Number one for English language teachers

Webquest: Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving webquest by Gabrielle Jones includes activities designed to inform students about the history of Thanksgiving, the traditions practised today, typical food associated with Thanksgiving and how other cultures celebrate harvest time. It is free to all onestopenglish users.

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Thanksgiving is a national holiday celebrated in the USA and Canada. How much do you already know about it? Answer these questions in pairs or small groups:

1. When is Thanksgiving?
2. Why do you think people celebrate Thanksgiving?
3. What foods are associated with Thanksgiving?

Activity 1: The history of the Thanksgiving celebration

Visit: and read the first section entitled ‘Thanksgiving at Plymouth’. In pairs or small groups, look for the answers to these questions.

1. Who travelled on board the Mayflower and why?

2. Was their journey comfortable?

3. What route did their journey take?

4. What problems did the Pilgrims experience during their initial few months in New England?

5. Why was Squanto, a Native American, able to communicate in English with the Pilgrims?

6. What did the Pilgrims learn from Squanto?

7. Who were the Wampanoag and what was their relation to the Pilgrims?

8. Why did William Bradford organize a celebration?

9. What kind of food was eaten at the first Thanksgiving meal?

10. What differences are there between the Thanksgiving meal eaten by the Pilgrims and the one people eat today?


Is harvest celebrated in your country? If so, how is it celebrated?

Activity 2: A traditional Thanksgiving meal

Visit: Read the descriptions of typical Thanksgiving dishes and find the answers to these questions. Discuss the answers with your partner.

1. Which dish with an exotic background got a sweet addition in the twentieth century?

2. Which sweet nut dish has ancient origins?

3. Which food helped make a brand of soup more popular?

4. Which food is made from different ingredients, depending on the origins of the people cooking it?

5. Which food is very good for you and can be stored for a long period?

6. Which food made one woman very rich?

7. Which food got its name by mistake?

8. Which food probably wasn’t eaten at the first Thanksgiving meal because of lack of technology?


Which dishes have you already tried? Which would you like to try? Are there any which you wouldn’t like to try? Why not?

Activity 3: Thanksgiving traditions

You are going to read about some typical traditions in North America at Thanksgiving. Before you read the information on the website, decide whether you think the statements below are true (T) or false (F).

1. Many people watch tennis at Thanksgiving every year.

2. Shops often sponsored Thanksgiving parades.

3. Washing neighbours’ cars is the most popular way to help others in the community at Thanksgiving.

4. The White House is given three turkeys each Thanksgiving – two are dead and one is pardoned and not cooked.

5. The turkey that is kept is given a name chosen by the president’s family.

6. The president announces the official date of Thanksgiving every year.

Now visit: and check your answers.


Are any of these traditions similar in your country?

Activity 4: Thanksgiving in other cultures

Your teacher will assign you a student number. Read your section and make notes using information from the website.

Student 1

Go to: and read the sections on the Ancient Greeks and the Romans. Make notes on how they celebrated harvest time. Consider the following questions. Which god did they honour? What was the name of their festival? How did they celebrate it?

Student 2

Go to: and read the sections on the Ancient Chinese and the Hebrews. Make notes on how they celebrate(d) harvest time. Consider the following questions. Which god did they honour? What was the name of their festival? How did they celebrate it?

When you’ve finished, explain the traditions you looked at. Discuss any similarities and differences with your partner.

Activity 5: Round-up

Discuss the following questions as a whole class.

1. How much did you already know about the tradition of Thanksgiving?

2. What information surprised you?

3. What are the most important festivals and celebrations in your country or culture?

  • How are they celebrated? What do people eat and drink?
  • What are the origins of the celebrations? Have they changed over time?
  • What celebration are you most looking forward to?

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Oh dear sorry to hear that! We did actually update this a few weeks ago. it's possible the links have changed since. It would be great if you could let us know which links you're referring to.

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  • This piece needs to be updated. Several of the links have changed and/or have different information than what is asked in the questions. Also, some proofreading is necessary!

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