With Halloween officially over and the fall leaves in full color, the only theme that seems appropriate is Thanksgiving. I have to say that this particular theme is a favorite of mine because I love thanksgiving, mostly because it gives me permission to eat, but also because it lends itself to all the subjects pretty easily. I also find that the activities can be super simple applications that can even be used in their own homes on thanksgiving day. I also find you can extend this unit in a variety of ways, but I tried to stream line my ideas to just thanksgiving for now. However, a whole unit on Native Americans, and a whole unit of Pilgrims could easily be made. For now to keep it simple for us, I have combined these units an picked the best of my ideas. I hope you enjoy.
Hand print Mayflowers: (blue, brown, white or beige, and red construction paper glue, scissors, and crayons) I trace their hand with the white or silver crayon onto brown paper. I use the silver or white crayon so that when you trace their hands, as it shows up better on the brown paper. The hand you traced should have the fingers tight together, not spread out. Then I have them cut out their hand prints, if they are able, otherwise I help them. Then I trace their hands on the white paper and have them cut them out, if they can other wise, I do that also for them. I have them cut out the crosses for the Mayflower.
Paper Bag Native American Vests: One of my fondest memories of grade school, was the Thanksgiving play I did in first grade I believe, and I got to be a Native American. We had brown stretch pants, and brown turtle necks that the parents had died for us. We made our own native American Paper bag vests and of course our own Native American head bands, that was except the chief, who had to have a real head dress, because we couldn’t get enough feathers to hold. This project is kind of dear to my heart because of my history, but also because it is still such an easy and fun way to have them help create their own costumes to celebrate the holiday.
For this project you will need one grocery store paper bag for each student, a grown up scissors; the little ones don’t always cut through the paper bags the best, and of course Crayons. I usually help cut out the arms and the neck holes, while they are having free play time, so that I can do one at a time, or maybe ask a parent helper to come in this special day to help cut out the holes. At art time, I show some examples of Native American art, and then we draw some of our own. I often also draw some examples on the white board, so that they can see how to change what they see, into how to draw it.
Native American Headbands: (2″ head bands, tall feathers, and markers or if you have them shape stamps and various colors stamp pads) I have the kids draw shape patterns or stamp shape patterns
Pilgrim and Native American Magnets: (4 inch peach circles, 4 inch beige/ tan circles, brown strips of paper about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Then you small feathers, markers, black paper hat cut outs, and yellow squares, glue, and magnets to put on the back of the head bands.)
Native American Pony Bead Bracelets: ( Leather Strands, pony Beads, I like to use more natural tones, like greens, browns, beige’s, and deep reds/ mahoganies) For this project you cut lengths of the leather strips,
Pilgrim Hats: For this project you will need, 2 inch strips of black paper, which are about 12″ long and the Pilgrim hat out line. I usually cut these out in advance. If you want to get more detailed you can include the yellow buckle that I have them glue on the front, this I cut out in advance because it is hard for them to cut out the center to make it look like an actual buckle.
Setting the table: For this I ask the parents to each bring in a thanksgiving treat for our last day of class before thanksgiving break. I often had a parent party that day also, but this particular lesson plan focuses on just the kids in a classroom setting. One thing that I know, is a one to one correspondence, in real life, is setting the table. This skill can be transferred to the home and their very own thanksgiving with their families. Kids at this age can’t help with much, like the littlest pilgrim, but setting the table is often something parents are willing to let their kids help with. For this I give each student one piece of the place settings that we need for our thanksgiving feast, and they have to make sure everyone gets one, hence one to one correspondence. I usually include a plate, a fork, a spoon, a cup, and a napkin. I try to do tables of five and give each table their own person to hand out napkins, plates, cups, forks, and spoons. This way I can involve more kids. We also learn a social skill, because we talk about which side of the plate each item is to be placed. In this way, we are also practicing right and left, and listening skills. Its amazing sometimes how something, so simple can accomplish teaching so many skills.
Graphing: This is a fun way to incorporate math into this holiday theme, because they get to share their favorite thanksgiving food. I write or draw, the 6 most popular foods I can think of for thanksgiving, such as Turkey, Mashed Potatoes and gravy, stuffing, cranberries, pumpkin pie, and green bean casserole. Then I have them share their favorites on the list. I like to find some fun Thanksgiving stickers and let them put their stickers on the line for their favorite food. Then we count and compare which is the most, least, and are there any that are the same. We also get to discuss any other family foods that are traditional to each student. Maybe some or all of the favorites, weren’t even on the list. I just use the list as a starting point of discussion. I find the students love to talk and talk about their thanksgivings.
Learn about Cranberries. See if they sink or float, and watch a video on how they harvest Cranberries. Here is youtube video that is a very interesting video that only is 5 and a half minutes to watch. It is a great description of the whole process and including some history about cranberries. Then you can always do a cranberry taste test. I use whole cranberries, cranberry sauce, and cranberry juice and see which is the classroom favorite.
Pilgrims: We talk about where the pilgrims came from, why they came, and what life was like for them.
Native Americans: We talk about how they had been here before knew how to live on this new land to the pilgrims and how to farm it. Then we talk about how they helped the pilgrims so that the pilgrims, learned how to live in this new land and thrive.
Friendships: How do we create friendships, and how do we keep friendships. We talk about being aware of our friends needs, or looking for ways we can help them. For this I like to make a cornucopia bulletin board, then I have them tell me ways in which they can help a family or friend and I write it on a fruit or vegetable cut out. I sometimes did this everyday with them as a writing type activity, and then encouraged them to show their thanksgiving for their friends by trying to help one friend per day. I do this to help them reach outside of their scope of reference which is usually self centered at this age. They are very cute at this age, but very egotistical and can’t see things from others perspectives and I find that this is a great way to get them looking out for others.
Traditions: For this I write an LES about all the family traditions that each family has on Thanksgiving. I start off by saying my family eats and then watches football and usually falls asleep on the couches. Other families maybe play football, or go to grandmas. We talk about what traditions are, and why they are so important. I find kids look forward to traditions almost as much if not more than adults.
The Littlest Pilgrim: Often times kids don’t feel like they are too little to help, which is exactly how this little girl pilgrim feels. As we read, I ask them how they think she might feel? Then I encourage them to think of a time when they may have felt like the littlest pilgrim. Let’s see what happens? Do you think she will get to help or do you think she won’t because she’s too little? I do this to get them working on prediction skills. We continue reading and thinking about these questions, and then at the end I review the questions and ask them to recall what really happened in the story. Then I ask them to share some of the times that they felt they couldn’t help, and what they did about it.
One Little, Two Little, Three Little Pilgrims: This story is just a fun way to practice counting. They count pilgrims, and Indians in this story.
The Very First Thanksgiving: This book is through scholastic book clubs. I love scholastic as a teacher. If you have not gone there or registered to be a user I highly recommend you do right now. I earned so many free books for my classroom. They take the amount of books your parents order, and then give you some free books based on how many they order. Back on Topic, this book is rhyming books that discusses in a child friendly way, the first thanksgiving and why it took place. The pictures are pretty amazing too. It is a little longer so if you have extra young kids, or they don’t seem to have a very long attention span, you may want to break the book up over a few days.
Momma Turkey and Baby Turkeys: For this I cut out some small and large turkeys with my cricut, and then on each of the Momma Turkeys I write a capitol letter of one of the letters that we have reviewed, and then I write the same lower case letters on the small turkeys. Then I tell them that the momma turkeys are looking for their baby turkeys and they have to match the lower case with the upper case letters.
Thankful Cornucopia: For this I have a bulletin board with a large cornucopia on it, which I blow up from a clip art picture using a overhead projector. Then I print off some pictures of Holiday food, and I have them tell me different things they are thankful for, I write it on the fruit or vegetable, and then I have them draw a little picture to represent what they are thankful for.
Stuff the Turkey: (Large Grocery Store Paper Bag, bean bags, scissors, masking tape, paper towel tubes x2, small paper bags, newspaper or other stuffing material, and white paper to create the caps for the Turkey legs.)
Tracing the letter T and H, Thanksgiving coloring sheets, Tracing Turkey hands for Thanksgiving Cards.
Pumpkin Pie Play dough: This recipe by Childhood Beckons is an amazing recipe that lasted my class about 3 weeks when I sealed it into a large zip lock bag, and the kids loved the scent. They had a blast making pretend cookies, and pies.
Pilgrim Hat Snacks: Fudge striped cookies, chocolate frosting, and miniature peanut butter cups.
Mini Pumpkin Pies: (Mini pie crusts, Pumpkin pie filling and cool whip, a little bit of nutmeg and cinnamon) I have the kids mix the pie filling and the spices with the cool whip, and then I let them fill their mini pie crusts. This is a fun way to end the thanksgiving feast (snack) at school.