptations. 
  • Assign the Thanksgiving Make-a-Map to the whole class.
  • Lesson Procedure:

    1. Display the Thanksgiving topic on the whiteboard. Invite a volunteer to read the description below the movie.
    2. Show a world map and have a volunteer find and point to England and then to Massachusetts. Explain that the latter is in New England, but that back in the 1600s this land had belonged to Native Americans for thousands of years.
    3. Tell students that in this movie, they’ll learn all about Thanksgiving, the national myth and the true story. Afterwards, they will take on the roles of the settlers and Native Americans and conduct interviews with each other.
    4. Show the movie Thanksgiving on the whiteboard to the whole class. Enable closed captioning to aid in student comprehension. Pause to explain and clarify as needed. 
    5. Allow time after the movie for students to independently explore some of the other Thanksgiving features. They can take the quiz, explore Related Readings, complete the Challenges, etc.
    6. Next, have students open their Make-a-Map assignments (or if not assigned, just open Thanksgiving Make-a-Map). Instruct them to watch the movie again independently, this time taking notes about the struggles of both communities, including how the Separatists dealt with the "new world" and how the Wampanoag community had already changed due to European settlers. Remind the class that they can include video clips and images to their concept maps. Allow time for this activity, walking around the classroom and helping as needed. Encourage students to include details they may have learned about in some of the other features, such as the Related Reading articles.
    7. Remind students that they will be conducting interviews either as a settler or a Wampanoag. To prepare for this next step, show the movie Conducting an Interview to the whole class.
    8. Now divide the class into pairs, with one student taking the role of a settler and the other a Wampanoag. Using notes from their concept maps, have students draft a set of interview questions for their partner. So students who are settlers are to write questions for the Wampanoag and vice versa.
    9. Allow time for students to review the questions and answer them in writing. Have pairs practice their interviews.
    10. When ready, students present live to the class, or record their interviews.
    11. After everyone has presented, bring the class together to share what they learned about the history of Thanksgiving.

    Extension Activities:

    Use Make-a-Movie to produce a BrainPOP-style movie of the  interview.