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Lesson Plan: The Pilgrim Story

Grade Level Grades 5-12


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In 1620, after years of preparation, a group of people took their belongings and sailed out of Plymouth, England. These pilgrims left their homes for a variety of reasons. In this lesson, students will view videos to learn about the people who were a part of this journey, how they established a new life with order in Plymouth, Massachusetts and developed relationships with native people in the region. The entire lesson can be accessed here.


  • SET-UP:

    This lesson offers several options for you to use with your students whether you are teaching in class, using a hybrid model, or engaging through distance learning. It can be completed in steps as a class or students can move at their own pace and complete the activities independently.

    You can post links to the videos in the lesson along with the related handouts and engage in discussion to share responses on a discussion board or learning management system.

    You can also save and share the following Google resources for students to use with this lesson.

    Vocabulary Chart: The Pilgrim Story (Google Doc)

    Note-taking Chart: The Pilgrim Story (Google Doc)

    Handout with Questions: The Pilgrim Story (Google Doc)

    Digital Slides with Activities: The Pilgrim Story (Google Slides)

    In Google, choose "File" then "Make a Copy" to get your own copy. You can make any needed adjustments in the instructions such as which activities students need to complete, when it is due, etc. and then make it available to them via Google.

  • WARM-UP:

    As a class, have students brainstorm what they know about the pilgrims. Some questions to consider are:

    • Who were the pilgrims?
    • Why did they travel to New England?
    • Why did they decide to settle in Plymouth, MA?
    • How did they interact with Native Americans?
    • How did they survive their first year?

    Ask students to view the two video clips below and respond to the accompanying questions. Then engage in class discussion to establish background information and clear up any misconceptions.

    VIDEO CLIP 1: Who Were the Pilgrims? (2:43)

    • Why was this group called pilgrims?
    • Describe the composition of the first groups of people that traveled to New England as Richard Pickering explained.
  • VIDEO CLIP 2: Touring the Barbican in 1620 England (3:33)
    • Describe the conditions of the area from where the pilgrims departed for their journey.
    • How would you have felt if you were there at that time, preparing for the expedition?

    Have students view the following video clips and respond to the accompanying questions. They can watch each video independently or view a video with a partner, prepare responses to the questions and share them in class discussion.

    VIDEO CLIP 3: Preparation for the Voyage (3:21)

    • What items did families bring with them when they traveled to New England?
    • Explain the significance of letters that were sent from early settlers back to England.
  • VIDEO CLIP 4: The Mayflower Compact (3:06)
    • How did the Pilgrims end up arriving in New England?
    • Explain the purpose of the Mayflower Compact.
    • According to Richard Pickering, why was the Mayflower Compact significant to the Pilgrims as they established their community?
  • VIDEO CLIP 5: Settling in Plymouth Harbor (1:17)

    Explain how the Pilgrims decided to settle in the Plymouth Harbor area.

  • VIDEO CLIP 6: New Beginnings for the Pilgrims (4:11)
    • Describe the living conditions and survival of the Pilgrims during their first winter in Plymouth.
    • Describe the initial meeting between native people and the Pilgrims in March 1621.
    • Explain the "special manner of rejoicing" feast that occurred after the first harvest.
    • How did the Pilgrims and native people each benefit from their relationship?

    As a class, ask students to reflect on the information they learned in this lesson. Circle back to the questions that were asked in the beginning of this lesson and have students share their thoughts. Did anything change?

    • Who were the pilgrims?
    • Why did they travel to New England?
    • Why did they decide to settle in Plymouth, MA?
    • How did they interact with Native Americans?
    • How did they survive their first year?

    After class discussion, have students complete one of the activities listed on the handout and slides, as well as below, to apply what they have learned in this lesson.

    Journal Entry: Students should write entries chronicling their experiences. Some ideas to consider:

    • Describe their experiences on board the Mayflower
    • Explain their living conditions once they established their home in Plymouth, MA
    • Describe their experiences at the feast after the first harvest
    • Share how they feel about leaving their home and living in the new colony
  • Write a Letter: Students can write a letter to a family or friend back in England. Students may consider:
    • Detail their experiences living in Plymouth
    • Suggest items they should bring when they travel to the new colony
    • Share how they feel about their new way of life and if they would recommend making the trip
  • Work Aboard the Mayflower! Students can view this short video to learn about work on the ship. They could imagine they played a role in working on the ship and describe their experiences.

    Maneuvering the Mayflower (2:22)

    On Mayflower II, a reproduction of the original ship, Plimoth Patuxet’s Maritime Preservation Director Whit Perry demonstrated the method of moving cargo, as well as how the ship was steered, in 1620.


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