Thanksgiving Activities for ESL students are always a fun way to teach American culture. But Thanksgiving lessons also raise timeless themes such as gratitude, types of food, and how we celebrate holidays in general. Plus, it’s nice to pop in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving sometimes and have some fun! So here’s some links to some of my most popular Thanksgiving activities and lesson plans.
Activities for ESL students about Thanksgiving
- A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving lesson plan is my best-selling lesson plan and my go-to thanksgiving activity for ESL students in my own classes. I’ve tried to include everything you can get out of the video to teach about Thanksgiving including the first thanksgiving, the meaning of thanksgiving, the religious side of this holiday, and the turkey and mashed potatoes! Even the football game is mentioned!
You can also have fun introducing the Peanuts characters and running gags. Linus’ blanket, Sally’s crush on Linus, and Lucy always pulling away that football all are here. There are a number of comprehension questions for students to answer as they watch.
There’s also a guide for teachers that breaks the movie into scenes. For each scene, there’s some key vocabulary, major themes, and a summary of the action. You can use it to break the viewing into parts. Or to pre-teach some vocab you think students might need to know. Or ask students to make their own outline of the video and then compare it to your outline.
- The Missing Mashed Potatoes. This is a clue by clue critical thinking mystery puzzle with a Thanksgiving theme. Maybe you had a favorite dish that you only ate on holidays. And everybody fought to get more than anyone else. In my family, it was the mashed potatoes. That’s what led me to write this mystery where students have to follow the clues to figure out who ate all the mashed potatoes!
- Looking for a quick warm-up for your Thanksgiving Lesson Plans and Activities? The Thanksgiving Word Association Brainstorm is exactly what it sounds like: A worksheet that asks students to name 5 things they associate with Thanksgiving. It’s a simple activity, but powerful. You can elicit vocabulary, use their answers as discussion prompts, discover misunderstandings your students have, create a word cloud, or ask students to share the reasons for their associations!
- Word Processing Skills Thanksgiving Day Edition is a fun activity that teaches students basic word processing skills. Students are given a text and rules on how to manipulate that text. In the process, they uncover a mystery message. This one is all about thankfulness! Tired of students that don’t know how to copy-and-paste? Want to make sure they know how to format in 12-point Times New Roman? Try this fun activity out.
Activities Gratitude and Giving
- Gratitude Bundle is a collection of 8 discussion or writing prompts on the topic of thankfulness. Each printable worksheet contains a prompt and illustration about people in their lives they are thankful for, remembering a good deed, and remembering the good things in their lives. Students can respond in writing, discussion, or sketches!
- What Would You Do: Feed the Homeless is a critical thinking activity that asks about giving money to the homeless. How to help the needy is always a controversial debate. Is it better to give direct help or support a charity? How do we decide how much to give? This What Would You Do hypothetical situation lets students discuss these critical issues with a seemingly simple question-would you give money to a homeless person? What circumstances would affect your decision?
Activities about Food
- The Food and Holidays Lesson Plan gives students a chance to talk about their national food, then gives you a chance to discuss Thanksgiving and the traditional foods we eat on that holiday. Finally students get talk about their special holiday meals.
It’s a great Thanksgiving Activities for ESL students, and really helps introduce thanksgiving to international students. They may not know a lot about this primarily American holiday, but they do know how to talk about food. It’s also a topic that is accessible to advanced, intermediate and beginner students. And it also works for Christmas or any holiday where there’s lots of food!
- One part of the Food and Holidays Lesson Plan is the food and adjectives worksheet. In fact, I’ve designed it in two different ways: a Food and Adjectives Chart where students fill in words to describe tastes, ways of cooking, ways to describe food.
- For less advanced students, there’s also a Food Adjectives Cloze Worksheet that gives some more support in the form of sample vocabulary and sentence frames. Students can also graduate from this scaffolded version to the more open Food and Adjectives Chart.