Mr Weis’ Classroom Blog

November 23, 2009

An Hiftorical Perfpective on Thankfgiving

Filed under: Announcements,Homework — mrweis @ 9:55 pm
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(Yes, the title is spelled that way on purpose in an attempt by Mr. Weis to replicate the look of a leading s in old forms of English writing.  For more info on deciphering old handwriting and that pesky s that looks like an f, follow this link to a helpful article.)

When it comes to holidays, I usually start out by having students reflect on what they really know about the substance and history of the holiday.  Today we took a quick detour from our Age of Exploration Unit, and skipped ahead to the year 1621 to a place known as the Plimoth Colony. We began by formulating lists of what we really knew about the history of Thanksgiving as well as some questions we had about what really happened.

As we do our research, we will look at both primary and secondary sources.  Whenever we look into studying history, it is important to differentiate between primary and secondary sources.  Primary sources come to us straight from the period or people we are studying, while secondary sources are responses and resources that collect primary sources together with additional commentary.  For example, a map made in the 1620s by John Smith of the Massachusets Bay is a primary source.  A map made by a modern historian that plots the locations of all the American Indian and European settlements using previous maps, archeological resources, and modern geographical knowledge is a secondary source.  Secondary sources are important because they are one of the only ways to get a broad view of complex histories.  However, secondary sources also often include some commentary and bias, not to mention the fact that they don’t allow us to independently question and connect historical events and people together.  Looking at primary sources can sometimes be a great way to formulate our own opinions and observations.  Of course, we must still be mindful that primary sources bring with them the bias and perspectives of their creators, but that can also add to the complex lens that we must apply as we look back as critical thinkers and historians.

Through some careful research, the only 2 primary sources I was able to locate about the original Thanksgiving were a letter written by a Plimoth settler named Edward Winslow and references to oral histories of the Wampanoag people that their tribal leader Massasoit attended an event.  The people who run Plimoth Plantation as a living history exhibit today put together a nice website with lots of information and a step by step method of looking back at this information to both challenge and build on popular modern-day interpretations of Thanksgiving.  We began to look at the website today and will spend a little more time tomorrow.  You can take a look at the main Plimoth website here, and you can visit their site about Investigating the First Thanksgiving here. Next week we will resume our studies about the Age of Exploration and apply some of the learning about primary and secondary sources as the students begin their work on some projects.

Here is a copy of the letter Edward Winslow wrote in 1621 that was printed in a book called Mourt’s Relation in 1622.  See what you can learn about what might have happened from the letter.  Be careful as you read it because the letter s looks a lot like how we write the letter f today. Tomorrow I will post some more information about  the history of what is now celebrated widely in the United States as Thanksgiving as well as the results to the numerical estimation matching game we did in class today.


  1. Language Arts: Complete Poetry Packet Due (Interview, Planning, Rough Draft, Final Draft, Poem Info, and Practice)
  2. Mathematics:  Review mathematical concepts for Unit 3 Test tomorrow.
  3. Vocabulary:  It’s and Its sentences with past vocabulary.
  4. Reading:  Read for 25 minutes and fill out Reading Log.

Mr. Weis


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