Halloween and Christmas-those holidays are a piece of cake in the classroom. Everyone has great ideas for fun Halloween or Christmas activities. Thanksgiving-hm, that can be a challenge. Thanksgiving is often viewed as more of a history lesson than a fun holiday. You can change that with these fun classroom activities for the Thanksgiving season. Your students can have a good time and learn what it was really like on that first Thanksgiving.
1. Pin the Wattle on the Turkey. Pin the Wattle on the Turkey puts a Thanksgiving spin on the classic Pin the Tail on the Donkey. Draw a turkey (missing his waddle, of course) on a large piece of poster board, and create waddles out of red card stock or construction paper. Stick double-sided tape on the backs of the waddles, and you're ready to go! Your students will have a blast trying to find that turkey's chin!
2. Thankful Badges. Students will enjoy creating their own thankful badges for the holiday. Encourage older students to think beyond the basic, material items they cherish-ask them to think of something they are thankful for that they can't physically touch.
3. Turkey Spelling Game. The Turkey Spelling Game is a great way to add a little fun to the usual spelling lessons. Write the word "turkey" on your blackboard or smartboard, and split your class into two teams. Take turns inviting team members up to write a new word using only the letters from the word "turkey". Teams get one point for each new word. If a child is really stuck, allow the team to collaborate on a new word. This will encourage team work and keep anyone from feeling uncomfortable.
4. Thanksgiving Placemat. Hand out this cute, printable place mat during down time in your classroom. This could be used on a day when your class is having a "thanksgiving feast" or save it for a rainy November indoor-recess.
5. Paper Turkey Pins. Students will love to show off these adorable paper turkey pins. Prep the materials for this craft at home-use your imagination and various materials to make the different sized circular shapes necessary for the turkeys' bodies. Use a different material for the wing shapes to make them stand out. Let students choose the patterns they like best, and they can create their turkeys in the classroom.
6. Native American Stories. Storytelling is an important part of Native American history, and Native Americans are an important part of the history of Thanksgiving. Share some of these fantastic Native American stories with the class. Your students are sure to have a new found appreciation for animals and nature when you're done.
7. Colonial New England Food & Cooking. Try this lesson about New England Food in Colonial times. Use the handout and worksheet as part of your lesson, and add a fun spin by allowing students to create their own Colonial New England cookbooks. Encourage them to create recipes that use the foods common in New England at the time. Split the class into four groups and allow each to create their own list of recipes for different categories (soups, vegetables, meats, desserts, etc.). After they've developed their lists you can make copies of the pages and allow the students to put their cookbooks together and have fun creating artistic covers.
8. Paper Weaving. When studying the history of Thanksgiving, students will learn about various roles that men and women had during Colonial times. Weaving was a task that women often performed during these times, and this activity will allow children to experience the art of weaving. Use the paper weaving instruction sheet to show the students the basic method of weaving. Pass out strips of construction paper in various colors used during Colonial times-natural colors, blue, yellow, pink. orange, or purple. Encourage students to be creative with their weaving patterns and choose a few colors that they think work well together.
9. Thanksgiving Investigation. The interactive presentation "You Are the Historian" is an excellent way to get students interested in the events of the first Thanksgiving. Everyone will want to jump in and solve the clues to discover what really happened on that day in 1621. This multimedia activity requires Adobe Flash Player and Internet Explorer 8 or Firefox 3 (or better).
10. Virtual Field Trips. Scholastic offers this collection of videos that will transport your students to a different time and place. Students will be able to explore a replica of the Mayflower, get an up-close-and-personal look at life as a Pilgrim, and witness the daily life of the Native Americans that were part of the Wampanoag Nation.
These activities can help you bring history to life for your students. Whether you are a long-term substitute or only in the class for one day, you can still incorporate some of these lessons and activities during the Thanksgiving season. You can also take some of these ideas and combine them with your own creativity to think up some great new activities. How will you help your students understand the first Thanksgiving?