““We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” ~ Winston Churchill
Thanksgiving is an important event that contributed to the development of America. The history teaches us about collaboration and acceptance between two vastly different cultures and this is definitely an important history our students can benefit from. We still live in a world where various cultures and ethnicities must thrive together. Countries and governments worldwide still struggle with this concept and one day our students will make important decisions towards immigration and foreign policy. They will also have to work with others worldwide, since many companies have global teams. Thanksgiving provides us the opportunity to teach students about what it means to be a good citizen and humanitarian. The Thanksgiving story itself helps students learn about what it means to appreciate cultures or people who are different and celebrate our differences and learn from each other. Students can also learn important lessons about collaboration and gratitude. Below are various resources and lesson ideas to get your students to experience Thanksgiving in a whole new light. Feel free to download the slide presentation below and explore the bookmarks.
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Teaching the History of Thanksgiving
- Online Interactive Investigation of the History– Students act as history detectives and investigate what happened at the 1621 celebration by researching primary resources like letters and participating in online activities that show the different cultures and customs. The online investigation comes with an incredible Teacher’s Guide filled with various lesson plans that have students use graphic organizers for learning.
- This Brain Pop Animated Video explains the history in a cartoon format and has a closed captioning feature.
- Recommended books for story time- Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving, Today is Thanksgiving, The Pilgrim’s First Thanksgiving, and If You Were at the First Thanksgiving. You can find more about these titles and more here.
- Students can learn the story by participating in a play. After reading the history, put students in small groups and have them create their own scripts. You can also use a prepared script like the Mayflower Sets Sail.
- Young learners can create finger puppets and renact the story in small groups. You will find some finger puppet templates here.
- Students can retell the events to each other on a felt board. Here are some Thanksgiving felt board characters.
- Have students create digital stories! Story ideas include research a person who took part in the event and tell from their viewpoint, describe how they celebrate, tell a story about unlikely friendships, or foretell what life would be like if the Pilgrims and Wampanoag didn’t get along. Storybirdis a free online storybook creator that has a great library of Thanksgiving characters to choose from! You can also create stories on Zooburst, 3D online pop up storybook creator, and Little Bird Tales.
- Students can travel virtually to see Pilgrim and Wampanoag villages or travel on the Mayflower virtually.
- Students can read letters from a Pilgrim girl and Wampanoag boy. As an activity, they can write a response to one of the letters or they can take the series of letters and create an online scrapbook of the events with Mixbook or Glogster.
- Students can view an online scrapbook of girl who made her voyage on the Mayflower. This virtual scrapbook from Scholastic is filled with online games, activities and more!
- In the past, I have had students go on nature hikes and we talked about how Native Americans used the land to create clothing, shelter, dyes, and for survival. We would collect leaves, rocks, etc. in plastic bags then create scrapbooks with descriptions. Students researched how each item would have been used by a Native American. You can do a digital version of this activity by having kids take pictures of the items then use Mixbook or Glogster to create their nature books.
Free Thanksgiving Apps
- Mr. Turkey Where Are You? is an ebook app for i-devices that was created by a mother for her son with autism. It has great features like reading the story aloud and the ability for students to upload their own images that appear in the story.
- Tom the Talking Turkey is a free app that allows students to speak to a turkey that repeats what they say in a funny voice. It also has recording and emailing options. You can get your students to tell Thanksgiving jokes, chants, songs, poems or stories. You can also have students use the app to send a video of their blessings.
- With the Red Stamp app students can send free e-cards to friends or family members they want to thank.
- With the Thanksgiving Menu Maker app, students can work in small groups to plan a Thanksgiving supper. This app gives them a timeline, recipes, a shopping list and more! It’s a great way to teach math concepts and also if they cook the meal they can learn the science behind mixing ingredients.
Online Fun & Games
- Students can learn grammar by doing this Thanksgiving fill-in activity. It is like MadLibs. Have them break into pairs after and read their stories to each other. They can even create their own stories for other students to fill in using Google Forms.
- Students can fill in this funny Thanksgiving cartoon. My students journal the first 10 minutes of class and I will use short writing activities like this as prompts to diversify their writing.
- Students can play Thanksgiving Hangman.
- Here are various other Thanksgiving online games for kids.
If you enjoyed these ideas, you may want to get your copy of The 30 Goals for Teachers or my $5.99 ebook, Learning to Go, which has digital/mobile activities for any device and editable/printable handouts and rubrics.
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