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10 Thanksgiving Activities for School

    Happy Turkey Day!

    Thanksgiving Day is mostly an American and Canadian holiday that is held annually on the 4th Thursday of November. The American version is modeled on a 1621 harvest feast shared by the English Pilgrims and the Wampanoag indigenous people. The Pilgrims were Protestant Christians who risked sailing to the New World to find religious freedom away from the British crown.

    To celebrate it, here are ten Thanksgiving activities that you can use in the classroom.

    Mixed Words

    Write a scrambled Thanksgiving vocabulary on the board. When your students enter the class, let them decipher the words or phrases, such as “pumpkin, pilgrims, harvest.” They need to unscramble the words and write the correct answers. Help younger learners by adding pictures as hints. Once they are done, go through the vocabulary and ask them to explain the words.

    This is a good way for students to start class without having to waste time to settle down and can be used with any topic.

    Turkey Dinner

    Each student is assigned a different name, such as turkey, gravy, potato, corn, apple pie, cranberry — anything related to Thanksgiving food. Write the words and names on the board so all the students can see.

    Let the students sit in a circle with enough space between them to move. The leader then shouts out two words “apple pie and gravy!” The two students now have to switch. Keep calling at an increasingly quicker pace. “Turkey and cranberry!” “Potato and corn!” Students move around quickly until the leader shouts, “The table has flipped over!” At which point every student should take a new seat. The last one standing is the new leader.

    Thanksgiving Parade

    You might not like turkey or football, but everyone loves a parade, and there is none bigger than the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Tell your students or show them a video clip of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, which has been around for almost one hundred years. (In 2024 it will celebrate its hundredth birthday.)

    Show them some pictures of the balloons that have been used in past years. Then put your students in groups to discuss what they would like to see in a parade — what balloons and celebrities would they like to see in the parade.

    Tell them to create ten balloons and which celebrities should appear on the float. They can draw pictures and do a presentation in front of class.

    Presidential Pardon

    Every year, the American president traditionally pardons a turkey the day before Thanksgiving. Pardon means to forgive; it means that the lucky turkey will not be slaughtered for Thanksgiving dinner!

    Students have to imagine that they are all turkeys. They then need to think of fun and interesting reasons of why they should be the turkey that gets pardoned. They can be creative and give reasons like what value they bring to class, what objects they have in their bags or make promises about how hard they will study or chores they would do, like sweeping the class during recess.

    In the end, let the students have a secret vote on who they think should be pardoned.

    Turkey Idioms

    Turkeys are a great excuse to bring figurative language into the classroom this November. Give your students list of turkey idioms and have them guess what the idioms mean. Then give them a list of the real meanings and see if they can match the expressions to their definitions.

    You can use some of the following expressions:

    Quit cold turkey, talk turkey, like turkeys voting for Christmas, a turkey shoot, I’m stuffed, stuff it, eat like a bird, and be a turkey.

    Proud as a peacock, as the crow flies, birds of a feather flock together, early bird catches the worm, kill two birds with one stone, get all your ducks in a row.

    Thanksgiving: Saying Thanks

    Thanksgiving, as the name implies, is a time to be grateful and say thanks for the things and people in our lives we appreciate. Many families take a moment to share what they’re thankful for around the table on the actual holiday.

    You can give your students a chance to talk about the things they’re thankful for in small groups.

    After students have discussed the issue, invite volunteers (if your school allows it) to share their thoughts with the class. You could go around the classroom one by one, like we’d do around the dinner table. This gives them a chance to reflect and appreciate the good things in their lives. Encourage them not to use the same examples. Once everyone has gotten a chance, pair them up and ask them to list the things they are thankful for from least to most important.

    You might also have students write a paragraph or draw a picture about the people or things for which they are thankful.

    Turkey Walk

    This is a good exercise for young learners. Play some music and let the students move around like turkeys. Once the music stops, they turn back to normal kids.

    Play the music and tell them to act like:

    Big turkeys / Little turkeys / Tired turkeys / Happy turkeys /Scared turkeys. Etc.

    Make it more interesting by choosing music based on the movement you’d like to elicit.

    Run, Turkey, Run!

    Run Turkey Run by Diane Mayr. This is a fun picture book for young learners. You can get the book and read it with them in class, or play the YouTube video of it being read.

    Find the Turkey

    Pick a few students to be ‘farmers’. They leave the class while the other students have to hide cut-outs of turkeys in the classroom. Once the farmers return, the rest of the class helps them to find the turkeys, but instead of saying hot or cold, they gobble like turkeys when a farmer gets near one.

    Hide as many turkeys as there are farmers. Once a farmer finds a turkey, they return it to you.

    Thanksgiving Worksheets

    I have collected a few worksheets that you can get for free when you join the Etacude email list. They include Bingo, word matches, and stories. Find it in the description below.

    🦃 Thanksgiving Worksheets ►

    Have a blessed Thanksgiving with your loved ones.

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