Cherokee is one of the few Native American languages with its own writing system. Perhaps in part because of this, Cherokee is also one of the few Native American languages which has a growing — not a shrinking — number of speakers. Studying about the Cherokee writing system can not only help students understand an important part of American history, but also encourage them to think about language more deeply.
Understanding Written Cherokee
English uses an alphabet, with letters representing sounds. Cherokee is written using symbols to represent syllables. For instance, the Cherokee word for “you are going” is written “hega” phonetically in English. We need four symbols (letters) for the four sounds. In Cherokee, the same word is written with just two symbols: ᎮᎦ, one for each syllable.
The Cherokee syllabary was developed by a Cherokee man named Sequoyah, who was a silversmith. He wanted to write his name on his work as the English speaking silversmiths did. He began with logograms, symbols that represent whole words, but Sequoyah quickly decided that it would be impractical to make symbols for all the words he wanted to write. Instead, he started to develop a syllabary. There were first 115 characters but after revision, Sequoyah eliminated some and brought the number down to 85 when the syllabary was published. Another symbol was added shortly after to bring the total to 86.
The syllabary was developed in the beginning of the 19th century, and by 1830, it is said, an astonishing 90% of Cherokee were literate. Though the use of Cherokee and its syllabary decreased during the 20th century, courses are now being taught in Cherokee at the university level and there are efforts to teach the language and its writing system in schools, too.
- Hand out a copy of the Cherokee syllabary to each student accompanied by the worksheet.
- Review the concept of syllables. Compare the Cherokee syllabary and the English alphabet.
- Explain to students the history of the Cherokee syllabary written above.
- Play audio clips for students and have them listen to basic words in Cherokee.
- Using the syllabary, ask students to write out some of the words they hear and fill in the worksheet.
- Find Cherokee words for animals at Native-Languages.org. These have transliterations, or phonetic spelling of Cherokee words with the English alphabet. Have students work to write the words with the Cherokee syllabary.
- Have students choose a color word (from the worksheet) and an animal name and create an illustration of the animal they have imagined. Have them write the animal’s name and color on their illustration.
- Cherokee Language Worksheet
- The Cherokee Language and audio clips for worksheet
- Videos from a Eastern Cherokee speaker
- Cherokee Syllabary
Are your students clear about the difference between Pilgrims and Puritans? Understanding the differences between the two is important because they form the foundations of New England—without the differences between Pilgrims and Puritans, today’s northeastern states wouldn’t look the way they do. In fact, county lines in Massachusetts are drawn from the original border between territories of Pilgrims and Puritans.
Understanding the difference between Pilgrims and Puritans also help us understand other historical events. For instance, there’s the famous Puritan Cotton Mather, who wrote a number of influential books and treatises at the beginning of American history. His religious views impacted his writing and the predominate theories of his time, including views of witchcraft. Without Cotton Mather’s writings, the Salem Witch Trials might have taken a different turn.
The Pilgrims and the Puritans were both religious and political groups. Depending on your curriculum, you may want to go more deeply into these and related issues. If you’re taking advantage of a new slant on Thanksgiving, the background information below may be sufficient.
A good starting point is the lesson plan The Voyage of the Mayflower, which is designed to teach students about Pilgrims. Explain to students that during the 1500s, Henry VIII of England broke from the Roman Catholic Church and created a new church called the Church of England, today often called the Anglican Church. Since the head of the church was the king, everyone in England was required to belong to the Church of England. It was a hard time for Catholics in England, but it was also a hard time for some Protestants. Some groups didn’t believe that the king should be the head of a church and didn’t like the ways in which it resembled the Catholic Church.
One group was called the Separatists, and this group included the people whom we call the Pilgrims today. Under the leadership of William Bradford, the Pilgrims set sail on the Mayflower in September 1620 towards Virginia but ended up in Massachusetts and formed Plymouth Colony. Pilgrims believed that anyone could commune with God on their own terms by reading the Bible and they did not want to belong to the Church of England.
Another group was known as Puritans. The Puritans did not want to separate entirely from the Church of England; they wanted to make reforms or changes. King Charles I threatened the Puritans with harsh punishments if they did not conform to the views of the Church of England; therefore, they sought freedom in America. The Puritans received a charter from the Massachusetts Bay Company to settle land in New England. John Winthrop led approximately 1,000 Puritans to America and established the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The colonists wanted to base the colony on the laws of God. They believed that God would protect them if they obeyed his laws. Winthrop wanted to make this colony a model for all other colonies to follow. Like the other colonies, the Massachusetts Bay Colony established a government. All men who were church members were able to vote for governor and for representatives to the General Court. The General Court would then make laws for the good of the colony.
Tape large sheets of paper on two different walls. Label one “Puritans” and one “Pilgrims.” Pass out markers of one color and ask students to write as many facts as they can on the two sheets before beginning any research.
Watch this video and have students complete this worksheet. The resources below will help students fully understand the two groups.
Once students have completed the exercise, revisit the sheets of paper. Give out a different color of markers and have students cross out false information and add new information.
- US History Scene: The Puritans V. The Pilgrims
- Context and Developments, University of Virginia
- Full Video of How the States Got Their Shapes, Episode One
- Comparing two speeches, Stanford University
- 6th Grade Lesson Plan with worksheets
- Thanksgiving Day in Leiden KMZ to view in Google Earth
- Quizlet Pilgrims vs. Puritans flashcards
Thanksgiving just isn’t Thanksgiving without a turkey on the table for most families. This gives us a great opportunity to teach our students about turkeys, both domestic and wild, and to have some fun while we’re at it. This activity is great for younger children.
Thanksgiving Hand Turkey Art Lesson Objectives
- Develop fine motor skills
- Investigate animal facts
- Build color recognition skills
- Explore shape, texture, and pattern
- Distinguish between reality and fiction
- Read a Thanksgiving themed turkey story with your students. We have plenty of recommendations below.
- Show your students pictures of wild turkeys and domesticated turkeys. Discuss with students the difference between the two types of turkeys and the turkeys in the story you read. Students should look at colors, feather texture, size, and patterns on turkeys.
- Ask students to compare the real world turkeys in the pictures to the turkeys in the stories. Discuss with students how the turkeys in the stories behave and how they think real turkeys behave. Compare holiday themes to real-life animals by asking students to talk about turkeys they see for Thanksgiving and turkeys in the books and photos.
- Using paper and coloring supplies, ask students to trace one hand on three sheets of white paper. Then ask them to decorate one hand like a turkey in a story that represents Thanksgiving, one hand like a wild turkey, and one hand like a domestic turkey.
Still excited about turkeys? Check out our Turkey Lesson Plans for more ideas.
Learning about the Pilgrims and their journey to America is important to understanding the founding of our country and the history of the United States. The Pilgrims’ voyage on the Mayflower was full of hardships. Today, a replica named the Mayflower II sits in Plymouth Bay, where the Pilgrims eventually landed and settled in Plimoth. Plimoth Plantation is also a great field trip if you’re in the New England area — it’s a great opportunity teach your students first hand what living as a Pilgrim was like.
One way to understand the Pilgrims and the trials they went through to get to America is to experience a little bit of those trials through reenactment.
The Mayflower Voyage Reenactment Activity
To experience the Mayflower as best we can, we can take students on an imaginary journey from England to Plimoth. Young children can reenact the voyage together as Pilgrims and older students can read first hand accounts and documents from the events of the voyage to get in-depth knowledge of the history of the Mayflower.
Life Before the Voyage and Preparations
First, discuss with your students what the Pilgrim’s lives were like living in England. The Pilgrims were originally called Separatists because they were dissatisfied with the Anglican Church but because the king, King James I, was the head of the church, it was treason not to practice Anglicanism. The Pilgrims were prosecuted for their religious beliefs and fled to Holland where they could practice freely.
Explain to students that in England, they are not welcome because of what they believe. Have younger students pretend that others are picking on them for their beliefs. Older students can read a passage from the journal of William Bradford about the Separatists and their beliefs.
While in Holland, the Pilgrims had to work hard at menial jobs and life was difficult. They decided that settling in the New World was the only way they could live the way they wanted, free from prosecution. But Jamestown, the only English colony at the time, was full of Anglicans and they feared they would experience the same troubles as in England. So they decided to settle and start their own colony. Since England owned America, they had to return to England to get permission to go to America. They signed a land patent with the Virginia Company in London that granted them an area of land in Virginia on which to settle. They chartered the Mayflower to take them and joined up with more Separatists in England.
For younger students, you can print out a copy of a land patent and give it to your group of Pilgrims. Older students can read a passage from the journal of William Bradford about the decision to go to America.
The next step is to prepare for the voyage. The Pilgrims couldn’t take everything they needed and had to pick and choose what to take. While the Mayflower was one of the largest ships at the time, it is tiny by today’s standards. They prepared stores of food, chose which furniture to take, and packed the ship for the voyage.
Young students can best learn about the choices the Pilgrims had to make by having to choose between items. Print out different items, like clothing, tools, furniture, food, and other items. Ask students to pack a box together and decide what to take with them. Older students can read through documents of provisions and recommendations from settlers on what to bring with them.
The Voyage to Plimoth
The Mayflower itself was a small ship and the Pilgrims spent 66 days traveling from England to Plimoth, although that wasn’t their original intended destination. They lived in between decks in a small, cramped space with no fresh air and little to do and terrible food to eat. Soon after they left, a storm hit the Mayflower and blew her off course.
Build a “Mayflower” with your younger students but outlining a ship on the floor in tape just big enough for all the students to sit in together. Explain to them what life was like in the ship and ask them to sway back and forth. Ask them to pretend they’re smelly, that there’s little air to breathe, and that the food is bad to eat and has bugs in it. When the storm comes, ask students to pretend they are seasick, ask one to fall overboard and the others to save the student, and have students imagine the ship is being tossed in the angry ocean. Older students can use this interactive timeline.
After the storm, the Mayflower continued to America but first spotted land in Newfoundland, far north of where they intended to settle. They stopped for provisions and then attempted to navigate to the area they had signed the patent for but the waters around New England were treacherous so they made land on Cape Cod. After giving up and deciding to settle in the area, they went to the area now known as Plimoth.
Take younger students on the journey by using a map to explain how far the Pilgrims were off course and the path they took down the coast to Plimoth (named Plymouth today on maps). Asks students to pretend to get provisions in Newfoundland but decide not to stay there. Have one student spot land and ask all the students to exit the Mayflower and return to their seats. Older students can read first hand accounts of the last legs of the voyage and read the Mayflower Compact.
After taking the journey with the Pilgrims, ask your students to reflect on what the journey was like and how it formed our ideas of America today. Highlight that later when the United States was founded, religious freedom and tolerance were important parts of our decisions on how to govern our country, which we still use today. You can also connect this lesson to other lessons about bullying and tolerance in your classroom.
Ask students to write a journal entry about what they learned from experiencing the voyage of the Mayflower and what it was like to be a Pilgrim. Older students can write analysis of primary sources and reflect on how the Pilgrim’s voyage affected our country’s history.
- Pilgrim Hall Museum
- Primary Sources from the Mayflower
- Eyewitness to History on the Mayflower
- Scholastic’s Interactive First Thanksgiving and Mayflower website
- Online resources for If You Sailed on the Mayflower book
- Resources from Plimoth Plantation
- On the Mayflower: Voyage of the Ship’s Apprentice & a Passenger Girl by Kate Waters
- If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620 by Ann McGovern
- Mayflower 1620: A New Look at a Pilgrim Voyage by Plimoth Plantation
- American Documents: The Mayflower Compact by Judith Lloyd Yero
- Across the Wide Dark Sea: The Mayflower Journey by Jean Van Leeuwen
- Of Plimoth Plantation by William Bradford
Edgar Allen Poe was an American author and poet, and a master of the scary tale. Around Halloween, Poe’s stories are a great way to introduce older students to writing techniques like tone, perspective, and setting. Keep in mind that many of Poe’s stories might be too scary for younger children.
- “The Tell Tale Heart”
- “The Raven”
- “The Masque of the Red Death”
- “The Cask of Amontillado”
- “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”
- “The Fall of the House of Usher”
- “The Pit and the Pendulum”
- Choose one Edgar Allen Poe story for your class to read.
- Read about Edgar Allen Poe’s life to learn about what motivated him to write scary stories. The Poe Museum has a great history of Poe. Talk about impetus, how authors decide to write stories, and how their lives affect their work.
- Read one of Edgar Allen Poe’s stories out loud and call on students to read different parts of the story. Ask students to have pencil and paper ready. As they listen, have them note the creepy parts of the story. Do the stories start out spooky, or do they gradually become scary?
- After reading a story, ask students to identify different parts of the story and the plot. Have students identify the narrator and the narrative time throughout the story, including any changes and what they mean.
- Talk about literary techniques like hyperbole, repetition, irony, and foreshadowing, all of which often appear in Poe’s stories. The Poe Museum has teacher resources for identifying techniques used in two tales.
- Ask students to analyze the tone of the story by pointing out specific words in the story that appear often or have similar meanings. Write the words on sentence strips and add them to your word wall.
- Ask students to identify the emotions in the story and create their own artwork about those emotions.
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is a classic pictures book written by Charles M. Shultz, based on the comic strip Peanuts. You can read the book with your class or watch the video and be sure that you’ll have a fine seasonal experience without any scary moments.
Here are three lesson plans we like for upper elementary, to help incorporate this classic Halloween story into your curriculum.
The story has three main plot lines, each surrounding a specific character in the story. Linus, Charlie Brown, and Snoopy are the centers of the three different plot lines in the story. Most students think of a story as a single plot line, so using a plot line worksheet to examine the three plot lines of the story will help students grasp the idea completely.
After investigating the different main plot lines of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown , ask students to come up with their own plot lines for a Halloween story. Then group students into groups of three. Ask the students to write their own stories and to include all three plot lines in their group. It will make some zany stories, but is a lot of fun!
Points of view
In each main plot line, there are multiple perspectives on what’s happening in the story. For instance, in Linus’s plot line of waiting for The Great Pumpkin, Linus has one idea of what’s happening while Sally has another perspective. Sally thinks Linus is silly waiting for The Great Pumpkin but decides to go along.
When Snoopy rises up out of the pumpkin patch, Linus is convinced it’s The Great Pumpkin but Sally sees it is just Snoopy. Talk about each perspective with your students and how the different characters have different experiences of the same events in each plot line.
Divide students into groups and give each group one character from the book to work with. Let each group work out how their character saw the story, and have a volunteer from each group explain the events that took place from that character’s point of view.
Snoopy pretends to be a World War I flying ace and gets into aerial dog fight with the Red Baron. Although Snoopy’s dog house is not a real Sopwith Camel and Snoopy is not a real fighter pilot, his imaginary adventures are based on reality.
The Red Baron was the nickname of German Fighter Pilot Manfred von Richthofen, and students can learn more about him and about World War I at these websites:
Snoopy then goes to join Schroeder, who plays some WWI songs:
- “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary“
- “Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit-Bag“
- “There’s a Long, Long Trail“
- “Roses of Picardy“
Use these songs to discuss the history of WWI to explain what the war was like for the young men who fought in it, starting off with the first two songs that are jubilant about going to war and leaving home. Talk about how many of these young men had never left home before and fighting was an exciting opportunity. Then play the second two songs and talk about how the war wasn’t what people thought it would be and that many young men never returned home. Snoopy’s reactions to the songs are a good visual explanation for younger students about what these songs mean.