There are a lot of reasons to teach about Thanksgiving and do some activities for Thanksgiving in the classroom. First, Thanksgiving is a major American holiday* and students living in the US should know about it. Second, it’s a great excuse to talk about important themes such as gratitude and family. For lower level students, you can always talk about food! Third, even EFL students with little exposure to American culture have probably heard of Thanksgiving. So it’s never a bad idea to share about the holiday.
So we’ve collected some activities on Teachers Pay Teachers that are perfect for celebrating Thanksgiving in the classroom. Click on the links for more information and to see a preview. These downloadable, printable, Thanksgiving activities come from two books: 60 Positive Activities for the Classroom and What Would You Do?. There’s also an activity from the author of Classroom Community Builders.
This beautiful, hand-illustrated drawing, writing, or discussion prompt asks kids to design a new holiday! There’s a place to name it, and mark the calendar, draw or jot down some traditions, food, and activities for this amazing new day! They can be as creative and imaginative or realistic as they like.
Then, they can compare their holiday to a real celebration or to each other’s. To make it a Thanksgiving activity, have students come up with a holiday centered around gratitude, or food, or the harvest. How will their holiday differ from American Thanksgiving? How will it be the same?
Check out the New Holiday worksheet here.
Who are students grateful for and why? With some directed prompts, and some open ones, the students have to think about what that person adds to their life. This is a great way to find out what students really value in their friends and family, and it puts the emphasis on the reasons we are thankful, rather than the individuals themselves. It’s a perfect way to engender some Thanksgiving Day gratitude!
Check out the writing or discussion prompt here.
Ask students to think about someone who helped them and write a thank you note! This is a straightforward, but flexible activity that also builds positivity in the classroom and promotes Social-Emotional Learning (SEL).
Check out this letter-writing prompt here.
You see a homeless person asking for money. They appear to be in good health and able to work. Do you give them money? This hypothetical prompt gets students thinking about some of the themes of Thanksgiving, including being grateful for what we do have, and the best way to help others.
In addition to the prompt, this critical thinking activity includes suggestions for variables or contexts that might change student answers, follow-up discussion questions, and extension ideas including a writing prompt.
Check out this innovative Thanksgiving discussion activity.
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is a great introduction to Thanksgiving, particularly for EFL students who don’t know a lot about the holiday. It covers the Thanksgiving football game, the turkey dinner, the theme of gratitude and friendship, even a name-drop of the Mayflower and Miles Standish!
This lesson plan can be used to introduce the film, guide students through the film with comprehension questions, and then let them check their comprehension with a summary to fill out. Finally there are some discussion questions and ideas for extension.
Got any other go-to Thanksgiving Activities? Share in the comments!
* I know Canada has a Thanksgiving holiday too. However, it’s not celebrated in the same way. In fact, as best I can tell, it’s not as major a holiday as the American Thanksgiving.