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The First Thanksgiving
Pros: Pictures, videos, slideshows, and virtual tours of realistic recreations and people in period dress make history come alive.
Cons: Very heavily dependent on text explanations, and the limited and incomplete picture of European settler-native people relations is disappointing.
Bottom Line: Great way for kids to immerse themselves in history and get a special (though somewhat biased) peek at Thanksgiving's origins and people.
You'll definitely want to take advantage of the pre-made lesson plans and suggested extension activities included in the very detailed and extensive Teaching Resource section. Lesson plans are divided by grade level (PreK-2, 3-5, and 6-8) and include writing activities, arts and crafts projects, research, discussion, printables, and more. There are also many suggestions for how to incorporate the website for a variety of classroom set-ups (e.g., lab with computer for each kid, rotating stations, one-computer-classroom, etc.). These off screen activities may be the best place to get the youngest kids involved (The First Thanksgiving suggests their site for kids as young as preK) as the site itself may not be right for kids that young (with the exception of some videos, which teachers could show to the whole class and then discuss). There are also suggestions for books about Thanksgiving, and scripts for creating Thanksgiving skits and interviews with first-person accounts.
The First Thanksgiving, from Scholastic, provides an in-depth look at the Pilgrims and Wampanoag people, and the events surrounding their Thanksgiving celebration through videos, slide shows, pictures, virtual tours (e.g., of the Mayflower ship), and first-hand historical fiction accounts. Lots of the multimedia presentations show the Plimoth Plantation, a destination that recreates historical Pilgrim and Wampanoag villages, with actors in typical dress demonstrating life as it was. Most text includes an audio button so kids can also listen to the material as well as read it. The teacher's section includes detailed lesson plans that build on the themes presented on the site as well as suggestions for how to best use the website itself. Lesson plans also include alignments to Common Core standards.
Real people shown in authentic settings really make history come alive for kids. And short tidbits of text (or audio for kids who aren't strong readers) provide interesting information. Kids can get a good sense of what life was like through the variety of materials, likea videos, letters, and fictional but realistic "interviews/profiles" of historical characters.
Yet, learning is heavily dependent on text, some of which seems too complex for younger kids. The teacher resources include a wonderful collection of ways to explore the material hands on, but some interactive elements built into the website, such as games (for example, help a pilgrim build a house) might help engage kids at a deeper level. Information is in depth on a few select topics; daily life for Pilgrims and Wampanoag and the voyage on the Mayflower, but lacking and/or biased in others. A more realistic look at how the new arrivals and the native peoples got along would be nice, addressed in an age appropriate way, of course.