The Time of the Pilgrims and Early Settlers 1600-1700



In Times Past: Integrating US History with Literature in Grades 3-8

Now available as an ebook for instant downloading to your computer, tablet or smartphone.

Tired of the same old routine when teaching about the past in the classroom?

Recent fiction and non-fiction can make the American past come alive for young students. New activities can make studies both educational and fun.

Our ever popular book on using kids' books to teach US History is now newly updated and available as an ebook. We've taken the best new books from the last few years and added them to our comprehensive guide for integrating your curriculum. 336 pages of practical ideas for activities, research and discussions using kids books. More Information.

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This is an excerpt from our e-book In Times Past: Integrating US History with Literature in Grades 3-8. Second Edition. More Information.

The Times at a Glance


  • Massasoit
  • Peter Minuit
  • Pocahontas
  • Powhatan
  • Miles Standish
  • John Smith
  • Peter Stuyvesant
  • William Bradford
  • Roger Williams
  • Edward Winslow
  • John Winthrop
  • King Philip
  • Squanto


  • 1621 Massasoit makes treaty not to harm Pilgrims if Pilgrims respect Indian land and rights
  • 1664 English take New Amsterdam from Dutch
  • 1669 Massachusetts Bay Colony takes over Maine
  • 1673 Marquette and Jolliet explore Mississippi
  • 1675 King Philip's War
  • 1682 William Penn arrives in Pennsylvania
  • 1689 King William's War
  • 1692 Salem witch trials

Meanwhile, In Other Parts of the World

  • French take control of Canada
  • King Louis XIV revokes freedom of worship for Huguenots; many emigrate

Inventions & Discoveries

  • 1642 Pascal invents adding machine
  • 1657 Pendulum clock
  • 1670 Minute hands on watches


  • 1650 Minuet popular in France
  • 1666 Stradivarius violin created
  • 1692 "Adeste Fideles" composed


  • 1656 Cotton's Spiritual Milk for Babies
  • 1658 Comenius' Orbus Pictus
  • 1667 Milton's Paradise Lost
  • 1676 Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress
  • 1683 New England Primer


"See also The Native American Conflict, Cultures, and The Salem Witchcraft Trials in our In Times Past eBook."

  • The early Pilgrims built their houses using wattle and daub. Build wattle and daub models with clay, sand, and straw plastered on stick forms. It will crack, but so did the wattle and daub.

  • List some ways of preserving food before canning and freezing were available. Find out what foods were preserved in those ways. Try it.

  • Dry apples. Core the apples, leaving the skin on. Slice the apples across, making apple rings. Pass a string through the holes, leaving a space between slices. Hang them to dry.

  • Make a list of the things you think the early settlers would have brought with them from Europe. Find actual lists and compare them.

  • Pick herbs such as thyme, basil, or rosemary. Taste them as fresh herbs and then dry them. Prepare a dish using one or all of your dried herbs.

  • Plant or design an authentic kitchen garden. Write to Plimoth Plantation for directions.

  • Using descriptions from books or information from the historic museums, diagram or make a model of an early village.

  • Write to curators of a history museum or living history museum and ask questions that have come up during your research.

  • Make a list of the things the Pilgrims and other early settlers agreed to do in the Colony for their sponsors. Mark which of the items they accomplished in the agreed upon time.

  • Find examples of words and expressions that were part of early American English. What words do we use today instead of those early words? Find some words that are currently in the process of change.

  • Find inventive or multiple spellings of the same word in the early settlers' writing. When did spelling become standardized?

  • Write a journal entry about your daily life, using the language and spelling the early settlers might have used.

  • Find early songs and categorize them according to their type and the need they filled: story, work, spiritual, release, humor. Find current songs that fill each of these needs.

  • The Pilgrims drew up the Mayflower Compact as a constitution. Compare the individual rights issues in the Mayflower Compact to those in the US Constitution. Create a constitution for your classroom. How does it compare with the Pilgrims' constitution?

  • Make one of these dishes taught to the early Colonists of New England by Native Americans: succotash, johnnycake, Indian pudding, corn oysters, red flannel hash, or apple pandowdy. (Recipes for these dishes are in Slumps, Grunts and Snickerdoodles. See below.)

  • Explore the reasons settlers came to Colonial America. Make a chart showing this information.

  • Show how the local landscape affected the settlers' choices by drawing a map of the area. Identify important land features and their uses.

  • How would your current locality be used by similar settlers? Is there fresh water nearby? How about a food source? What materials could they use for shelter? On a map of your area, indicate the best spot for their village.

  • To show the difficulties of communication between settlers and Native Americans, divide your classroom down the middle for a day. People can only talk to people on their own side. They can use only non-verbal communication with the other side. Have both groups work together to complete a class project.

  • Create your own examples of rustic art. Use toys made from natural substances and decorate them. Decorate clothing using only materials available to the early settlers.

  • Invent games that need no equipment or create equipment out of available materials. What games do you play that the early settlers could have played?

  • Most of the Pilgrims and many of the other early settlers were illiterate. Spend a day at school without reading anything. How much of the world is cut off for you?

  • Write a story about how members of your household would behave if they were forced to live in one room the way the early settlers did. Could any of their problems be solved?

  • How much food does a person need for a year? How did the early settlers store it?

  • Use empty boxes to approximate the volume of food for one year for one person. Label the boxes by type: meat, vegetables, grains, sweets, fruit, and dairy products.

  • Compare the uses of oil today with those of the early settlers. What did they use instead of oil? Try some of the simpler substitutions.

  • Imagine not being able to be open about your religious beliefs and having to pretend to agree with someone else's. Compare your own religious views with those of the Pilgrims or Puritans. Which ones would you have to change or pretend to change? Write a letter to someone sympathetic to your plight.

  • Find out about hornbooks. Make one for today. What would you put on a single page for beginning readers?

  • Compare the tasks of Wampanoag women with those of English peasant women. Who performed those tasks in other ages, areas, and cultures?

Literary Activities

  • How did Native Americans and Pilgrims interact? How are two cultures interacting in your area? Use Marcia Sewall's two books on the same area, People of the Breaking Day and The Pilgrims of Plimoth, for information on the two cultures.

  • Read one of the novels listed below. Make a chart showing the facts and the incidents or characters that are fictional. Explain how you knew the difference.

  • Read one of the novels about the Salem witch trials listed below. Make a list of what you then believe to be the cause or causes of that terrible time. Look at the society in which you live and decide which if any of those causes still exist.


Picture Books

* * * Yolen, Jane Roanoke: The Lost Colony: An Unsolved Mystery from History Illustrated by Roger Roth (Simon & Schuster, 2003 ISBN 0689823215. Order Info.)
The surrounding story is fictional but the facts about the lost colony are there.


* * * * Grades 3 and up
Bowen, Gary Stranded at Plimoth Plantation 1626 (HarperTrophy, 1998 ISBN 0064407195. Order Info.)
This is a good resource for information about daily life in early Plymouth. We see it from the point of view of an indentured servant who was bound for Virginia when the ship was driven north to Plymouth. By this time the colony was fairly well established and the young boy adapts to the work and the customs there.

* * * Grades 5 and up
Clapp, Patricia Constance: A Story of Early Plymouth (HarperTrophy, 1991 ISBN 0688109764. Order Info.)
Told in journal form, we get the story of a young girl from the time she arrives on the Mayflower to her wedding day five years later.

* * * Grades 6 and up
Clapp, Patricia Witches' Children: A Story of Salem (Viking, 1987 ISBN 0140324070. Order Info.)
Mary Warren tells us of the Salem witch trials in a first person narrative that is historically accurate and terrifyingly compelling. Mary admits that she started the hysteria.

* * * * Grades 3 and up
Hurst, Carol & Rebecca Otis A Killing in Plymouth Colony (Houghton, 2003 ISBN 0618275975. Order Info.)
Based on real people living in Plymouth in 1630 and a real murder committed by one of those Pilgrims, the authors have created a story about what might have happened. This is a focus book on our In Times Past CD.

* * * Grades 7 and up
Lasky, Kathryn Beyond the Burning Time (Scholastic, 1994 ISBN 059047331X. Order Info.)
We witness the hysteria and its results in Salem during the witchcraft trials partly through the eyes of Mary Chase as she struggles to get her mother absolved of the crime of witchcraft.

* * * Grades 3 and up
Lasky, Kathryn A Journey to the New World: The Diary of Remember Patience Whipple Dear America Series (Scholastic, 1996 ISBN 059050214X. Order Info.)
It's important that this book, like others in the Dear America Series, be introduced as fiction. As such this lively account of the Mayflower's first voyage is a good introduction to the time and the customs.

* * * * Grades 5 and up
Rinaldi, Ann A Break with Charity: A Story about the Salem Witch Trials (Gulliver, 2003 ISBN 0152046828. Order Info.)
By having an outsider explain what happened in Salem in 1692, Rinaldi allows the reader what might be the personal, political and social causes of the hysteria and the resulting execution of twenty-two citizens of Salem.

* * * * Grades 5 and up
Speare, Elizabeth The Witch of Blackbird Pond (Laurel Leaf, 1978 ISBN 0440995779. Order Info.)
Kit is a misfit in a Puritan household. Raised in colorful Barbados, Kit feels peace only in the meadows near Blackbird Pond. There she meets Quaker Hannah, who is considered a witch by the Puritans of Wethersfield. Gradually, suspicion grows and eventually things come to a head during a witchcraft trial.

* * * Grades 3 and up
Ziner, Feenie Squanto (Linnet, 1993 ISBN 0208022740. Order Info.)
This novelized biography has some sup
plied conversations and details but is largely based on facts. It provides one rationale for the twice-captured Native American's aid to the settlers. This is a focus book on our In Times Past CD.


* * * Anderson, Joan The First Thanksgiving Feast (Clarion, 1989 ISBN 0395518865. Order Info.)
Photographs from the Plimoth Plantation museum illustrate this book as the interpreters there get ready for the harvest feast.

* * * * Grades 3 and up
Arenstam, Peter Mayflower 1620 (National Geographic, 2003 ISBN 0792261429. Order Info.)
Using photographs of the Plimoth Plantation Living Museum, the authors tell the story of the original voyage.

* * * * Grades 4 and up
Bradford, William Homes in the Wilderness: A Pilgrim's Journal of Plymouth Plantation in 1620 (Linnet, 1988 ISBN 0208022694. Order Info.)
William Bradford's original journal has been abridged and translated into modern English for younger readers. It is an excellent almost primary resource.

* * * Grades 2 and up
Fritz, Jean Who's That Stepping on Plymouth Rock Illustrated by J. B. Handelsman (Paper Star, 1998 ISBN 069811681X. Order Info.)
This may be one of the few biographies ever written about the life of a rock. Where it was, how the legend around it grew and where it is today are all dealt with here.

* * * Grades 3 and up
Penner, Lucille Eating the Plates: A Pilgrim Book of Food and Manners (Simon & Schuster, 1991 ISBN 0027709019. Order Info.)
This interesting book shows the evolution of foods -- the storage, preparation and consuming -- in the early American diet starting with that of the Pilgrims.

* * Grades 3 and up
Roop, Connie Pilgrim Voices: Our First Year in the New World Illustrated by Shelley Pritchett (Walker, 1998 ISBN 0802775306. Order Info.)
Using some excerpts from Mourt's Relation and Bradford's journal combined with fictionalized text, the book tells of the Pilgrim's first year.

* * * Grades 3 and up
San Souci, Robert N. C. Wyeth's Pilgrims (Chronicle Books, 1991 ISBN 0877018065. Order Info.)
San Souci uses Wyeth's murals as the illustrations for this picture book about the Pilgrims.

* * * * * Grades 2 and up
Sewall, Marcia People of the Breaking Day (Atheneum, 1990 ISBN 0689314078. Order Info.)
A member of the Wampanoag tribe, who occup
ied the area that became Plymouth, tells of the ceremonies and customs that mark the passages of life of these people who lived in harmony with nature under the guidance and wisdom of Massasoit.

* * * * * Grades 2 and up
Sewall, Marcia The Pilgrims of Plimoth: Struggle for Survival (Aladdin, 1996 ISBN 0689808615. Order Info.)
This beautiful picture book gives us a historically accurate look at the life of the Pilgrims about 1630. Told from the points of view of several Pilgrims, the book does much to erase many of the misconceptions about those early settlers.

* * * * Grades 2 and up
Sewall, Marcia Thunder from the Clear Sky (Aladdin, 1998 ISBN 068982176X. Order Info.)
Sewall's earlier books listed above lay the groundwork for this one in which the two cultures clash. After the deaths of Massasoit and William Bradford, relations between the Indians and the settlers broke down as treaties were broken and war ensued.

Yerkow, Lila Perl Slumps, Grunts and Snickerdoodles: What Colonial America Ate and Why (Clarion, 1979 ISBN 0395289238. Order Info.)
The title says it all. The book covers the thirteen colonies and explains what they ate and why.

Related Areas of Carol Hurst's Children's Literature Site:

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A Killing in Plymouth Colony

by Carol Otis Hurst and Rebecca Otis

There had never before been a murder in Plymouth Colony. In a community founded on such high ideals and strong principles, the very idea was unthinkable, but the facts were undeniable: John Newcomen had been shot and killed by someone. But by whom?

This historical novel brings together the drama of a murder mystery and the complexities of the evolving relationship between a father and son to provide a glimpse of what life might have been like growing up in the young Plymouth Colony as it too struggled to determine its course and its identity.

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