The weeks leading up to Thanksgiving break always seem to be one of my most stressful times of year. End of the quarter assessments need to be given and checked, data submitted, grades finalized, report cards written, and 30 or so parent-teacher conferences held. It's not until the third week of November that I feel I can take a deep breath and relax a bit for the first time since school began. It's during this time leading up to Thanksgiving break that I am thankful for a multitude of resources that let me and my students take a step back and enjoy some seasonal activities that help spread the message of what Thanksgiving means. This week, I'm happy to share some ideas of what I'm doing in my classroom to help you plan for yours.
5. Project Give
8. Great Books
If you only have time for one activity during the days before Thanksgiving, I would recommend Scholastic’s The First Thanksgiving. This set of interactive, online activities will bring the history of the very first Thanksgiving to life for your students with lesson plans appropriate for your grade level along with virtual tours of Plimoth Plantation. Through the videos, your students can step aboard a full-sized replica of the Mayflower, and get a behind-the-scenes look at the Pilgrim Village and Wampanoag Homesite. You can even sign up to receive a series of letters written from the historical perspective of a Pilgrim girl and Native American boy, emailed directly to your inbox.
To see how I take my students on this educational journey, visit my post, "Take Your Class on the First Thanksgiving Virtual Field Trip." You can watch a video showing how my students prepared for their virtual field trip and find many free, printable activity sheets you can use with your students. You will also find tips detailing how I immerse my students in the virtual field trip experience by having them:
On the day of the field trip, my students all receive souvenir tickets. You can download a free, printable copy of a field trip ticket for your own students by clicking on the image below.
At one time or another, we may find ourselves complaining about little inconveniences while forgetting to recognize all the things we have to be grateful for. In recent weeks I’ve started to take note of how often I’ve heard my students complaining. From “Is this all we’re getting?” while I passed out Halloween pencils, to the near-daily complaints that the date they are getting their district issued iPads for our 1:1 initiative has been pushed back once again. “It’s no fair we have to wait so long!” As a result of all the complaining I've heard coming out of my third graders mouths (as well as my own at times!) I’ve been working with my students to flip their attitudes and mindset whenever they are complaining.
To begin, I asked students to brainstorm a list of things they had complained about in school and at home during the past week. After they generated a list in their writer’s notebooks, we shared some of their thoughts and brainstormed how we could “flip” our thinking from complaining to being grateful. The kids got it right away! Below are a few examples from that first lesson.
During center time, students wrote their attitude changes on the sheet below. Next they copied them on die-cut leaves, which they hung on our Gratitude Tree shown above. Now whenever one student complains, another student will ask the complainer how else he or she might look at their problem. A basket of extra leaves are kept by the tree, and each day students excitedly fill out leaves to add to the tree every time they have flipped their thinking or simply thought of something else to be grateful for. This tree could easily reinvent itself through the seasons as a Christmas tree surrounded with gifts, a bare winter tree with snowflakes, a spring tree with blossoms, etc.
Click on the image above to download a free printable.
Last year, I had my students create a simple sign that said what they were most thankful for in five words or less. I took a picture of them holding their sign, and then videotaped them explaining exactly why they were thankful for whatever was written on their sign. I put the photos and videos together in MovieMaker and added some background music. I sent the completed video out to our parents and posted it to our class website the day before Thanksgiving. It was a quick and easy way for students to share with their families all the many things they were fortunate to have in their lives. This could also be done using PowerPoint or any other presentation delivering application you are comfortable with. Below you can view last year’s movie to perhaps give you ideas for creating our own.
Each year, a week or two before Thanksgiving, I assign my students a fun acrostic poem for their writing homework that lists all the great things in their lives. The directions that I copy and pass out to my students are on the sheet below. When the homework comes back, I have a quick and easy bulletin board display for the classroom. This activity can easily be done in class instead of as homework.
Each year former Top Teaching blogger, Danielle Mahoney, spends part of her Thanksgiving delivering meals to homebound seniors, many of whom are spending this holiday alone. What began with her class making cards to go with the meals she delivers has evolved into Project Give and thousands of cards from all over the globe being delivered with the Thanksgiving care packages. Take some time to have your students make cards with a simple message that is sure to brighten a senior’s holiday. To learn more about this project and where to send your completed cards to, visit "Write For a Cause and Celebrate Thanksgiving!"
Fellow blogger Megan Everette’s first graders are busy making beautiful fall leaf cards to send off to seniors in care of Danielle Mahoney.
There just doesn’t seem to be much time in our day for painting and crafts, so my students love our new third grade Thanksgiving tradition, making hand-painted thank you cards for family members or special people they would like to show appreciation. This year they decorated the outside of a folded piece of scrapbook paper with their painted handprint, which they turned into a cute little turkey. Inside they wrote a thank you note to someone who had helped them in some way. This project was inspired by a thank you note I received out-of-the blue that I received from a former student. Read part of her note and how she inspired me in my post, "What a Student Taught Me About Thankfulness."
If you haven’t checked out Scholastic’s free tool, Word Workshop, you are missing out! You can create an autumnal bulletin board or a first Thanksgiving word wall, label your library baskets with pumpkin borders, make seasonal flash cards, and so much more! The tool is super simple and offers a lot of color, font, and style choices. You can use preselected word lists from a number of different topic choices such as: Weather, Letters That Start With B, November, or Synonyms to name just a few. While you will figure out endless possibilities for using the tool, I put together a few ideas to get you started in my post, "Scholastic's New, Free, Time-Saving Tool: Word Workshop." Jump in and have fun!
Perhaps the easiest idea of all is to put a Thanksgiving spin on your read-aloud time by sharing some great books for the season. A few of my favorites are below:
I'm hoping I was able to give you an idea or two for some fun and educational activities to give a try over the next couple of weeks. I'd love to hear your ideas for those days before Thanksgiving.