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Thanksgiving, More Than a Thank You


A WebQuest for Grades 3-6




The U.S. Congress has decided to change the name of the holiday celebrated on the last Thursday in November. The name "Thanksgiving," the lawmakers say, doesn't capture the entire spirit of the day. The holiday should be a day for more than just giving thanks. Now, Congress has asked your class to help choose a better name.


Working in teams, your class will

  • brainstorm what the day called Thanksgiving is all about.
  • research Thanksgiving customs and experiences.
  • identify character traits that might be demonstrated in our Thanksgiving practices.
  • choose a new name for the holiday.
  • create a short PowerPoint presentation explaining your choice and reasons for it.


Working in groups of four, complete the following steps:

  • Step 1: As a group, brainstorm everything that comes into your minds when you think of the holiday called Thanksgiving. If you're stuck for ideas, try answering these questions: What do you do on that day? Who do you spend the day with? How do you feel on that day? What's your favorite part of the day? What do other people do on Thanksgiving? What special events happen in your community? Record your thoughts using a free online Webbing Tool. (Note: Don't print the web you create until step 6 and don't close the web until after you have printed it.)
  • Step 2: Have each member of the team choose one of the following roles:
    • The Historian: researches past Thanksgivings, beginning with the First Thanksgiving, and gathers at least 10 facts about the history of the day.
    • The Newspaper Reporter: researches the Thanksgiving events that happen in your community on Thanksgiving, and gathers at least 10 facts about them.
    • The Social Worker: researches character traits and makes a list of at least 3-5 traits other than gratitude.
    • The Team Leader: organizes the web, grouping similar thoughts under such headings as "Our Thanksgiving Traditions" or "Past Thanksgivings." The Team Leader also makes sure each group member is on time and on task.
  • Step 3: Each member of the team uses appropriate online resources as well as library resources, if available, to find the information needed to complete his or her assignment. Each researcher also should take notes about the research and create a bibliography.
  • Step 4: Team members share their research, beginning with the Social Worker, who lists 3-5 character traits other than gratitude that might be considered when choosing the holiday's new name. The Team Leader then types the character traits as new bubbles on the webbing tool. The Historian and Newspaper Reporter share the facts they have gathered, and the Team Leader records them on the web. The team matches each fact to a character trait, then completes and prints the web.
  • Step 5: The team chooses one character trait it thinks best fits the spirit of the November holiday, and creates a new name around that character trait.
  • Step 6: The team works together to create a PowerPoint presentation:
    • The Historian creates one slide with 3-5 bullets listing the most important facts about past Thanksgivings.
    • The Reporter creates one slide with 3-5 bullets containing the most interesting events that happen in your community at Thanksgiving time.
    • The Social Worker creates one slide listing 3-5 character traits and what they mean.
    • The Team Leader creates a title slide and two concluding slides. The first concluding slide presents the character trait the team decided should be emphasized on the November holiday and explains why that character trait was chosen. The final slide shows what your team thinks the new name for Thanksgiving should be.
  • Step 7: Each team member presents his or her slide(s) for the entire class, or the Team Leader presents his or her entire presentation.

The class votes on the best name to recommend to Congress.


History of Thanksgiving

  • The First Thanksgiving
  • Plimoth Plantation's You Are the Historian
  • Thanksgiving History, Customs, and Traditions

    Thanksgiving in Your Town
    Look for newspapers from your community, either online or in your library.

    Character Traits
    Click trustworthiness, respect, fairness, caring, and citizenship, then write their definitions.


    Your grade will reflect:

    • the accuracy of your research as demonstrated by your notes. (15 percent)
    • the quality of the activity assigned to your role. (20 percent)
    • the quality of your group's final presentation. (30 percent)
    • your contribution to the group process. (20 percent)
    • your role in presenting your group's work to your classmates. (15 percent)

    Read more about being the best person you can be. Each team member selects a book from this list, checks it out from the library, reads its, and shares its story and meaning with the rest of the group.

    Click here for the Thanksgiving Teacher Page.

    Article by Linda Starr
    Education World®
    Copyright © Education World

    Updated 11/06/2014