Say "Huzzah" This Thanksgiving! Activity

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Updated on Sep 5, 2014

This Thanksgiving, teach your child some words that Pilgrims would have spoken to each other back in the 1620's. While you're at it, we've found some words that our ancestors' new Native American neighbors passed along, too.

For some lively conversation this holiday, here’s a short translation sheet to share with your kids. For little ones, we expect that the words will be pretty challenging just to say; but for second graders and up, this is a great chance to expand language arts learning, and to reinforce social studies learning about time, social customs, and community. It’s also really good, old-fashioned fun.

What You Need:

What You Do:

  1. You can always just print out our “Plymouth Talk” sheet, and hand it around. But for even better effect, we recommend that you start with some questions. Have kids studied anything about Pilgrim or Native American words at school? What do they know?
  2. Try a mini quiz: does anybody in your family know how a Pilgrim kid might have said “What’s up, dude?” (“how now,” or “how do you fare?”) or a little sister might have said “Excuse me,” (“Pray pardon me,”) or a teacher might have said “Congratulations!” (“huzzah!”) And what was the Native American word for “corn”?
  3. Then, and only then, hand around our “Plymouth Talk” sheet, and offer a challenge: for the next half an hour, every time you want to say one of these words in today’s English, see if you can go back in time, and say it as if you were Pilgrims or Native Americans around Plymouth colony.
  4. For a fun rainy afternoon activity, you can also have your kids write a note to Grandma or to one another using these words. If it’s before Thanksgiving, the note could be an invitation to festivities. If it’s afterward, it can be a story of what happened.
  5. No matter what you choose, we think you’ve got an invaluable opportunity here. One of the greatest challenges for kids learning history is to understand the depth and heft of time. Our ancestors were similar to us, and bequeathed important values. But their lives had important differences, too, and words are a great place to start understanding that!


Julie Williams, M.A. Education, taught middle and high school History and English for seventeen years. Since then, she has volunteered in elementary classrooms while raising her two sons and earning a master's in school administration. She has also been a leader in her local PTA.

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