If you’re like me, you probably love to celebrate holidays, especially in the classroom! Holidays are a great way to keep students engaged and excited about learning. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I want to share some of my favorite Thanksgiving activities for upper elementary students.
I think many upper elementary teachers refrain from incorporating holidays into their teaching because they believe it takes away time that could be spent covering important standards. Trust me, I get it. Teaching in a testing grade can be stressful, feeling like you have so many standards to teach and not enough time to do it. But, the solution to this problem is simple… incorporate the standards in your holiday activities! In this post, you’ll find some of my favorite Thanksgiving activities for upper elementary students that incorporate ELA and math skills.
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Thanksgiving Books and Activities
No matter what grade I teach, I love incorporating picture book read alouds into my instruction. Big kids love being read to and looking at pictures too! That’s why some of my favorite Thanksgiving activities for upper elementary students involve read alouds.
One of my favorite Thanksgiving books is A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. I like to read the story to my class. Then, I set up centers around the classroom with Thanksgiving reading and writing activities related to the book. Some of the activities include a fact and opinion sort, comprehension activities, a cause and effect activity, and a sequencing activity. You can learn more about my A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving resource HERE.
If you do not have access to the book, these Thanksgiving ELA activities also work with the movie. The movie is available on several different streaming services. Either way you choose to share the story with your students, these A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving reading and writing activities are a great way to fill a day before Thanksgiving break.
Thanksgiving Celebration for Kids
In A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, Charlie Brown and his friends do not have access to traditional Thanksgiving foods. So, they create a Thanksgiving dinner with the foods they can find such as toast, popcorn, and jelly beans.
You can also host an untraditional Thanksgiving feast with your students! Encourage each student to bring one of their favorite foods to share with the class. Have a Thanksgiving feast where students share their favorite foods with each other. As students snack on the treats, encourage them to share things about their class and school that they are thankful for. This is one of my favorite Thanksgiving activities for upper elementary students because it incorporates SEL (social and emotional learning) and encourages students to get to know each other.
More Thanksgiving Read Alouds
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is not the only great Thanksgiving read aloud for upper elementary students! There are also lots of other great read alouds you can use throughout November in your classroom. Some of my favorites include:
- Thanksgiving at the Tappletons’ by Eileen Spinelli and Maryann Cocca-Leffler- This was my favorite Thanksgiving picture book when I was a kid and I love being able to share it with my students. It is a story about a Thanksgiving dinner where everything goes wrong. I like using this Thanksgiving book to teach cause and effect.
- Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving by Laurie Halse Anderson- This book tells the history of how Thanksgiving became a national holiday in the United States. This book can be a great way to teach sequencing or can provide the basis for a Thanksgiving research project.
- Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade by Melissa Stewart- The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has become an American tradition. This book tells the story of the puppeteer who invented the giant balloons that are used in the parades. I like to use this book as an introduction to a Thanksgiving STEM challenge, where students design their own parade balloon. Students create their balloons. Then, we have a parade through the school.
Thanksgiving History Activities
It is important to incorporate Thanksgiving activities for upper elementary students that teach the true history of Thanksgiving. So much of Thanksgiving history, particularly the first Thanksgiving, has been misshapen over the years. Students need to know the true story of Thanksgiving.
I have created this Thanksgiving Passage and Comprehension Activities to teach my upper elementary students the truth behind Thanksgiving history. Students read the passage with the partner. Then, they complete a variety of comprehension and vocabulary activities to review what they learned. Some of the activities include a Thanksgiving word search, a cause and effect activity, and a comprehension foldable book. You can learn more about this Thanksgiving Passage and Comprehension Activities HERE.
Thanksgiving Math Project
One of my favorite math projects of the entire school year is this Thanksgiving Math Project. In this activity, students are given a budget of $110 and must plan a Thanksgiving dinner for 10 people. This Thanksgiving math resource includes store flyers with different sale prices on items needed and coupons so that students can find the best deals to meet their budget.
My students always love this activity! It is one of my favorite Thanksgiving activities for upper elementary students because it teaches students how to plan and stick to a budget. You can learn more about this Thanksgiving Math Project HERE.
Thanksgiving is more than just food and football. It is a special holiday because it requires us to reflect on the things and people we are thankful for. Incorporating this holiday into your instruction is a great way to teach SEL and keep students engaged. And, just because you taking time to reflect on and celebrate a holiday, does not mean you have to stop teaching the standards.
In this post, I shared a few of my favorite Thanksgiving activities for upper elementary students that incorporate ELA and math skills. These are my tried and true Thanksgiving activities that my students have loved over the years. I hope your students love them too!