5 Thanksgiving Ideas & Resources for your English Language Arts Class

Family. Parades. Pie. Football. Pie. Did I mention pie? Thanksgiving is just around the corner and I for one am excited! Thanksgiving is all about sharing, so I have compiled a bunch of Thanksgiving-related activities and resources to use the week before the holiday. If you're anything like me, you're running close to empty right now, so these lessons and ideas are designed to be as hassle-free as possible; no marking and very little preparation required. So, you can kick back, relax and look forward to a fun few weeks ahead!

Debates are a great way to channel a student's chattiness and enthusiasm into something worthwhile. Debates allow students to blow off some steam in a controlled manner, while also developing speaking, listening and critical thinking skills. First, choose a topic that relates to Thanksgiving. Some examples might include:
  • Some stores open on Thanksgiving to start early sales. Is this fair to the employees who now have to miss time with their family?
  • Is commercialism undermining the true meaning of Thanksgiving?
  • Should employees be given more time to celebrate Thanksgiving?
  • Is Thanksgiving offensive to Native Americans?
Choose a topic that would best work with your class. Split them into two teams, give them time to prepare their arguments, then let the debating begin!

This works great as a stand-alone activity or if you have more time, students can use the ideas from the debate to write a persuasive essay defending their point of view.

Advance warning: this activity will cost you delicious pie, but it will be totally worth it!

You know those food commercials that instantly stir up a craving? Well, your students will now have the opportunity to create their own commercial scripts, using delicious Thanksgiving pie!

First, show your students any food advertisements on YouTube that may stir up the senses. Here are a few links to videos that cater to the five senses. Grab this FREE Descriptive Food Advertisement planning sheet to use during this activity.
Next step, dessert time! Select your dessert of choice (if you decided not to go with the pie). Hand out a small piece to each student and ask them to write down on a planning sheet, descriptive vocabulary based on the pie's appearance. They will continue to do this with each bite of their pie.

When they've finished with the pie and you're their favorite teacher for 5 minutes for bringing in the food! They will then have to organize their notes into a script for a TV advertisement using adjectives, similes, sensory images and complex vocabulary to persuade viewers to buy their product. This does not necessarily have to be filmed, but it is definitely an option!

Without a doubt, one of the most popular activities in my class right now has to be escape rooms. In the past, I used to get nagged before the holidays for a movie, now they ask for escape rooms! Escape rooms are a much better alternative - they are interactive, team-building and yes, FUN!

In addition to the fact that escape rooms are a collaborative activity, escape rooms require students to use critical thinking and use literacy skills to solve challenges and learn more about a topic. Oh, and did I mention they do not need to be graded?

As you all know I love  incorporating holiday-related activities into my classroom, so you guessed it, I created a Thanksgiving Escape Room! In this escape room activity, students will work together to complete a range of tasks including: trivia, cryptograms, mazes and work puzzles to learn more about the history and customs of Thanksgiving.

You can use the challenges with one class over multiple lessons, mix-and-match the activities for different classes or even give out the challenge as extension activities (for students who finish their work early) or as fun homework activities.

Each escape room challenge includes detailed teacher notes and answer keys. Each challenge was also created as a print-and-go resource. No locks required! :)

I am a huge supporter of creativity in schools. Often, we are so busy trying to cram the curriculum into our planning that we forget the importance of just stepping back and allowing our students to be inventive. When was the last time your students wrote something for fun? Not for a test, not for a grade, just for the sole purpose of using their imagination and expressing their imagination and ideas.

The key message about Thanksgiving is being thankful and appreciative of what we have. Using this message as a starting point, ask students to plan and write a short story, script or narrative poem about a time someone learned to be thankful.

Good writing comes from the opportunity to practice and experiment. I bet that there are some budding authors in your classroom that will relish the chance to show you what they can do.

Tip: If you want to link this activity more closely to the curriculum, then provide students with a check-list of different grammatical features or writing techniques that you have covered over the semester thus far and ask them to include them into their stories. This way you can check their learning, while still allowing them the freedom to write.

In need of a slightly quieter, calmer classroom before the holidays? Try out a new form of writing and have students compose a newspaper article relating to Thanksgiving events.

I know what you're thinking. You're tired, the holiday is in sight, and planning for a new writing unit is going to take hours of work, right?

Wrong! My Thanksgiving Newspaper Article pack includes everything you need to teach article writing for an entire week leading up to the holiday. Students start by identifying the main features of a newspaper article, then plan their own shocking or funny Thanksgiving-related news stories using the news paper article template provided in the pack. Then, they will then write their own articles using the detailed, editable rubric.

The writing pack even includes practice worksheets for teaching dialogue and a peer assessment sheet to help you cut down on the marking, leaving you free the week after the holiday to relax and enjoy your time off!

Here are some Thanksgiving headings that you could have your students pick out of a hat to help them get started!
  • Turkey Turns on Thanksgiving Shoppers
  • Thanksgiving Dinner Cancelled 
  • Family Saves Turkey from Oven Death 
  • Turkey Shares its Last Thanksgiving Wish
  • Family Experiences a Strange Thanksgiving Dinner
Check out these other Thanksgiving resources:
- Thanksgiving Writing for Teens
- Thanksgiving Figurative Activities
- Thanksgiving Writing Prompts
- Thanksgiving Interactive Notebook Activities

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