Thanksgiving Activities

Teacher Guide by Anna Warfield

Be sure to check out all our holiday resources!

Thanksgiving Lesson Plans

Student Activities for Thanksgiving Activities Include:

Sometimes we use the seasons and holidays around us to engage our students. Whether you want to use these activities just for fun, or if you have lesson plans around Thanksgiving Day, Storyboard That is an excellent resource. Check out some of the great things your students can do!

Thanksgiving Activities Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

The Story of Thanksgiving

There are different legends that have arisen surrounding the Pilgrims, the Wampanoags, and the First Thanksgiving. While facts and myths have been woven together for many years about the origin of the national holiday, we can still celebrate the message of thankfulness, friendship, and harvest with our students.

Use a storyboard to retell the story of Thanksgiving. For younger students, read a story and have the students make a summary of the story with six parts (as below), or with a Beginning/Middle/End structure. Have your older students research different versions of the Thanksgiving story or historical accounts, and let them create a short narrative of their findings.

Below is an example of what a short historical narrative might look like.

The Church of England, headed by the king himself, was the national religion in England in the late 1500s and 1600s. Those who did not follow it were often treated badly.

A group of Separatists, people who wanted to separate from the official church, left England for religious freedom and went to Holland. Then after a few years, these "pilgrims" sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to the New World.

After a two-month journey, the Pilgrims landed in what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts. They built a settlement there. They were free to practice their own religion, but they did not have enough supplies to feed for long.

Soon, the Pilgrims met the Wampanoag tribe, who are already living in the Massachusetts Bay area. They helped the Pilgrims get through the tough, first winter.

The Native Americans also taught the Pilgrims many important skills, such as planting and growing corn.

The Wampanoags and Pilgrims joined together in a feast celebrating and giving thanks for the harvest. Their hard work meant they would have food for the winter.

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What Thanksgiving Means to Me

”Thanksgiving” has different meanings for everyone. For some it is to celebrate our blessings and good fortune, for others it is our worst travel nightmare. Allow your students to explore their own feelings towards the holiday, and make a short depiction of what Thanksgiving means to them. Students can write about a Thanksgiving experience they have had or what they would like to happen (or expect to happen) this Thanksgiving. You may have students brainstorm on their own, or have a classroom discussion about plans, favorite memories, or favorite foods. For those who need a little inspiration:

  • giving thanks
  • family/friends
  • food/feast/eating too much
  • parade
  • specific foods (cranberry sauce, turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie, etc.)
  • autumn/transition into winter
  • football
  • Black Friday shopping

This example focuses on telling a story with pictures and dialogue, rather than mostly with narration. Use a comic like this on its own, or to get main ideas for a longer composition.

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I am Thankful for ...

Surely, you have at least once been asked to list some of the things for which you are thankful. It is a common task given both in the classroom and around the turkey. Sometimes in our busy lives, we forget that we should be grateful for everything that we have. This activity is a chance for students to reflect on themselves and their priorities. While many students will certainly be thankful for video games or candy (as am I), students will undoubtedly come to realize people or things that are extremely important to them.

A spider map layout works very well with this activity because there is less emphasis on ordering than there is in a list. The Frayer Model layout works similarly well, but you are limited to exactly four items. However, for a more linear format, you may want to use a traditional storyboard or T-chart.

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Symbols of Thanksgiving

Objects come to symbolize different things in various contexts and understanding symbolism is vital to a greater appreciation of literature. Many students can recognize that something is associated with Thanksgiving, but they may not understand why. This activity can give students a good foundation on symbols and symbolism, or it can be used as a focus on Thanksgiving itself.

I chose to use the spider map layout, but the grid, traditional storyboard, and T-chart would work as well. The symbol should be named in the title box, a visual representation should be made in the storyboard cell, and an explanation of what the symbol represents should be included in the description box.

Here are a few possible examples:

  • Pilgrims and Native Americans

    Both the Pilgrims and the Native Americans contributed to the celebration feast of the successful harvest. Having a Pilgrim and Native American together shows friendship.

  • Corn, Pumpkins, and Gourds
  • Corn was a staple to the Native Americans and they taught the Pilgrims to grow it. Pumpkins, squash, and other gourds are vegetables harvested in the fall.

  • Autumn Leaves

    Thanksgiving occurs during autumn. The colored leaves reminds us that the plentiful summer is over, and the cold winter, when little food is to be found, is coming.

  • Wheat

    Wheat is usually harvested during the fall. Wheat is used to make flour for bread, which has been an important source of food for thousands of years.

  • Turkey

    At Thanksgiving, we eat turkey: a bird that was available to people in the time of the first Thanksgivings. In England, they typically ate goose at the harvest time.

  • Cornucopia

    The cornucopia is also known as the "horn of plenty." It represents the wealth and the bounty of the fall harvest.

  • Cranberry Sauce

    Cranberries were one type of berry that the Pilgrims were able to forage. They used maple syrup to sweeten the juice.

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Thanksgiving Cards

Another great feature of Storyboard That is creating cards! Use the amazing scenes, characters, and items to make a card that celebrates Thanksgiving.

1. Create a three-cell storyboard for Thanksgiving. This could be a “thank you”, a short story (beginning, middle, and end), a joke, a message to a friend or family member, or whatever you want!

    Cell 1 is the front of the card.

    Cell 2 is the left inside page.

    Cell 3 is the back of the card.

The right inside page is a pre-selected message. Choose the artwork and message that works best for you!

Storyboards of any layout can be converted into a folding card, but only the first three cells will appear. Titles and descriptions are not printed on the card. Use "Textables" inside the cell if you want to include text.

2. After you save your storyboard, click "Make a Folding Card".

3. Print out pop-up image, and fold.

4. Hold the paper so the front of the card is right-side-up in the bottom right corner. Then, fold the paper in half, away from you (you should see the back of the card on the left and the front of the card on the right). Fold the paper again so you only see the front.

5. Don't forget to sign your card!

There you have it! A Storyboard That card perfect for celebrating food, family, and football!

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•   (English) Thanksgiving Activities   •   (Español) Actividades de Acción de Gracias   •   (Français) Activités de Thanksgiving   •   (Deutsch) Erntedank-Aktivitäten   •   (Italiana) Ringraziamento Attività   •   (Nederlands) Thanksgiving Activiteiten   •   (Português) Atividades de Ação de Graças   •   (עברית) פעילויות הודיה   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) أنشطة عيد الشكر   •   (हिन्दी) धन्यवाद क्रियाएँ   •   (ру́сский язы́к) День Благодарения Деятельность   •   (Dansk) Thanksgiving Aktiviteter   •   (Svenska) Thanksgiving Aktiviteter   •   (Suomi) Kiitospäivä Toimintaa   •   (Norsk) Thanksgiving Aktiviteter   •   (Türkçe) Şükran Günü Etkinlikleri   •   (Polski) Działania Dziękczynienia   •   (Româna) Ziua Recunostintei Activități   •   (Ceština) Díkůvzdání Aktivity   •   (Slovenský) Aktivity Vďakyvzdania   •   (Magyar) Hálaadás Tevékenységek   •   (Hrvatski) Aktivnosti Zahvalnosti   •   (български) Деня на Благодарността   •   (Lietuvos) Padėkos Veiklos   •   (Slovenščina) Zahvalni Dejavnosti   •   (Latvijas) Pateicības Aktivitātes   •   (eesti) Tänupüha Tegevused