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Celebrate Thanksgiving in the Classroom: DIY Activities and Free Printable Resources!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017 -- McKenna Wierman

It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving is right around the corner. A day often focused on family, food, friends, and gratitude, Thanksgiving also commemorates the three-day harvest feast shared by the colonists of Plymouth and the Wampanoag people in the 1600s.

Help your elementary students understand and celebrate this meaningful holiday in the classroom with Free Thanksgiving Topical Resources from EducationCity! This month’s resources include fact sheets, activities, a poster, and critical-thinking questions known as ThinkIts so that you and your class can explore the history of Thanksgiving and discuss the traditions we observe today. Extend the learning even further by trying out some of these additional fun, easy, DIY Thanksgiving activities that will put your students in the holiday spirit:

1. Stuff the Turkey Activity

Ever made a Thanksgiving turkey out of paper grocery bags? This “stuff the turkey” activity is crafty, fun, and super easy to make. Use it as a fun game to play during an indoor recess day (because we all know how nasty the weather can get in November), pull it out for your Thanksgiving party, or find a creative way to incorporate review before a test. Here’s how it works: Make three bags and set them under your whiteboard. Above each of the three bags, write three potential answers to a math, history, or science (any subject will work) question on your whiteboard. Then, have two students come up and stand side by side facing the board. Give them each three paper balls, and ask your question. Whoever throws the most paper balls into the turkey below the right answers wins!

2. Classic Turkey Crafts

Is it really Thanksgiving without a hand-traced turkey? Hand turkeys are a Thanksgiving staple that can’t be beat. Whether you’re painting you hand to make a turkey stamp or tracing it onto some brown construction paper, this timeless Thanksgiving craft is a sure way to get your students excited for the holidays (and produce some creatively decorated turkeys). But, if your hands are getting a little worn out from traditional turkey tracing, there are plenty of other ways to craft a fine Thanksgiving fowl. Have your kiddos grab some fall foliage to use as turkey feathers, collect recycled cans to create turkey windsocks, or make  mini turkeys using recycled corks. You can also make pinecone turkeys, toilet paper roll turkeys, or even paper bag turkey costumes! The bottom line is that you can make a turkey out of just about anything, but remember, if all else fails, you always have your hand!

3. Write a Class Cookbook

This activity is not only a great way to incorporate a holiday-themed writing assignment into your lesson plan, but it’s also one parents will love. Ask your students to think about what Thanksgiving is like with their families, specifically what dishes are normally prepared. Then ask them to think about how their favorite Thanksgiving dish is prepared, whether it’s the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, or dessert. Ask them to write out the recipe for how to cook their dish of choice. You can provide a simple template for your students to follow, or you can just let them free write. Either way, you’re bound to end up with some pretty hilarious recipes that may or may not be entirely edible. Once everyone has written out a recipe, make copies for the entire class, then bind them together into a “Class Thanksgiving Cookbook” to send home with every child. For a more personal touch, you can ask students to design their own cookbook covers.

4. Write About Thankfulness

While there’s never a wrong time to focus on gratitude, Thanksgiving does provide a great excuse for some pretty fun “I am thankful for ___” crafts. To start things off, have a class discussion about what it means to be thankful for something and how to show appreciation. Then, grab some multicolored sticks (or chocolate candies, if you have a sweet tooth) and play the gratitude game as a class, where students name things they are grateful for based on the color of the sticks or candies they draw at random. Once your class brainstorm has concluded, use paper plates to make a thankful pumpkin pie spinner or use brown butcher paper and fall-colored construction paper to make a classroom thankful tree, where students can staple leaves with things they are thankful for written on them. You can also make a class thankful turkey or a giant cornucopia full of all the things your class is thankful for. Or, turn thankfulness into a lesson in poetry by having your students write an acrostic poem about all the things they are grateful for.

Interested in exploring more content to celebrate important events and holidays throughout the year? Check back each month for more free topical resources from EducationCity, Edmentum’s engaging pre-K through 6th grade supplemental instruction program!