Engage your students in some fun and meaningful Thanksgiving activities to encourage them to cultivate an attitude of gratitude.
In the United States of America, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. It’s a time to gather with family and friends and feast on turkey, cranberries, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie (for starters). It’s a time to pause and give thanks for God’s provision for our forefathers and for us. However, wherever you live and whatever the time of year, you can encourage your students to be more thankful.
Here is a three-week series of lessons you can teach leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday. Each lesson plan includes fun activities and a Bible lesson about being thankful, as well as information on the Thanksgiving holiday.
If you don't want to do a whole series on the Thanksgiving holiday, you could still devote an entire class period to being thankful. :D
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
This lesson plan gives you a whole class full of Thanksgiving activities and ideas from opening prayer to ending craft. The lesson focuses a bit on the history of the Thanksgiving holiday as celebrated in the U.S. and then turns to the Bible to examine the story of the “Thankful Leper.” We are reminded that being thankful is an intentional activity that brings joy to both the thanked and the thanks-giver.
These basic Thanksgiving activities can be used year after year.
Look up and discuss Bible verses regarding thankfulness. Then have a conversation about things your students are grateful for. Try to get the kids to go past the obvious blessings, like God and family (though these are huge blessings, and we should be immensely grateful for them!). Have a list of questions that will get your students thinking about WHY they are thankful for God, family members, etc. After your time of serious discussion, tell some silly Thanksgiving jokes. Have some jokes on hand that students can read tell/read to the class. Click below for an activity page I created with a list of “Thankful Verses,” “Grateful Conversation” starters, and “Just Joking” fun.
You can send this page home with your students after class so they can share these verses, questions, and jokes with their families.
Give each student a piece of posterboard (half of a large standard-sized sheet). Have her write the word “THANKFUL” and then decorate it, drawing pictures of things she is thankful for that corresponded with each letter. Here are a couple of examples:
Have each student draw a Thanksgiving-themed picture on a placemat-sized piece of paper. Then laminate it or cover it with clear Contact paper. Here is an example:
The humble turkey plays a key role in many Thanksgiving activities. You can use this symbol of Thanksgiving to make some cute and easy name place "cards" for your classroom feast or for students to take home for their own Thanksgiving dinners.
Before class, cut turkey heads/necks with an attached perpendicular strip from a brown paper sack or craft paper.
Also cut out some “Pilgrim” hats from black paper and some “buckles” from yellow OR cut hats from a light-colored paper and use a black marker to color the hat, all but a square in the center, representing the buckle.
During class, have students draw eyes, beak, and wattle with black and red markers and then glue on the hats. Have them then fold two paper cupcake baking cups and staple them to the back of the turkey's head/neck, representing the turkey’s tail. They can then staple or tape the strip of paper together in front to form a circle. You will want to have enough supplies for them to make one turkey placeholder for each member of their family, adding family members’ names to the turkeys’ necks.
Show students that a cupcake paper can be placed inside the circle to hold small candy treats, or the circle can be placed around a glass to hold each person’s place at the Thanksgiving table.
If you create this ship to collect "thankfuls," you may also create a new classroom or family tradition. Placing "thankfuls" into the Mayflower is one of those Thanksgiving activities that can be repeated year after year. (See if you can overwhelm and "sink" your Mayflower with thankfulness.)
Cut one side from a half-gallon juice container. Then glue strips of brown paper sack or craft paper around the sides.
Cut sail shapes from white paper and flags from colored paper if desired. Use bamboo skewers to poke holes through sails, threading the sails onto the skewers. Place florist foam in the bottom of the ship and stick the skewers into it to hold the sails upright.
This Mayflower was made by my children several years ago.
You can bring the supplies to class and have your students each make one of these, or you can make the Mayflower ship ahead of time and then use it during class for the following activity (which our family does every Thanksgiving):
Have slips of paper available and ask students to write down things they are thankful for and place them into the Mayflower. You may want to set the Mayflower out several days/weeks before Thanksgiving so people have plenty of time to think of several things.
At a set time (we do ours at Thanksgiving dinner, right before we eat), pass the Mayflower around and have everyone pull out slips of paper and read the things people are thankful for.
a variation, click on the link below to open a PDF file of slips that
participants to think of three things, after God and family, for which
they are thankful. There are blank lines for each writer to enter the year and and his/her name. You can print as many copies as you need and cut the
Thanksgiving paper chains help promote a thankful attitude while providing a fun and colorful decoration.
You will need at least 10 paper strips (use colored paper in reds, oranges, and yellows) and 10 Thanksgiving stickers per student, tape, and crayons or markers.
Say to your students: Write or draw something for which you are thankful on each of your paper strips. Then make a loop with a paper strip, using a sticker (or tape) to attach the ends. Loop another strip through the first loop and attach its ends. Continue attaching strips to form a chain. You can take the chain home and continue to add to it.
Have a simple meal of Thanksgiving-type favorites. If possible, have your students and their parents contribute to the dinner. Giving is a key component of gratitude. Menu ideas: turkey lunchmeat, dinner rolls, sweet potato chips, pumpkin pie (or muffins or cake), cranberry sauce or juice. Don’t forget plates, napkins, and cups. Before you eat, have each person share things he/she is thankful for. Then pray a prayer of thanksgiving to God from whom all blessings flow.
Check your local library for books about Thanksgiving that you can read and enjoy with your students. Our library has picture books about the history of Thanksgiving; books with Thanksgiving crafts, jokes, riddles, songs, and trivia; and even an I SPY Thanksgiving book.
Here are some book ideas if you would like to purchase books to build your own library:
As related to the above-mentioned Thanksgiving activities, you may wish to challenge your students to come up with a certain number of things for which they are thankful. In 2008, two of my own children (ages 8 and 10 at the time) challenged each other to come up with 50! They stayed up most of the night Thanksgiving Eve (unbeknownst to me) to do this! They came up with some interesting, funny, and thought-provoking "thankfuls" in the process.
I hope you enjoy these Thanksgiving activities. Feel free to contact me to share any feedback or ideas.
May God bless you as you cultivate a thankful attitude in yourself and your students.
Click on the links below to check out other ideas for fun things to do with your students: