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Thanksgiving Activities

The holidays always inspire me to create fun and exciting learning activities and Thanksgiving is no exception. I love taking a real life event from my student’s lives to extend learning through language arts, math, science and creative expression activities. It makes for a more fulfilling holiday experience for me as well as for my students.

Here are some quick ideas for you to use in your own classroom!

• One of my favorite books to read about Thanksgiving is A Turkey for Thanksgiving by Eve Bunting. It has a hilarious twist at the end that always surprises my students and inspires very interesting discussions. It is also a great book for making educated guesses about “what will happen next.” After the reading, students can act out the story, by being the different animal characters in the story. Finally, be sure to journal about this book because it will spark some interesting thoughts for your students.

• Start a discussion with your students about their Thanksgiving traditions by working together to write a class acrostic poem with the words Thanksgiving Day.

• Create a class book of “Turkey Time Treats”. Students write their own recipes on how to cook a turkey or bake pumpkin pie. An illustration is added and then a class set is made for each student to bring home to share with their family. Recipes written by six and seven year olds make for hilarious reading! I often have student complete their writing on the computer because the print is easier to copy when making a class book for each student.

• To increase oral language skills, write each letter of the alphabet on a turkey or cornucopia cutouts. Place the cutouts in a bag. Students take out a cutout and tells what he or she is thankful for that begins with that letter they chose.

• I think everyone has heard of the art trick of turning a students handprint into a turkey. Add language art skills to this activity by having students write on conversation bubbles glued around the turkey hand print. Students can reinforce what they have learned about quotation marks by writing what they have learned about turkeys, favorite parts of a book, things that they are thankful for or things they would like to thank their friends or family for.

• To reinforce nouns, have students illustrate and label people, places and things they are thankful for on an index card. Mix the cards up and then sit together in a circle to sort under the heading “We are thankful for these…people, places and things:” you can then use this activity as center activity for students to complete on their own or as a display on a bulletin board.

• Graph favorite foods usually eaten at Thanksgiving (turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberries, pie etc.)

• Organize a pie tasting activity by having each student bring in a different pie. If you have 20 students, choose 10 different pies and request two of each. Before tasting the pies, have the students list adjectives that visually describe each pie, cut each students a small slice and have them smell each pie and add more adjectives to the list, have each student taste the pies and add even more adjectives to the list. Finally, graph student’s favorite pies and have them write about their favorite pie using some of the adjectives previously listed.

• Collect different types of feathers for students to examine by touch and through a magnifying glass. Discuss size, color and weight. Conduct a few quick science experiments by having students drop feathers from standing on top of their chairs and recording what happened. Discuss how some feathers dropped straight down, spiraled or drifted. Ask students to consider what would happen in one student dropped a feather and one student dropped a beanbag at the same time from the same height. Complete the experiment and have students write about what happened. Finally, let students have a feather-blowing contest! I usually let students compete in groups of three and then the winners of each match compete against each other.

• For an inspired family art project, send home a large cardboard cutout shaped like a turkey feather. Families can decorate it with anything they have around the house: seeds, fabric, paint, feathers, cotton balls, buttons, bows, ribbon, wrapping paper, tissue paper, noodles, beans, cereal, photos, magazine cutouts. Display all together with a large turkey body.

• Be sure to check out these other articles, activities and lesson plans to help you teach about the First Thanksgiving.

• Scholastic has also complied First Thanksgiving Reader Theater Ideas. Finally, your students can Tour The Mayflower with this informative web page, which uses timelines, photos and audio.

“I like to eat matales at Thanksgiving.” (tamales)
Ryan Z. from Ms. Atkinson’s Class 2006-2007



I really liked a lot of your ideas for Thanksgiving! I used a few in my classroom this year...I'm a first year teacher! I was wondering what wonderful ideas you had for the christmas/winter season???

Jennifer Atkinson

Thanks for keeping me on my toes Cassie!
I am so glad that ideas I have been posting is helping out a first year teacher like yourself! Per your request, here is a link to the blog I posted today with lots of Christmas ideas for writing, art, games and home projects.


Have a beautiful break and please try to take some down time for yourself. I know it is so hard to even breathe in your first year- but everyone needs to recharge! If I can ever help you out in any other way, don't hesitate to contact me!

Comments are closed. Please see Classroom Solutions, our new blog for the 2009-2010 school year. And stay tuned for Teaching Matters with Angela Bunyi and Beth Newingham.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Inside Jennifer's 1st Grade Classroom are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.