Maria’s Thanksgiving
Level H  

About the Book 

Text Type: Fiction/Realistic Fiction
Page Count: 14
Word Count: 214   

Book Summary
If you’ve ever looked forward to a big holiday event and had it canceled due to weather, you’ll relate to this realistic fiction book. At the start of the story, Maria is reminiscing about past Thanksgivings. She remembers relatives gathering at her home, the foods family members brought, and the activities that everyone shared. Then a big snowstorm prevents the traditional family gathering. At first Maria and her neighbors fear that Thanksgiving is ruined. Then Maria comes up with a plan that honors the true meaning of Thanksgiving. 

About the Lesson 

Targeted Reading Strategy

  • Connect to prior knowledge


  • Use the reading strategy of connecting life experiences and using prior knowledge to understand realistic fiction
  • Sequence story events by using the words first, second, next, and last
  • Blend segmented sounds into words
  • Identify and read words that contain the long /e/ vowel digraph
  • Understand and read the possessive form of words
  • Locate and read compound words


  • Book -- Maria’s Thanksgiving (copy for each student)
  • Chalkboard or dry erase board
  • Sequencing, compound words worksheets

   Indicates an opportunity for student to mark in the book. (All activities may be completed with paper and pencil if you choose not to have students consume the books.)


  • High-frequency words: was, her, have, brought, made, have, come
  • Content words: thankful, Thanksgiving, holiday, dinner, turkey, tamales, stuffing, beans, rice, pasta, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, pie, family, neighbors

Before Reading 

Build Background

  • Involve students in a discussion about Thanksgiving. Encourage students to talk about what they eat for Thanksgiving dinner and what activities they share with family and friends during the holiday. Record student responses on the board.
  • Involve students in a discussion about the meaning of Thanksgiving. Ask why people have a Thanksgiving feast and what it means to be thankful.

Book Walk

Introduce the Book

  • Show students the covers of the book. Explain that this book is realistic fiction and that in a book of realistic fiction, the characters are like people in real life and the events are things that could actually happen.
  • Tell students that the girl on the cover is named Maria. Explain that Maria is the main character in the story.
  • Have students look at the front and back covers and predict what Maria might do in this story.
  • Read the title and author of the book. Ask students to predict what might happen to Maria on Thanksgiving Day.
  • Show students the title page. Encourage them to make predictions based on the information on this page.

Introduce the Strategy: Connect to prior knowledge

  • Model how good readers use prior knowledge to help them read and understand the text.
  • Think-aloud: When I read a book, I try to think about what I already know about the topic in the book before I read the story. When I read the title, I know that this book is about Thanksgiving. I know a lot about Thanksgiving. My family celebrates with a big family feast at a family member’s house. We eat turkey and dressing and pumpkin pie. Before dinner we all help with the cooking, during dinner we talk about what we are thankful for, and after dinner we play games and talk. I predict Maria’s Thanksgiving is going to be similar to the one my family celebrates. I predict that her family and friends are going to gather together for a big feast.
  • Have students turn to a partner and share what they think Maria’s Thanksgiving might be like. Encourage them to connect their predictions to their own holiday traditions. Add their ideas to the chart created earlier.
  • As students read, they should use other reading strategies in addition to the targeted strategy presented in this section. For tips on additional reading strategies, click here.

Introduce the Vocabulary

  • Guide students through each page of the book. Ask them to talk about what they see in the pictures. Use the Thanksgiving content vocabulary and the names of characters they will encounter in the text during your discussion of the pictures. For example, on page 3, ask: What foods do you think Maria’s mother, grandmother, Aunt Carla and Liz, and Uncle Carlos might cook for Thanksgiving? Encourage students to confirm their predictions by looking for the food words in the text on each page. For instance, if students predict that someone is going to make turkey, ask them to think about what letters are at the beginning of the word turkey and then locate the word in the text.
  • Write each of the following high-frequency words on the board or on chart paper: was, her, have, brought, made. Have students say, write, and spell each of the words. Put each of the high-frequency words on a card. Have students take turns selecting a word, reading it, and finding it in the book.
  • For additional tips on teaching high-frequency words or word-attack strategies, click here.

Set the Purpose

  • Tell students that they should read the book to find out if Maria’s Thanksgiving is similar to the one they celebrate.

During Reading 

Student Reading

  • Guide the reading: Give students their copies of the book. Have them put a sticky note on page 10 and read to the end of that page. Tell students to reread the pages if they finish before everyone else.
  • Listen to individual students as they read the text orally. Monitor their use of reading strategies, and intervene when necessary to prompt for strategy use. Encourage students to tell how their Thanksgiving celebration is similar to Maria’s.
  • Model connecting to prior knowledge.
  • Think-aloud: Before I read the story, I thought about my family’s Thanksgiving. I used my experiences to predict what Maria would experience in the story. When I read the book, I realized that many of my family’s Thanksgiving traditions are similar to the ones that Maria and her family have. Maria’s family and neighbors eat turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, and so does my family. However, there are some foods that Maria’s family and neighbors have for Thanksgiving that my family does not have. My family does not have tamales, black beans, sweet-potato pie, sticky rice, or pasta on Thanksgiving.
  • Allow time for students to discuss how Maria’s Thanksgiving traditions are similar and different from theirs. Refer to the chart created during the Before Reading section.
  • Have students finish reading the book independently to find out if Thanksgiving continues to be ruined because of the snowstorm.

   Tell students to make a small question mark in their books beside any word they do not understand or cannot pronounce. These can be addressed in the discussion that follows.

After Reading 

Reflect on the Reading Strategies

  • Allow time for students to react to and give their impressions of the story. 
  • Ask students what words they marked in their books. Use this opportunity to model how they can read these words using decoding strategies and context clues.

Teach the Comprehension Skill: Sequencing

  • Discussion: Ask students to share their ideas about the true meaning of Thanksgiving
  • Introduce and model the skill: Explain to students that good readers think about the order of events in a story to help them remember what they read. Explain that this skill is called sequencing. Model sequencing for students
  • Think-aloud: Thinking about what happens first, second, next, and last in a story helps me remember and understand what I read. In this story, for example, the first thing that happens is that Maria remembers past Thanksgivings.
  • Check for understanding: Have students reflect on the book and tell what happens to Maria after she remembers past Thanksgivings. Encourage students to use sequencing words, such as first, second, next, and last (next, a big snow storm keeps Maria’s family away for Thanksgiving; then, Maria and her family go outside and see everyone else is disappointed too; and last, Maria’s mother invites the neighbors to have Thanksgiving dinner at their house).
  • Independent practice: Have students complete the sequencing worksheet. Discuss their responses.

Build Skills 

Phonemic Awareness: Segmenting and blending

  • Use elastic to show students how you can segment and blend sounds into words. Tell students that you are going to say a word from the story (pie) by slowly stretching out the sounds. Stretch the sounds, and tell students that you are going to blend the sounds together to say the word pie. Repeat this same activity one more time while students listen carefully.
  • Explain that you will stretch out the individual sounds of a word and that you want them to blend the sounds together to say the words. Say each sound for each word one at a time, slowly and distinctly. Have students blend the sounds together to say the words: (men) /m/ /e/ /n/; (games) /g/ /a/ /m/ /s/; (home) /h/ /o/ /m/; (miss) /m/ /i/ /s/); (she) /sh/ /e/.

Phonics: Long /e/ vowel digraphs

  • Write the word treat on a white board. Explain that when you read the word treat, you hear the long /e/ vowel sound. Explain that treat is spelled with an e and an a, and that the sound those two letters often make when they are together is the long /e/ sound.
  • Have students turn to pages 3 and 4 in the book. Have them locate the two words on these pages that contain the vowel combination ea (eat, beans).
  • Guide students to page 4 to find another word with the long /e/ sound. Explain that two vowels together (ee) also make the long /e/ sound.
  • Ask students to make and read the words beans, eat, seal, and seat.

Grammar and Mechanics: Possessives

  • Read the first sentence on page 8. Point out the word son’s. Tell students that the apostrophe and the s at the end of son’s show possession or that something belongs to someone or something. In this case the sentence tells that the house belongs to Mr. Lee’s son.
  • Have students read the first sentence on pages 9 and 10. Have them find the words that contain apostrophes (son’s, sister’s) and explain what belongs to whom (house).

Vocabulary: Compound words

  • Point to the word grandmother on page 4. Tell students that grandmother is two smaller words put together: grand and mother. Explain that this type of word is called a compound word.
  • Have students look at page 5 and locate and read the compound word (foot/ball). Explain what the two smaller words are that make up the compound word.
  • Have students locate the other compound words in the book and complete the compound words worksheet. Review worksheets with students when finished.

Build Fluency 

Expand the Reading 

Writing and Art Connection

  • Have a discussion with students about what they are thankful for. Have students write the sentence: I am thankful for ________. on a sheet of paper. Have them fill in words to complete the sentence and create an illustration to match their writing. Post papers on a bulletin board to make a “Wall of Thanks.”

Math Connection

  • Have students draw a picture of their favorite Thanksgiving food. Create a picture graph of the students’ different food choices. Write statements under the graph to summarize the results.


Monitor students to determine if they can:

  • consistently connect life experiences and prior knowledge to understand realistic fiction
  • sequence story events by using the words first, second, next, and last
  • blend individual phonemes together to form one-syllable words
  • locate and read words that contain the ea and ee vowel digraphs that make the long /e/ sound
  • identify and read possessive forms of words
  • recognize and read compound words  

Comprehension Checks

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