It’s that time of year! We’ve just passed Halloween, and Christmas is right around the corner. But, sloooooow down time, because there’s a wonderful holiday I love to celebrate in the classroom. That’s right, Thanksgiving. One of my favorite memories as a first grader myself is when our teacher held a formal Thanksgiving dinner just for our class. We all dressed up (I even have the home movie), and parents helped turn the music room (which was a modular building) into a magical Thanksgiving feast, complete with actual cloth linens and real silverware. I look back at that day in amazement and pure gratitude. Knowing what I know now about teaching, pulling that off could not have been an easy feat. If you are brave enough to try this with your class and have some parent volunteers willing to help, you should definitely try it. It’s one of my all time favorite memories, and some day I hope to recreate it in my own classroom. Until then, here are a few of my tried and true favorite Thanksgiving things to do in the classroom!
When it comes to celebrating pretty much anything in the classroom, I’m all about easy. I like to make things fun, but I don’t want to spend my entire weekend prepping for it. My first year, I would have. But at this point, I cherish the weekends. I’m guessing you do, too. Here are just a few Thanksgiving activities that don’t require a lot of prep, but still have all the fun!
A fun way to kick off the month is to introduce the concept of gratitude. Many primary students don’t know what the word means, and it’s always important to connect vocabulary to real life experiences. I like to give students little cards of gratitude. It makes them feel extra special, doesn’t take a lot of effort on my part, and is inexpensive (something I’m aaaaall about). These ones are black and white and look great printed on colored paper. I also made them editable so you can even change the names and add your own personal notes to each of your students.
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I also have these FUN Editable Color by Code pages that can be Thanksgiving Color by Sight Word, Thanksgiving Color by Number….you decide (that’s the editable part!) whether to use them for math or literacy, or both! Kids LOVE them and you are sneaking in learning and they don’t mind! I call that a win-win! They’re great for differentiating because you can have 3 different groups (or any amount of groups for that matter) using the same coloring page, but working on different things. For instance, you might use the turkey page and have one group working on finding the letter a, another group finding short a words, and another group looking for long a words. It’s that easy to differentiate.
The week before Thanksgiving, I like to give my students a Night Before Thanksgiving reader’s theater (you can grab it free here) so they can begin practicing. I’ve done this in groups, in pairs and a combination of pairs as a whole group and every year, it’s so fun to see how it turns out. If you’ve never done a reader’s theater, I highly recommend trying it. I am always so impressed with the growth they make from the first time they read it to when they’ve practiced for a week. You can keep it simple, or you can turn into more of a production with acting, it all depends on how much time you have!
Of course, what Thanksgiving is complete without a Turkey in Disguise? This is the perfect companion to either a Plump and Perky Turkey or Turkey Trouble read aloud. The gist is that students help turkey by creating a costume to hide. This pack includes an editable family letter and lots of turkey template options to choose from. You can see what else is included here.
And, if you need an early finisher activity for Thanksgiving, I have these editable Turkey Name pages that are fun to color (and you can send home laminated for an easy placemat). You can find them in the Free Resource Library here.
An easy craft you can do that incorporates literacy are these Editable Writing Crafts. You can choose what the writing prompt is, whether it’s “If I Were a Turkey” or “What I’m Thankful for This Year.” It’s editable, so it’s up to you! They’re simple cut and paste crafts so you don’t have your students wasting a lot of time tracing onto construction paper (your admin will appreciate that). And, what’s even better, this is actually a set of 80 crafts all bundled into one! For instance, you get this turkey craft, along with 75 more in the same resource. They can be thrown up on a bulletin board or sent home.
I also love these Thanksgiving centers for literacy and math. My favorite activity is the “Gobble the Corn” where the turkey’s beak is a greater/less than symbol and students have to decide which corn card number is larger–so cute! This pack is perfect for the whole month of November and ideal for most Kindergarten, First and Second grade classes. A bunch of the literacy activities are editable so you can differentiate the words for your students or customize it so they are focusing on specific letter sounds or words (perfect if you follow a program). A bunch of the math activities are also editable so you can change the difficulty level or just print and go. It also includes an editable writing prompt with Turkey Craft–so you can change that “What I’m Thankful For” or leave it–the turkey is a simple color and cut so it doesn’t take a lot of prep and students aren’t spending an hour cutting/glueing (who has time for that?!). You can see more of what’s included here.
And I know these name activities are silly, but students LOVE them. You can ask for volunteers and read them aloud during snack or just send a copy home for students to do with their families. Always a hit and giggle inducing from preschoolers to adults (my husband is almost 40 and he loves it). You can grab it for free here.
If you have a little bit of prep time before, you can plan a fun Thanksgiving escape room for your students. These ones are editable and are the perfect activity for adding some fun while still learning and focusing on what you’ve been doing in class. You can find the Thanksgiving Escape Room here.
And we can’t forget about the read-alouds! I begin most of my months with switching out our book display and gathering my read alouds (I’m oddly protective over them haha!). Most students (and even adults) will take one look at this book and immediately think it’s about Halloween. But….it’s not! It’s a great transition book from Halloween to Thanksgiving (the pumpkin is actually a gourd, and he sits down for a Thanksgiving meal at the end). Here are a few more of my favorite Thanksgiving read-alouds. You can click on any of the books to see them on Amazon.
So that’s it! I hope you found something useful that you can do with your class to celebrate Thanksgiving. If you have any suggestions, feel free to drop a comment below!