How to Incorporate Thanksgiving Into the Classroom


Thanksgiving is coming! Check out this blog post for a few fun ideas on how to bring the holiday into your classroom in a way your students will enjoy.

Thankful for Your Classroom

One of the most exciting parts of school, for teachers and students alike, is celebrating holidays in the classroom. It provides a nice change of pace - and usually some delicious treats. Now that Halloween is over, it's time to think about how you'll incorporate Thanksgiving into your classroom this year. Below you'll find some ideas to help you combine fun and learning for this special holiday.

Gratitude Garland

This craft is a great idea for kids of all ages who enjoy hands-on tasks. Pass out different colors of construction paper to each of your students and have them cut out a leaf shape from their sheet. You can encourage them to be creative and invent their own leaf shape, or provide stencils/samples for visual consistency. Have your students write something they are grateful for on their leaf. If they're feeling particularly grateful this year, they're welcome to create as many leaves as they'd like. Once every student is finished, string all of the leaves together on a length of twine. You can put this gratitude garland up in a prominent place in your classroom to remind the students of how lucky they are for weeks to come. Because we could all use a reminder to be grateful every once in a while... especially during Black Friday.

Thanksgiving leaves

In Their Words

Learning about Thanksgiving is often one of the main ways students learn about Native American history, culture, and traditions. Rather than letting this create or reinforce stereotypes about Native Americans, use this Thanksgiving as an opportunity to let your students hear straight from Native Americans themselves. You can combine the Thanksgiving context with a lesson on primary versus secondary documents by locating a few of each. For example, you could choose a diary entry from a Pilgrim along with a modern commentary on Thanksgiving written by a Native American tribe member. Your students can read these documents and compare and contrast the historical picture they paint.

A teacher uses online lessons to teach about Thanksgiving

Use Online Lessons

If you're looking for an efficient and effective way to quickly teach key concepts related to Thanksgiving, your easiest option would be finding online resources. For example, offers video lessons with animation that makes academic topics accessible and engaging. You can show the videos in class and print the transcripts for learners who prefer to read. Then you can have your students answer the lesson's accompanying quiz either individually or together. Consider these lessons as a jumping off point:

You can also make use of these lesson plans, activities, questions, and stories:

A depiction of the Pilgrims leaving England

True or False

There are many myths and misconceptions perpetuated about Thanksgiving, even in schools. To fight misinformation and introduce surprising fun facts, consider doing a true or false activity with your students. Print out a list of Thanksgiving facts that includes misconceptions as well as true, but little-known facts. Ask your students to answer whether each fact is true or false, and then go over the answers, explaining the context behind each one. Here are some ideas for where to start:

  • There were no forks at the first Thanksgiving - True
  • The first Thanksgiving included turkey - False
  • Harry Truman started the tradition of pardoning turkeys - True
  • The first Thanksgiving happened in November - False

Teach Fractions with Pumpkin Pie

We're all familiar with using the idea of pie to introduce the concept of fractions, but what about taking this to the next level and using actual pumpkin pie as a tasty, real-life representation? You can even make this a fun surprise by teaching the lesson with pumpkin pie as a metaphor before surprising your students with real pie. Of course, don't forget to take allergies and food restrictions into account. We don't want any hives here.

Looking for more lesson plans, activities, and questions to use in your classroom throughout the year? Check out's Teacher Edition.

By Daisy Rogozinsky
November 2018
teachers student engagement

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