Thanksgiving is as exciting as it is hectic—especially when you’re a teacher. Not only do you have to plan out Thanksgiving for your family, you’ve got a classroom (or classrooms) full of kids to think about! If you’re running behind this year, or simply looking for a few new Thanksgiving lesson plans to supplement the tried and true, look no further: Here are a few of our favorite Thanksgiving activities that you can easily tie into your math, English, art and social studies curriculum.
4 Last-Minute Thanksgiving Lesson Plans for Elementary Teachers
This is a fun activity for your elementary mathematicians, one that applies real-world math skills, but with a Thanksgiving twist. Here’s what you do:
Gather ads from a few of your local grocery stores. Divide the class into groups of three or four and assign each group a budget; you’ll also want to let them know how many guests they’ll be inviting to their hypothetical Thanksgiving dinner. Their task will be to stick to their budget and create a Thanksgiving dinner from the items listed in the advertisements.
Not only does this help your students hone their math skills—especially multiplication, where the prices of turkey are given per lb.—it also forces them to use their critical thinking skills by comparing items from several grocery stores to find the best price!
We originally got this idea from Vallye Blanton, a fifth grade teacher at Lake Park Elementary School in Georgia. Here’s what you do:
Compile a list of objects and then write them on slips of paper. For example, you might write down a few historical figures from the unit your students are currently studying, a pop star your students like, President Obama, an oven mitten, whatever—the objects can be inanimate, animate, and fictional, whatever you want, just get creative. Next, throw them into a hat and have each student pick one slip of paper.
Your students’ task will be to write a paragraph (maybe even a six-word story like we suggested in an earlier blog) describing what that person or object has to be thankful for. This activity sparks engaging (and often hilarious) classroom discussions. We’ve tried this and had great success with it!
The folks over at Hazel Avenue School in West Orange, New Jersey came up with an activity they call Famous Faces. The activity is an excellent way to integrate reading, research and art. Once students have written a summary report about a famous historical figure, they take it a step further by making poster-board cutouts of the person to help bring him or her to life.
Since you’re putting the activity together a bit late in the game, you may want to simplify it. Instead of having your students write up a report, you might present and discuss some of the historical myths surrounding popular versions of the Thanksgiving story and have your students create poster board illustrations of what they’ve learned. For example, when many of our students think of “Pilgrims,” they automatically see strange folks in black hats. The same goes for the Wampanoag, the Native Americans who lived near Plymouth when it was first founded: Many of us envision the Wampanoag riding horses, sleeping in teepees and donning elaborate feather headdresses at the Thanksgiving dinner table. None of this, however, is accurate.
There’s an excellent site put together by LEARN NC—a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education—that will help you place the Thanksgiving story back into its original context and discuss it with your students.
Eating! (Who could forget this?!)
If there’s one thing every Thanksgiving activity needs, it’s good food. How about having your students make some Oreo Turkey Treats. We got this idea from Kimi C. over at Flickr.
Here’s what you’ll need:
7 Candy Corn
2 Double Stuffed Oreo Cookies
1 Reese's Peanut Butter Cup
1 Tube of black piping gel
1 tube of white icing
1 Yellow and red food coloring
1 Yellow and red food coloring
1 Plastic Ziplock bag
1 sharp knife
1 pair of scissors
Here’s how you make them:
Put your Peanut Butter Cups in the fridge to cool. If you have cold hard chocolate to work with it makes it a lot easier.
Squeeze some of the white icing into a bowl. This will be your orange. Mix red and yellow food coloring with the icing to create your desired orange. Then put that into a plastic bag and set it aside for later.
First you will be creating the tail using 1 Oreo cookie and 6 Candy Corns. Gently, with one candy corn pull apart just one side of the Oreo. Don't break apart the entire thing. Put a good amount of icing in between the two sides. This will help the Candy Corn stay. Place 6 Candy Corn (white side down) in between the cookie. See picture.
Take your white icing and squeeze a generous amount onto the top back of an Oreo cookie. Take the other Oreo and put the bottom into the icing to have it stand up. If it doesn't stand, add more icing! Once you have it standing, put it up against something so it doesn't fall until the icing is dry. I use a thick book.
Remove your Peanut Butter Cup from the fridge. Take your knife and cut off the very bottom so you have a flat surface. Put icing on the bottom and prop it up against the bottom and back of your Oreo cookies. See picture.
Next take your Whopper and squeeze more icing on one side. Place the Whopper on top of the Peanut Butter Cup to make your head.
Find a piece of Candy Corn that has a nice big white end. Using your sharp knife cut the color off leaving you with the white end. Place some icing on it and stick it on your Whopper as the beak to your Oreo Turkey. Hold for a moment.
Take your icing and place two white dots as eyes. Get your tube of black piping gel and place a black dot on each eye to make them come alive.
Grab your bag of already created orange. Cut a very small hole in the corner of the bag. Now, pipe feet.
Now you are done! It’s that simple!!