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On a personal level, Thanksgiving is my most favorite holiday. The parades. The family. The FOOD!!!! And when the weather cooperates, it’s one of the most magical days of the year (for me, anway). So it should come as no surprise that I would feel the same about celebrating Thanksgiving in the classroom, too. Well, any holiday, really 😉
Here are a few things I’ve done with my Kindergarten and First Graders through the years during the month of November. Of course, I don’t have time for everything you see every single year, so depending on the dynamic and abilities of my students, I pick and choose year to year.
I always try to start the month out with a thematic schema map to see what my kids know about Thanksgiving. Depending on the time we have, I might follow up with a writing craftivity like the one pictured above. I take pics of all my kids, cut out their cute little heads, and then adhere them to a turkey body. Their fingerprints are the feathers. Then they’ll write about Thanksgiving inside of a speech bubble.
Our state standards require us to teach our students about the origins and customs of the holiday as well as comparing the observance of the holiday today to the observance and celebration of the holiday in the past. We also focus on family traditions and customs through various compare/contrast activities.
We talk a lot about how the pilgrim children lived compared to how children live today. What we have versus what the pilgrims did not. We read non-fiction texts and use Google to research the facts. My favorite part of the comparison activities is watching the looks on the kid’s faces when they learn about the lifestyle of pilgrim children. I’m sure you’ve experienced similar looks of shock and incredulity. Bless them.
For this particular activity, we created a Venn diagram comparing pilgrim children to children of today. After gathering our information and reviewing what we learned, I had the kids write about it using a “I have/can________, but pilgrims did/could not” sentence stem. After completing their writing, I had the kids create their very own pilgrims. I don’t have a template, but as you can see I used half of a paper plate rim for the girl pilgrim’s hat and yarn for the hair. Everything else was cut on the fly! HA!
If your kids have access to Kid Pix, this is a great activity to incorporate!
The kids were instructed to draw themselves as pilgrims using Kid Pix. We printed them out and adhered them to their writing. They wrote about one chore they would have had as a pilgrim child.
I’ve always found that my kids are most interested in learning about life on the Mayflower. They’re always astounded to learn about the conditions on the boat and what the pilgrims had (or didn’thave!) to eat.
We read several non-fiction texts about the Mayflower, gather information, and then create an anchor chart to store all of our new learning. We do several differnt Mayflower activities after learning about it and one of my favorites is prompting kids to write about what they would pack if they were traveling on the Mayflower. It’s so hard for them to understand why the pilgrim kids could only bring one trunk full of their belongings which often only included clothes and a bible. It’s always interesting to see what they think they can’t live without.
We also do a lot of non-fiction writing about the Mayflower.
These Mayflower bag books are always a favorite! For me AND the kids!!! We cut apart and stapled together grocery bags for this writing project. Inside of the book, we adhered writing paper and prompted the kids to write 3-5 separate facts about the Mayflower using complete sentences. This was a first grade project. I didn’t attempt it with my Kindergartners, although it would definitely be doable if modified!
Learning about the Wampanoags is also a big focus of our learning. We discuss their life here in America before the pilgrims arrived, how it changed after the pilgrims settled, and their role in the first Thanksgiving.
In addition to learning about the origins, customs, and tradtions of Thanksgiving, November is a great time for self-reflection.
There is SO much to be thankful for! We spend a little time each day naming one thing for which we are thankful. I incorporate a lot of discussion questions regarding gratitude during our whole group time. The kids will also complete a few written activities expressing their gratitude as well.
I love incorporating fiction picture books and writng activities into our learning as well.
After reading, “I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie“, we do a little text-to-self writing activity and write about what we would swallow if we were the old lady. Then we draw that item and adhere it to the mouth of the old lady. These always turn out so adorable.
I also love reading, “The Littlest Pilgrim“.
Not only is this a great read aloud to reinforce how pilgrims lived, but it’s also a great mentor text for teaching students about character traits and details. After reading the story, we brainstorm a list of words that describe the main character, Mini. As the kids say the words, I prompt them to provide evidence that supports their thinking. Once we’ve gathered our descriptions, I send the kids out to write 5 different sentences about Mini using character details. Again, no template for this craftivity, but it’s really easy to recreate. Big circle for the face, half of a larger circle for the hat/bonnet, and then smaller half circles for the hands. The kids draw the face and hair.
And, of course, we can’t leave out the turkeys!
We read a lot of fiction and non-fiction texts about turkeys during the month of November and follow-up with lots of fun craftivities that to reinforce various writing skills & concepts. For morning work, my kids will assemble a turkey out of construction paper and then write about what we should eat INSTEAD of eating turkey using the sentence stem, “EAT MORE ________!” I like to hang these from the ceiling! (far left).
We also discuss how we could catch a turkey and then I prompt the kids to write a how-to piece (far right). They illustrate their steps and then make a coffee filter turkey to display with their writing. As a keepsake, some years I would have my kids make handprint/footprint turkeys and then copy a Thanksgiving poem that I’d adhere to a large piece of construction paper and laminate for them to take home and use as a placemat on Thanksgiving Day (middle top).
And let’s not forget math! In first grade, I had my kids create related facts turkeys (middle bottom). For this little activity, I cut out a turkey template using a triangle and half circle. The kids rolled two dice and used the numbers rolled plus the sum for the numbers they in their fact family. They wrote those numbers on the triangle (turkey head) and then wrote the related facts on feathers they adhered to the turkey’s body. The kids absolutely LOVED this one!
Speaking of Math, this is my all-time favorite Math related Thanksgiving activity!
We learn about symmetry…what it means and how it looks…and then I have this kids create symmetrical turkeys! I absolutely LOVE this activity because truly a little piece of each child’s personality really shines through their creation. All you need is a lot of pre-cut construction paper pattern block templates in different colors. I used the die cut machine in our lounge to cut out the blocks for ours, but there are templates online you can copy on colored paper and then cut out yourself!!
We also incorporate as many turkey science investigations and experiments as we can, too. Whatever time affords us!
I hope these activities and ideas will be useful to you! If not for this year, maybe next!!
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