Thanksgiving Problem Solving Activities

Instructor: Bethany Calderwood

Bethany has taught special education in grades PK-5 and has a master's degree in special education.

Do you ever wonder how to make holiday time productive? Problem-solving skills are critical for people of all ages. This Thanksgiving, use thematic problem-solving activities to celebrate while practicing this essential skill.

Problem Solving

If you believe Forrest Gump's classic line about life, it's like a box of chocolates - you never know what you're going to get. For this reason, problem-solving skills are essential for people of all ages. Students need to develop the ability to analyze a problem, consider strategies and resources, test options, and come to a viable solution. These skills should be accompanied by flexibility and teamwork. No time is a bad time to work on problem-solving activities, so try these Thanksgiving-themed activities for elementary students.

Activity: Celebration Conundrums

Objective: Students use critical thinking skills to solve problems and set up a Thanksgiving celebration.

Materials: Various

  • Discuss problem-solving strategies with your students. As a class, brainstorm steps to take to solve problems. Post the problem-solving strategies.
  • Announce to your students that they will need to be on the lookout for opportunities to use the problem-solving strategies as they help plan a Thanksgiving celebration.
  • Arrange a number of obstacles for your students as they plan a celebration. For example:
    • Invite two other classes to your celebration. When your students invite them, the other classrooms express scheduling conflicts.
    • The guests to your celebration have dietary restrictions.
    • Students need to plan activities for a limited space.
    • Resources the students want to use (such as party decorations) are being used by another group.
  • For each party planning obstacle that the students encounter, have them go through the problem-solving strategy steps. You might choose to have students work as a whole class, or put students in small groups and have each group address one problem.
  • As a follow-up, each student writes a reflection on the problems they encountered and how they worked to solve them.

Activity: Brainstorm Circle

Objective: Students consider various ways to solve the same problem.

Materials: None

  • Seat students in a circle.
  • State a Thanksgiving-themed dilemma. For example:
    • You're cooking Thanksgiving dinner, and you realize you have no vegetables.
  • The first student states one possible step you could take to solve the problem. For example, see if the grocery store is still open.
  • The next student states a different step that could be taken to solve the problem. For example, call Grandma (who will be coming for dinner) and ask if she has any vegetables to bring.
  • Continue around the circle until someone can't think of any other steps to solve the problem. Then introduce a new problem.
  • Keep track of how many ideas students generate for each problem. For each consecutive problem, challenge students to be creative and generate more ideas than they did for the previous problem.

Activity: There's a Hole in My Bucket

Objective: Compose a song about progressive problem solving.

Materials: None

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