Unlike the other holidays that arise during the fall and winter
months of the school year, the Thanksgiving holiday is celebrated
by the majority of students. However, making handprint turkeys
does not usually fill out a lesson plan. There are several creative
and fun ways that help your class appreciate the holiday of Thanksgiving.
1. Turn negatives into positives: Thanksgiving is often
about being thankful, but many students have trouble thinking
of things for which they are thankful. Have them write down ten
things that they dislike, leaving a line or two of space between
each one. Then, have them go back and add "but I am thankful because…"
followed by a way to make that negative a positive. For instance,
if a child writes "I hate doing the dishes," they could add, "but
I am thankful because it means that I have food to eat."
2. The menu of the first Thanksgiving: Many students will
be eating turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes for their Thanksgiving
dinner. However, they may be surprised at the foods that the Pilgrims
actually may have eaten. Older students can research the menu
the Pilgrims might have eaten, and younger children will enjoy
designing restaurant-like menus of the unusual dishes the Pilgrims
might have served.
3. Study the Native Americans: The Native Americans have
a rich and colorful history all of their own. You can have students
study the different tribes that were in the area the Pilgrims
landed, or have students study the culture and traditions of one
particular tribe. Tell the Thanksgiving story from the other side!
4. Art of the 17th century: You can use the Pilgrims as
a way to introduce students to 17th century art forms. Have them
look at how portraits were painted and explain what the portraits
tell about the people in them. You can compare the culture of
the Pilgrims to your students' cultures, or have them paint their
own portraits of a partner.
5. A look at President Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation:
Older students can look at the famous Thanksgiving Proclamation
and how it relates to the civil war at the time. This can also
be used as an introduction to Lincoln's other great speeches,
such as the Gettysburg Address.
6. Get creative with Thanksgiving compliments: Have students
write a report on their favorite Thanksgiving foods. Encourage
rich adjective use that describes the food so that it is good
enough to eat! You can also have them describe a food without
actually telling the reader what it is. See if their partner can
guess what your favorite dish is by the description alone.
7. Thanksgiving Arts and Crafts: Of course, there are
always the traditional handprint turkeys. You can also have students
weave placemats for their family dinner out of paper, decorate
cornucopias, or make Native American headbands and Pilgrim hats.
8. History of the Pilgrims: The life of the Pilgrims included
much more than the first Thanksgiving dinner. Older students can
review the religious persecutions and the reasons why the Pilgrims
made the trip to North America. Younger students will enjoy hearing
about what life was like for the average Pilgrim child and creating
their own stories about this time.
9. The cost of Thanksgiving: Have students bring in ads
from local grocery stores. Alone or in groups, ask students to
plan out a menu for the big day, and then compare prices at the
stores to see where it is most cost effective to buy groceries
that week. Include bonus points for using coupons.
10. Cook your own feast: For younger students, this will
require some adult participation. Prepare your own Thanksgiving
"feast" in the traditional style with every student bringing in
their own dish to share. Have students share why they picked the
particular dish to bring.
Thanksgiving is not only a time to be thankful for the things
that you have, but also an interesting historical event. Help
to bring it alive to your students with a few of these fun activities.