Free Five-Day Literature-Based History of Thanksgiving Unit Study...Includes Printable Schedule and Notebooking Pages

One of the things I’ve loved over the years as I’ve homeschooled is holiday unit studies. The holidays are a great time to take a break from regular curricula and do a unit study that the whole family can enjoy together.

Taking time to do a holiday-themed unit study isn’t wasting time. Although the unit study can be very fun and hands-on, there is also lots of history – American and world- surrounding many of our holidays. So a holiday unit study is a perfect time to include those bits of history.

This Thanksgiving unit study looks at the history of the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving. It includes history, language arts, and science activities. Most of the books I’ve included are picture books because of time constraints, but you can certainly adapt this unit study for multiple ages, and I’ve included some Thanksgiving-themed books for older kids at the end.

Free Thanksgiving unit study

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You can pick up a free printable packet that includes the daily schedule and notebooking pages here. In this post, you’ll find each a more detailed description of the daily activities as well as daily booklists. There are at least five books listed for each day, and you may not read all five. Keep additional books in a book basket for kids’ independent reading time for the duration of the unit study.

Day One- Who were the Pilgrims?

Books to Read

The Story of the Pilgrims by Katharine Ross and Carolyn Croll

The Pilgrims of Plimoth by Marcia Sewall

Don’t Much About the Pilgrims by Kenneth C. Davis

Colonial America History for Kids : What Was It Like to Travel in the Mayflower? by Baby Professor

Why We Have Thanksgiving by Margaret Hillert


HISTORY/WRITING– Read Who Were the Pilgrims from the Plimoth Plantation site. Have the kids record five facts about the Pilgrims on their notebooking pages. Younger children can dictate facts.

ART– Kids can make their own cut and color pilgrims (and Native Americans) with this cute free template.

HISTORY- Kids can explore this virtual field trip– The First Thanksgiving- from Scholastic. This site has an awesome free printable pack to go with the Scholastic virtual field trip.

HISTORY/DRAMA- Find the story of the Pilgrims and how to act it out with Legos with this activity.

ART- Study this painting of the Pilgrims before they left Holland by Robert Weir. Discuss the painting with the kids, pointing out some of the people (there is a key below the painting) and talking about why the Pilgrims were leaving and how they must have felt.

Day Two- How did the Pilgrims come to America?

Books to Read

The Mayflower by Mark Greenwood

…If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620 by Ann McGovern and Anna DiVito

The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower, or John Howland’s Good Fortune by P.J. Lynch

You Wouldn’t Want to Sail on the Mayflower by Peter Cook

On the Mayflower by Kate Waters


ART– After reading about the Mayflower voyage, kids can make their own Mayflower with this craft.

STEM- Kids can build a tinfoil boat for the Pilgrims and experiment with it with this activity. There’s a free printable sheet to record results.

HISTORY- Explore the Pilgrims, life on the Mayflower, the Mayflower journey, and more at Kids can record information on their notebooking pages as they learn.

WRITING- Have the kids write a story- If I Were on the Mayflower- about life on the ship. Younger children can draw or dictate a story.

HISTORY/CRITICAL THINKING– This activity from has the original Mayflower Compact and guides kids through considering whether or not they would have signed. (You need a free account with to download.)

GEOGRAPHY- Use this free printable mapping activity to follow the Pilgrim’s journey on the Mayflower. (You can also use this interactive map to see the route.)

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Day Three- What was life like in Plymouth Colony?

Books to Read

Three Young Pilgrims by Cheryl Harness

Sarah Morton’s Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Girl by Kate Waters

Pilgrims of Plymouth by Susan E. Goodman

Samuel Eaton’s Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Boy by Kate Waters

The New Americans: Colonial Times: 1620-1689 by Betsy Maestro


HISTORY/CRITICAL THINKING– After reading about the lives of the Pilgrims, use the Venn diagram in the free notebooking pages set to compare life with the Pilgrims to our life today.

SCIENCE/COOKING- Kids can make their own butter like the Pilgrims with this edible science activity.

ART- The Native Americans helped the Pilgrims survive by planting corn. Use stamping in this Indian corn craft.

HISTORY- Kids can take a virtual field trip to see the life of a Pilgrim. (Use this information for the Venn diagram activity tomorrow.)

CRAFT- Dye a shirt the way the Pilgrims would have- with onion skins.

COOKING- Create a recipe that the Pilgrims would have made with the instructions here.

SCIENCE- Read about how weather affected the Pilgrims during their first winter. Compare the weather conditions they faced with weather in your area.

Day Four- Who were the Native Americans the Pilgrims met?

Books to Read

Squanto’s Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving by Joseph Bruchac

The Very First Americans by Cara Ashrose

North American Indians by Douglas Gorsline

The Wampanoag by Kevin Cunningham

Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving by Eric Metaxes


HISTORY/CRITICAL THINKING-Use the Venn diagram in the printable pack to compare the lives of the Indians with those of the Pilgrims.

ART/HISTORY- Create a diorama that shows how the Native Americans lived. You can learn more about creating a diorama here.

ART- Create a Native American headdress with the instructions here.

HISTORY- Kids can take a virtual field trip to see the life of a Native American.

COOKING- Create a Wampanoag recipe with the instructions here.

SCIENCE- After reading about the crops that the Indians helped the Pilgrims to grow, do this Sprouting Indian Corn science activity.

Day Five- What happened on the first Thanksgiving?

Books to Read

The Pilgrims’ First Thanksgiving by Ann McGovern

The Thanksgiving Story by Alice Dalgliesh

The First Thanksgiving by Jean Craighead George

The First Thanksgiving by Linda Hayward

The Very First Thanksgiving Day by Rhonda Gowler Greene


READING COMPREHENSION– Use this free printable newspaper- The Thanksgiving Times- to review the Thanksgiving story. The circled numbers correlate with questions you can ask the kids.

HISTORY- Watch this video to hear kids relate the story of the first Thanksgiving.

HISTORY- On this last day of the unit, use this fun walk through Thanksgiving history activity as a review. There’s a free printable timeline here to help.

DRAMA- Get the family or some friends together and perform this Thanksgiving play.

DRAMA/COMPREHENSION- Use the free printable here to make puppets to use in retelling the story of the first Thanksgiving.

Books for Older Readers

1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving by Catherine O’Neill Grace

Mayflower 1620: A New Look at a Pilgrim Voyage from National Geographic

Pilgrim Stories by Margaret Pumphrey

The Landing of the Pilgrims by James Daugherty

Thanksgiving on Thursday by Mary Pope Osborne

Pilgrims: A Nonfiction Companion to Magic Tree House #27: Thanksgiving on Thursday by Mary Pope Osborne

Free Thanksgiving unit study

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