Thanksgiving is coming-up in a few weeks, so I thought another “The Best…” list was in order.
As with The Best Online Resources About Christopher Columbus, pretty much all the online resources accessible to English Language Learners tell the usual and uncritical story of Europeans and Native Americans. So the first part of this post shares those accessible links, while the second part lists online resources that I’ve found helpful to me in developing classroom lessons that try to demonstrate a Native American perspective.
Here are my picks for The Best Sites To Learn & Teach About Thanksgiving (not in a strict order of preference, but with the ones I think that are most accessible listed near the top):
Brainpop and Brainpop Jr. have two good Thanksgiving movies that provide closed-captioning. Unfortunately, both require registration — either as a free trial or as a paid subscription. Brainpop is only one of two sites on the entire Web that I think are worth paying for but, as I mentioned, you can also get a free trial. These are the only two sites on this list that are not free. Of course, I think they’re the best, too.
Scholastic has a good feature on The First Thanksgiving that provides audio support to the text and is very engaging.
Pilgrim Village is a simple E-Book, also from Scholastic, that provides audio support for the text.
EL Civics has an ESL Thanksgiving Lesson that provides a good overview of the holiday in an accessible way.
What Really Happened At Thanksgiving? is an interactive from Plimoth Village where players become investigative “historians.”
This is a nice listening exercise where students have to pick the words from a drop-down menu while listening to the text (about Thanksgiving) being read. The same site has a series of shorter Thanksgiving listening exercises.
Here’s a simple matching exercise to learn about Thanksgiving food.
Students can send Thanksgiving E-Cards and have links to them posted on teacher or student websites/blogs. The best ones are from Blue Mountain or American Greetings because they appear to host the card indefinitely on their sites.
The Pilgrims and the First Thanksgiving is a very accessible “web adventure” where students have to answer questions along the way.
Here’s an online Thanksgiving crossword puzzle from the Internet TESL Journal.
Thanksgiving in the USA and The First Thanksgiving in America from “Many Things,” the excellent resource for ESL/EFL activities. They are both multiple-choice “Fill-in-the-blank” exercises connected to Voice of America broadcasts, but very useful standing alone, too.
Heads-Up English has a good short article on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. Click on the headphones at the bottom of the page for audio support.
Time Magazine also has a slideshow on Black Friday called Shop Till You Drop.
Here’s another NY Times slideshow on the famous Macy’s Thanksgiving parade.
Eat, Drink, and Be Wary is the name of an interactive from the Sun-Sentinel newspaper in Florida. It shows images and descriptions of various holiday foods. If you click on them, you’ll then see how much exercise you have to do in order to “work off” each food’s calories. The online activity is accessible to Intermediate English Language Learners and I suspect will be fairly engaging for my students.
Elizabeth Barnwell has created a nice series of online flashcards about Thanksgiving. The language is accessible, and a good number have images, too.
Another slideshow, this time one of U.S. Presidents and the turkeys they “pardoned” as part of a Thanksgiving tradition.
Here’s a related slideshow from the Telegraph newspaper in the UK called What really Happens To The Turkey The President Pardons At Thanksgiving.
How about a slideshow called How Many Calories In A Thanksgiving Dinner?. Not only does it show the different foods that compose a typical Thanksgiving dinner, but it also shares the calorie content of each one.
Turkey Escape is the latest addition (tongue-in-cheek) to this list. As regular readers of this blog know, I believe using online video games with walkthroughs (the instructions on how to win the game) are good language-development tools for English Language Learners. You can read more about how I use them in this article. In “Turkey Escape” players get to develop vocabulary, reading skills — plus rescue a turkey from being served as the main course at a Thanksgiving dinner. Here’s the Walkthrough.
Read Write Web has 7 Fun Facts For Thanksgiving.
I’m going to add three more resources to this list. The caveat is that if you are going to use the most obvious and most accessible one, I believe it’s critical that at least one of the other two is also used.
The most visible engaging and accessible to English Language Learners is a new “talking story” with animation from The Weekly Reader called The Story of Squanto. It’s engaging and well-done. Unfortunately, it also doesn’t make any attempt at communicating anything other than the whitewashed version of the story.
I don’t consider myself to necessarily be the most “politically correct” person around, but to leave out even a mention of his life as a slave and the destruction of his people seems pretty insulting to Native Americans and to the student audience of the story. Jeez, I know Brainpop gets criticized, but even their Thanksgiving movie refers to the damage caused to Native Americans.
But I do think the Weekly Reader movie could be an excellent learning opportunity for students, one that I will be using next week with my students.
It could be a great lesson combining that movie with a lesson from Squanto Worksheet from EL Civics, along with questions like: What are the differences between the stories? Why do you think they are different? Are there examples in your own life or culture where the “public” story is different from what really happened?
I’ve also found two resources helpful in developing lessons that give a little more of a critical perspective to Thanksgiving. One is from Education World and is called Are You Teaching The Real Story of Thanksgiving? The other is an older blog post from Education Week titled Rethinking Thanksgiving (the post itself is thought-provoking, though the link within it is no longer active).
Of course, the most helpful resource is a book you can buy from Rethinking Schools (which is on The Best Teacher Resource Sites For Social Justice Issues). It’s called Rethinking Columbus.
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian has some exceptional resources providing a Native American perspective on Thanksgiving. I’m not sure how accessible they’d be to English Language Learners, but the lesson ideas can certainly be modified by teachers.
Rethinking Schools also published a good article, Rethinking Thanksgiving, that shares some lessons that include critical thinking.
Let’s Celebrate Thanksgiving is a brand-new online activity by Renee Manfroid.
President Obama pardons a turkey in this video.
Laurence Haquet creates great interactive books that are exceptional learning tools, including her book on Thanksgiving,
US presidents and Thanksgiving turkeys is a Guardian slideshow.
Presidential Thanksgivings Through The Years is a slideshow from the Washington Post.
The Top Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Thanksgiving is a slideshow from TIME Magazine.
Farmer Feeds Families For Thanksgiving is a CNN video.
Thanksgiving In Iraq is a video from ABC News.
Marine Thanksgiving is another ABC News video.
Myth and Truth: The “First Thanksgiving” seems like a nice lesson plan. It’s from Read Write Think.
What Really Happened? Comparing Stories of the First Thanksgiving is a great feature from The New York Times Learning Network. It has links to a lot of useful resources.
Here are some interactive online Thanksgiving quizzes that I’m adding to this list:
The CNN Challenge is probably the best one.
Thanksgiving Trivia Quiz from The Huffington Post.
The BBC has a quiz, too.
President Obama pardons a turkey in this Wall Street Journal video.
MSNBC has a similar Presidential Pardon video.
Presidents And Their Turkey is a LIFE slideshow.
What really happens to the turkey that the president pardons at Thanksgiving is a Telegraph slideshow.
Slate has a fun slideshow titled “Happy Thanksgiving!”
The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is the busiest travel day of the year. Here’s a slideshow from the LA Times showing how and why it is so crazy.
Ten Thanksgiving Myths Dispelled is a useful infographic.
Thanksgiving travel: Trains, planes, automobiles is a Washington Post slideshow.
Thanksgiving in Washington through the years is another Wash Post slideshow.
This Thanksgiving, measured success for a dedicated cook is one more Post slideshow.
A History Of Presidential Pardons is an ABC News video.
Reader Photos: The Thanksgiving Countdown comes from The New York Times.
CNN has several Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade videos.
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade 2010 is a slideshow from The Guardian.
The Sacramento Bee has a series of images of the Parade, too.
The Telegraph has a slideshow on the Parade, also.
Thanksgiving from the home front to the war zone is a slideshow from The Los Angeles Times.
Black Friday shoppers hit the stores is another LA Times slideshow.
Parade Floats By In New York is a Wall Street Journal slideshow.
The Wall Street Journal has a slideshow on troops celebrating Thanksgiving in Afghanistan
10 Things You Didn’t (Need to) Know About Turkeys comes from TIME Magazine.
Top 10 Feasts is a slideshow from TIME.
Why I’m Not Thankful For Thanksgiving is the title of a Rethinking Schools article written by a Native American.
“Rethinking Thanksgiving: Myths & Misgivings” is also from Rethinking Schools.
Tracing The History Of The Pilgrims is a New York Times slideshow.
Macy’s shows off new balloons for parade is a CNN video.
Thanksgiving In Space is another CNN video.
Waiting hours for free Thanksgiving turkeys is a CBS News video and article.
Thanksgiving for the troops is a CBS News slideshow.
Thanksgiving a newcomer to celebrations of Earth’s bounty is from MSNBC.
5 myths about Thanksgiving is from The Washington Post.
Free bird: Thanksgiving turkey pardons is a slideshow from The Mother Nature Network.
A Visual History of The Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade is a TIME slideshow.
Check out the Lemur Thanksgiving at the San Francisco Zoo.
Here’s a CNN video about the Traditions of Thanksgiving (it might not show in an RSS Reader)
Researchers are working hard to build a better turkey is from MSNBC. If you scroll to the bottom of that page, you’ll see a slideshow on the “Science of Thanksgiving.”
Millions Savor Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade is a video from MSNBC:
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade: A Look Back is a slideshow from ABC News.
Thanksgiving during tough times is a CBS News slideshow.
Classic Thanksgivings is a Newsweek slideshow.
Top 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Thanksgiving is a slideshow from TIME.
In Pictures: Thanksgiving in America is from The BBC.
Top 10 Thanksgiving Movie Scenes is a great slideshow, with video clips, from TIME.
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a NY Times slideshow.
At The Helm Of The Parade is a Wall Street Journal slideshow.
Technology That Kept The Pilgrims Alive is a slideshow from Discovery.
Black Friday is a TIME slideshow.
Here’s a video of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade from The Telegraph:
This new viral hit “It’s Thanksgiving” by Nicole Westbrook could be a fun song to play and sing with English Language Learners. It’s pretty fast, but students could just focus on certain lines. The song highlights other holidays, too, which is a nice bonus. It’s not like there are that many pop songs about Turkey Day.
Thinking Critically About Food in a Season of Plenty is from The New York Times Learning Network.
Here are all of English Central’s Thanksgiving-related videos.
What Was on the Menu at the First Thanksgiving? is from Smithsonian Magazine.
Here are videos of President Obama pardoning turkeys.
A Visual History of Presidents Petting Turkeys is from The Atlantic.
The Perfect Thanksgiving Music, Sung by One Human … and 300 Turkeys is also from The Atlantic.
The 8 most awkward Thanksgiving dinner scenes in movie history is from The Week.
A Thanksgiving Feast For The Ears And Eyes is from NPR.
Feel free to offer additional suggestions.
If you found this post useful, you might want to check out my other “The Best…” lists.
In addition, you can also subscribe to this blog for free.