It is hard to believe the holiday season is just around the corner. It's also hard to believe a quarter of the school year has already passed. By this point in the year, you've likely built a solid classroom community and know your students well. This can make it an extra fun time to incorporate meaningful holidays and events into your lesson plans using your students and their interests to guide the process. As you think about lesson planning for the month, I hope you'll find this post full of November teaching ideas useful for ideas and inspiration.
November Holidays & Events to Engage Learners
While Thanksgiving is the big holiday that instantly comes to mind in November in the United States, there are several other holidays and events that occur during the month both in the US and around the world. These can be used as teachable moments to help your students learn more about different cultures while also providing a welcome break from the routine of daily lessons.
Dia de Los Muertos – November 1
While most of us are familiar with the hype surrounding Halloween, you might also consider finding ways to incorporate Dia de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, into your lesson plans this year.
This holiday is celebrated in Mexico and other parts of Latin America. It takes place on November 1st and 2nd and is a time to remember and honor loved ones who have passed away. It is essential to point out that Dia de Los Muertos is a festive celebration instead of a somber holiday.
An easy way to begin learning about this holiday is by watching the short video below with your students. As they watch, you might pause to discuss key vocabulary words or ask questions to gauge their understanding.
After watching the video, consider having students create their own altars. These can be individual or class-wide projects and can be as simple or elaborate as you have time for. Students might also enjoy learning more about traditional foods, such as pan de Muerto (bread of the dead) and sugar skulls, which are a traditional part of Dia de Los Muertos celebrations. You could do a sugar skull art activity or even have a Day of the Dead feast in your classroom, complete with traditional foods and music.
Consider having students bring in pictures and items that would help tell the story of the person they are remembering. You can have students write short personal narratives about a special memory they have of this person. Or you might even consider creating a class ofrenda, or altar, to remember all the important people in your students' lives.
Dia de Los Muertos is a great opportunity to help bring diverse perspectives into your classroom and allow students to learn more about another culture.
Veterans Day – November 11
Many schools honor Veterans Day with a school-wide assembly or special event. This holiday provides an excellent opportunity to teach your students about the importance of service. You can also emphasize giving back to their community.
If you have a veteran in your family or personal network, consider inviting them to speak to your class. Have your students brainstorm a list of questions in advance to help keep the conversation on track. This can also allow your guest speaker to feel more comfortable with what will be expected of him or her.
You might also consider allowing students to learn more about the history of Veterans Day using an age-appropriate video or writing letters to veterans in your community.
One activity I enjoyed with my learners was creating Veterans Day Acrostic poems. We displayed these on our bulletin board. The veterans could see them there when they came for our school's assembly and breakfast. In fact, I was surprised how many of our visitors stopped and read the kids' poems!
They also offered an easy-to-differentiate way to write and thank the veterans who came to visit. Check out the picture below for an example of our Veterans Day display.
World Kindness Day – November 13
World Kindness Day is celebrated on November 13th and is a day devoted to promoting good deeds and acts of kindness. This is an excellent opportunity to teach your students the importance of being kind to others and thinking of others before themselves.
You can incorporate World Kindness Day into your lesson plans in many ways. One way is to have students brainstorm a list of kind things they can do for others. This could be as simple as holding the door open for someone or picking up trash in the schoolyard. You might also consider having students write letters of appreciation to people in their lives who have been kind to them. These could be friends, family members, teachers, or even the school janitor!
Another fun activity is to have students make kindness chains. They can watch for peers being kind to others and write a quick note about it on a strip of paper. These can be hooked together to create a chain that can spread throughout the classroom! I've even created a free kindness chain printable that you can download below.
Thanksgiving – 4th Thursday in November
Of course, any list of November holidays would be incomplete if it didn't include Thanksgiving. You can incorporate this festive season throughout the month by teaching lessons on gratitude during your SEL time, building turkeys into your math activities, or adding engaging seasonal reads to your ELA block.
Thanksgiving provides an excellent opportunity to investigate the history of the holiday and the importance of giving thanks. You might also consider having students read books about Thanksgiving. You can also have them write their own stories about what they are thankful for.
If you're looking for a great read-aloud, there are many great books about the fall harvest and Thanksgiving that you can incorporate into the weeks leading up to Thankful Thursday. Here are just a few of my favorites:
5 Great Thanksgiving Read-Alouds
- Turkey Trouble by Wendi Silvano
- Mrs. Potts Finds Thanksgiving by Alice K. Boatwright
- Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade by M. Sweet
- Magic Tree House #27: Thanksgiving on Thursday by Mary Pope Osborne
- Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving by Laurie Halse Anderson
If you're looking for some great options for Thanksgiving-themed lessons and activities, I've created a whole blog post dedicated to the holiday. It includes links to great freebies, videos, and activity ideas to help keep students engaged and learning as the break approaches. You can check it out here: Thanksgiving Activities and Lesson Ideas.
November Teaching Ideas: Connecting Across the Curriculum
As you can see, many great holidays and events in November provide wonderful opportunities for connecting across the curriculum. I hope this post has given you some ideas for incorporating these celebrations into your lesson plans.
What are some of your favorite November teaching ideas? Share them in the comments below!