5 Ways To Teach Thanksgiving, Engage Students, and Not Lose Your Mind!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Engage your students and teach Thanksgiving Activities for kids in elementary and middle school. #thanksgivinglessons #thanksgivingactivities #middleschool #elementaryschool
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I love Thanksgiving!  Mostly I love Thanksgiving because it means I get to put up my Christmas tree the next day, but I do really love having my whole family over to just spend time together.  Thanksgiving also is a great opportunity to sneak in some learning no matter what age you teach.  So, what are some awesome, low prep activities?

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If you teach middle school, Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to talk about myths and legends vs. facts.  On of my favorite activities to do before the holiday was from Beyond the Bubble.  Beyond the Bubble is operated by the Stanford History Education Group and focuses on students being critical readers of history.  Beyond the Bubble has a great activity comparing the facts of the first Thanksgiving and the picture that was painted in 1932. Click here for the activity!
2) A teacher can never have enough books and little ones can not read enough!  In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, think about joining Epic! Books !  I’m going to blog more about Epic! Later this week but just know that your students can access high quality, digital books about Thanksgiving!  Students can read both fiction and informational text on the site and can find books that are read aloud.  Epic! Books are also great for young students to start their journey into researching!

3)  Have you taken a virtual field trip yet?  If not, one of my favorite simple and easy virtual experiences is taking a trip to Plymouth Plantation the week before Thanksgiving.  Head on over to Learn Around the World and let Brandon Hall show your kids around Plymouth Plantation and teach them about life among the Pilgrims and Wampanoag.

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4) Introduce your kiddos to podcasts!  Podcasts are a super hit in my house and they help students create critical listening skills.  Stories Podcasts is one of my favorites. Students write stories and the lovely peopl at The Stories Podcasts act them out and add music.  They have a cute and short podcast about two sibling fighting about a Thanksgiving Pie Off.  I suggest it for 3rd grade and above:)

5) Lastly, I love to get the kiddos ready by playing my The History of Thanksgiving Digital Simulation.
The game is performed whole class but students compete in a group of 3 or 4.  I launch the activity by having students turn and talk and discuss the following essential questions:
What obstacles and what successes did the Pilgrims encounter as they attempted to survive at Plymouth?
Once students are in groups I give each student a point sheet and each group gets a spinner.  To use the spinner, the students need a pencil and a paperclip.

Once the students have all their paper resources, I begin the presentation.  The presentation has students spinning through the game to assign them their actions on how they would have acted in the months leading up to the first Thanksgiving. Every option in the game is taken straight from history.  If students “choose” the same path as the Pilgrims, they will be successful all the way up through the first Thanksgiving.  Students will also experience the difficulties the Pilgrims had on the way to success.

Last year when I played this game with a group of 3rd graders, they didn’t know that I had created it.  While we were playing, one of the kids turned to me and whispered, “Don’t tell my teacher but this is really fun!”  Engagement for the win!
Once the game is complete, I have my students go back through the presentation and analyze the information by completing The History of Thanksgiving: Questions for Understanding.  As a summary activity, I have the students create an advertisement that extolls the magnificence of the lives of the Pilgrims and and Warning sign that gets settlers to stay away because of the hardships.

If you are interested in The History of Thanksgiving Digital Simulation click here and head on over to my Teachers Pay Teachers page.  I promise this will not disappoint!

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