Louise Blake comes back to us with some Thanksgiving ideas for the classroom. Enjoy! ~EMP
Every teacher knows how the holiday season can be one of the most difficult in the classroom. Children are full of Thanksgiving and Christmas excitement and, for most, the thoughts at the forefront of their minds will be solely to do with what gifts they’ll receive, the prospect of some time off school to see friends and family, and lots of home-cooked food!
So, why not play on these themes in the run up to Thanksgiving to ensure you keep the attention of your class during the holiday season? Here are some great activities that will keep the kids motivated and excited in school faster than you can say ‘pumpkin pie’.
All classes will be running history lessons on the origins of Thanksgiving, so try to supplement this with some fun yet thoughtful crafts. Often kids aren’t sure what they’re thankful for, as having a loving family, warm home and enough food are things they take for granted, so get them to think of specific examples of what they’d be lost without.
Creating a visual mural with these thoughts gives something for the kids to be proud of. Ask each child to trace around their hand on a piece of colorful or painted paper to make a handprint, cut it out when dry, and then write their thanks on it. Create a basic tree trunk and branches from construction paper, and add the hands as the leaves to show that their thanks will keep growing.
Thanksgiving Pen Pals
If you have the resources to set this activity up, this can be an amazing bonding experience for your class. Contact a school in an underprivileged area, either in the country or abroad to see if you can set up a pen pal program. If you’re successful, match up pupils with similar interests from either school, and get them to start exchanging friendly letters. There’s nothing like providing a real audience for their writing.
Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to start this project, as communicating with someone who is not as fortunate as they are, and who they may not have had the chance to talk to before, can make children see how much they have in their life. Encourage them to write about mutual interests and their life, but guide them to avoid anything that may be conceived as boasting about how much they have in respect to their pen pal.
This activity can be extended to other, mixed media activities, for example, sending their pen pals short stories, artwork or holiday craft projects.
Thankful for Family Project
Many children forget that thanks and helpfulness start in the home, so why not do a series of activities on how they can help out around Thanksgiving?
Start with having them make a list of the things for which they are thankful to their family, for example, “I am thankful to grandma and grandpa for letting the whole family stay at their house on Thanksgiving.” Then have them identify the things they can help them with, for example, making a centerpiece out of collected leaves, which could contribute to both a biology and art lesson.
If you have access to a kitchen you could all make a pumpkin pie or turkey-shaped cupcakes, and have them annotate a recipe handout to take home and help their family make. You could even have them record where all their families are from and will be traveling to for Thanksgiving, and then annotate this on a map as part of a geography lesson.
The key around keeping up attention and motivation around holidays like Thanksgiving is to try and link in all activities to the holiday where you can – as there will be little else they can think about!
Do you have any great Thanksgiving activities you do with your class to keep them motivated that you’d like to share?