Thanksgiving Play

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SWBAT identify who is telling the story at different points in the text.

Big Idea

This is a fun lesson for students to analyze who is telling the story using a play.


10 minutes

Common Core Connection 

I interpret Common Core Standard RL.1.6 as an opportunity to teach students about character analysis by reading dialogue. We are more specifically trying to analyze the characters' traits and perspective by reading what they are saying in the plays.  This lesson is teaching this concept by presenting the class with a different type of text, a play.  So, in the play the characters' speak and that is how we learn their perspective. The play is mainly told through dialogue and some narration. One great thing about the Common Core Standards, is that they give opportunities for me to try to expose students to a wide variety of literature. Plays are great texts to use to teach RL.1.6!

So, there is a sequence of lessons that need to be in place to get the class to understand this standard. The first thing they need to know is who is actually speaking. I did several lessons on understanding the author's use of quotations for speakers.  Then comes helping the students understand the characters perspective, their feelings. The last lesson in the unit is actually on point of view. The point of view is the based on the characters perspective and often the story is in first person.

Lesson Overview

In the guided practice the students analyze the perspective of the Native Americans and the perspective of the Pilgrims in the play, The First Thanksgiving. The Pilgrim's tell about their appreciation and gratefulness by hosting the first Thanksgiving and inviting the Native Americans. The Native American's tell that they are grateful and appreciative to be included. This is evident as they accept the invitation to the first Thanksgiving.

The partner work begins with analysis of a different play. In this play the Native American Cinderella the content is presented in a way that shows traditions of Native Americans, like having specific criteria for a wife.  So, the king is fooled, because he is so specific. The content is presented as each lady is tested and fails. The last lady lies and passes the test to actually become the wife.

Also in the partner work the students work to analyze the lady who tells lies and actually gets to marry the king. So, the students come up with evidence from the text to support what she says to him. She lied to get what she wanted.


My big strategy for this lesson is asking the students, "What is the characters' perspective? How do the things they do show their perspective?" and "What are the characters traits?"

Students are seated in the lounge in heterogeneous groups; for more on my grouping strategy, see: peanut butter jelly partners. The grouping remains consistent as students move to their desks for guided practice.  I also use a transitioning strategy to keep students engaged throughout the lesson: transitions.

Opening Activity

I seat my class in the lounge area. I share a story as my activating strategy. This gets the students thinking and lets them learn a little more about me. I think making my lessons personal adds some engagement to the lesson. My students seem to be motivated by learning about me or hearing my take on things.

I ask the class if they have ever thought about what the Indians and Pilgrims said to each other at the First Thanksgiving.  I allow them to discuss with their assigned partner for about one minute.  Then one person shares their answer.  I explain that today we are going to have a play about the first Thanksgiving.

I say, "I can determine who is telling the story at different points." The class echos, tells a friend, and then they repeat it with me.  This develops ownership or the goal and makes the goal personal.

Guided Practice

20 minutes

 We echo read the play. There are some great vocabulary words in this text, but I do not preview them before reading.  I like to teach vocabulary in context.  I allow my students to develop their own meaning for words by using context clues and illustrations.  Before we read, I have in mind the vocabulary words I will stop at: compact, legacy, political, contract, and democracy. 

After the third reading, I engage the students in a discussion about the perspective of the Native Americans. To start the conversation I ask, "What character traits do we learn when we read about how the Native Americans accept the invitation to the first Thanksgiving?" The students talk to their partner: talk to partner strategy.  So, I listen to see if the students are able to make the connection that accepting the invitation says they are friendly. Then I allow one volunteer to share their thoughts. Next, I ask the class to show thumbs up if they agree with what their peer says. If they disagree by showing thumbs down then I ask them to explain themselves, so everyone can hear their reasoning. Then I can also confirm or disagree with the students to help direct them toward the idea I am looking for in the question.

Then we begin a discussion about the character traits or perspective of the Pilgrims. I ask, "What does inviting the Native Americans to the first Thanksgiving say about the perspective or character of the Pilgrims?" The students participate in partner talk. Then we have a class discussion about what they share. The entire class is assessed to see if they agree or disagree by showing thumbs up or down. Then a volunteers shares why they agree or disagree. I am looking for: They are grateful for their help and want to show their appreciation.


Partner Work

20 minutes

The students are given a grade level play  to analyze and create a graphic organizer with.  I always model the graphic organizer that I want my students to create.  This time the students create the graphic organizer on their own.  I am trying to get the students more independent in their tasks.

Students work in pairs to create several points and evidence about the perspective of the women that want to be the princess and the king.  So, I expect the students to list some character traits or the perspective of the different characters in the play. I do not put a limit or rubric up for this, because I do not want to limit my students.  I walk around and monitor, ask questions, and help group members finish the task. You may enjoy seeing the different levels of work:proficient workbelow basic student work, and modified student work. I also have two example of the students sharing their work with me as I walk around the room:student sharing and student sharing.

Student Reflection

5 minutes

This the time when several volunteers share their work and practice their speaking and listening skills. I know this is one activity that each child will want to share.  

Prior to the play I review the rules of speaking and listening.  This keeps me from having to correct any behavior. I say, "Criss cross applesauce, pockets on the floor, hands in their laps talking no more."


5 minutes

Each student tells their peanut butter jelly partner what they learned about how to determine the point of view of a character. Hopefully, somebody say that their actions and what they say really tells their message.  I listen to see what they are saying.  Then I share some comments.

Last I ask the students to restate the lesson goal.   I say, "I can determine who is telling different parts to a story." The class echos, tells a friend, and then they repeat it with me.  This develops ownership or the goal and makes the goal personal.