Thanksgiving is my favorite time of the year. I love the focus on togetherness and family, the big meal of turkey and stuffing, the roots into history and our background as a nation. It’s a wonderful time to teach students about our past, the ideas of family and thankfulness, and build community.
Whether this is your first year teaching, or you’ve been around the block a few times, having some Thanksgiving activities planned out, or waiting in your back pocket for when you need a quick idea for an alternative plan, is a great idea. I hope you’ll find some ideas in this post that you maybe hadn’t thought of before.
Complete a Thankfulness Activity
Even if you teach middle school students, they still love a great picture book from time to time. So grab a good one and read your students a story about thankfulness. There are lots to choose from in this blog post, but I like Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts.* This story focuses on Jeremy and his ideas of wants versus needs, and how those things change at different times and in different circumstances. Towards the end, Jeremy realizes what his needs really are and just how thankful he is to have them in his life. Once the story is over, have a discussion with your kids about their ideas of wants and needs and how they have maybe grown in this area as well. *This is an affiliated link. I am an Amazon Associate and earn on qualified purchases.
Then, using an acrostic poem, a word cloud, a journal, or a craftivity, have your students write down items that they are thankful for in their life. Depending on the story you choose, it could vary your activity quite a bit. For Those Shoes, you might want to use pictures of shoes and have students write items on the shoelaces or in different places within the shoe. If it’s a story about Thanksgiving itself, you could use a turkey, and if it’s about just the season of thankfulness, you might want to use cut-outs of leaves. You can download a shoe and some leaves here, but there’s no wrong way to be thankful.
Explore on a Virtual Field Trip to the Plimoth Plantations
Another option this season is to take your students on a virtual trip to the 17th Century English village of Plimoth Plantations. View a nineteen minute long video on the journey to America, and the homes, gardens, store fronts, and fort that make up the re-created village of the Plimoth Plantations. In this video you’ll also hear from several character actors who play the roles of pilgrims in various positions, such as militia members, farmers, home-makers, gardeners, etc.
Take a Closer Look at the First Thanksgiving Dinner
Along with a virtual trip to Plimoth is a look at the real first Thanksgiving dinner between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag people. Although often depicted as a great gathering of the two races at a long table, this is honestly not the case, and this History Minute First Thanksgiving Dinner Unit explores what the real first dinner was truly like. Should you want to learn more about History Minutes, I wrote about them previously in this post.
Whether you choose just one activity, or tackle all three this Thanksgiving season, honoring this special time in the fall and in America’s history is a great way to gather your students and work on building the classroom community while celebrating what we’re all thankful for.
How do you plan to celebrate Thanksgiving in your classroom this fall? Let me know in the comments.
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