Engaging Ideas for Teaching about Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a great time to build in so many academic skills. Whether you’re looking for social studies activities that teach students about the first Thanksgiving or you need a fun writing activity to keep students engaged as your break approaches, you’ll find lots of great ideas of ways to keep your upper elementary students learning in the days leading up to break.

Low-prep, engaging ideas for teaching students about Thanksgiving. Includes fun Thanksgiving activities and free classroom resources.

5 Simple Activities to Use Before Thanksgiving Break

The week leading up to Thanksgiving break can be a challenging one for students and teachers alike. The excitement of the holidays is palpable, and there are often schedule changes that make things even more hectic. I created this post to share some of my favorite Thanksgiving activities to do in the classroom.

These ideas were selected because they are low-prep and perfect for adding to your November lesson plans, even at the last minute. Check them out now!

1. Thanksgiving Webquest

Teaching students about the first Thanksgiving doesn’t have to involve a lot of time or prep. Scholastic has an amazing Thanksgiving webquest that is chock full of interesting facts and information.

This is a great opportunity to teach and practice note-taking skills, and I created a simple flipbook that helps my students keep everything in one place.

The great thing about this webquest is that it has a ton of activities and short video clips that are really detailed and educational. Students learn what the Mayflower was really like. They compare and contrast the life of the Wampanoags and Pilgrims. There’s even a section about what was really eaten at the first Thanksgiving.

My students were so engaged that I actually ended up adding an extra flap to allow them to record all the interesting facts that didn’t quite fit elsewhere.

Here’s a picture of my flipbook from last year.

Free Thanksgiving Activity for Upper Elementary Webquest thanksgiving activities

You can get a free copy of my flipbook template (in two different printing formats) by clicking the button below.

2. How to Cook a Turkey – Procedural Writing

Thanksgiving is a great time to teach a quick procedural writing unit, especially if you work at a campus where many students start their break early. While many districts are moving away from “how-to” writing, this easy project is a great way to engage students without having those students who have left early miss out on core writing instruction. I love to use this easy writing project the week before Thanksgiving because the kids are so excited about it they forget they are working.

The whole activity takes about a week, but it is really laid out step-by-step so my kiddos who need to make it up can do a lot of it during their free work time.

The students start by brainstorming using a web graphic organizer before they begin outlining their steps.

How to Cook a Turkey Graphic Organizers thanksgiving activities

The outcomes are often quite hilarious, and it is a good opportunity to discuss procedural texts. We storyboard the steps before drafting, and then students revise their working using the editing and revising checklist.

How to Cook a Turkey Editing and Revising Checklist thanksgiving activities

Once students are done revising their first draft, they are ready to create their procedural mini-book. These end up being absolutely hilarious and so fun to read.

Some students will cook their turkey for 30 minutes at 100 degrees. Others decide 5 hours at 500 degrees seems more reasonable. One year I had a student who had a sponge bath for the turkey as one of their steps.

Thanksgiving writing activity - How to cook a turkey procedural writing - Holiday writing

I am sure you can see why this is one of my favorite writing pieces to read each year.

Thanksgiving writing minibook - How to cook a turkey - fun thanksgiving writing activity for third, fourth, and fifth grade students

If you want to try it out in your classroom you can grab the file on Teachers Pay Teachers by clicking the button below.

Click here to buy the How to Cook a Turkey Thanksgiving Writing Activity on Teachers Pay Teachers.

3. Create a Thankful Banner as a Thanksgiving Activity for Writing

If you’re looking for a fun way to decorate your classroom around Thanksgiving. This banner might be the perfect solution.

This is another easy-to-implement writing project, where students write about something they are thankful for. String the pieces together to create a beautiful banner to display in your classroom or as a hallway display.

Thanksgiving writing craft perfect for bulletin boards or displays.

Learn more about this project or purchase it here: I am Thankful Writing Banner Craft

4. Turkey-themed rounding and estimation math center

When students leave early for break, it can be frustrating to try to figure out how to balance moving forward with your lesson plans and keeping these students from developing gaps.

One solution is to use the week before Thanksgiving break as a way to allow students to review previously taught skills. Rounding and estimation, for example, are often taught in October. That means your students will likely need a refresher by November.

I created a turkey-themed math station that gives students a chance to get some extra practice with these skills. It is a fun way to build some holiday fun into your November lesson plans without sacrificing skill practice. Click here to learn more about this Thanksgiving Math Center.

Thanksgiving math center to refresh rounding and estimation.

5. Learn about Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

This one may seem a little silly, but students LOVE to learn about this parade. Try reading the book Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet, and then give your students time to brainstorm and sketch their own idea for a parade float.

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If you’ve got time, you can even have them create miniature models of their float using shoe boxes or balloons. Students love Thanksgiving activities that involve creativity! There are also several good Youtube videos about the history of the parade. You can preview them to see which might be best for your students.

What do you teach as Thanksgiving approaches?

It was so fun sharing my favorite holiday activities with you. Now it is your turn! How do you spice up your classroom the last few days before the break?

Leave me a comment and let me know…I am always looking for great ideas.

Looking for more great articles with lesson ideas for the holiday season? Check out the ones below.

November Lesson Ideas to Keep STudents Engaged
How to Use Gratitude Journals in the Elementary Classroom thanksgiving activities
Holiday Writing Projects for Kids thanksgiving activities

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