Let us be thankful

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Happy Thanksgiving to all of our readers!

This blog isn’t really about being thankful… unless you are thankful for a few ideas that you can use this week to teach about Thanksgiving. Are you tired of the same old worksheets that you use year after year? Are you looking for something different?  Here I want to offer some (hopefully) fresh ideas that you can consider using in your classroom. Also, please share any ideas that you love to use in the comment section below.  So, let’s freshen up our Thanksgiving activity repertoire.

A few ideas…

Try a recipe swap

Start by talking about the delicious meal you are planning to have on the table for Thanksgiving. Describe one of the simpler recipes from your meal, and as you do, write it down on the board in recipe format. Turkey is simple, eh? Ask students to describe their favourite recipe for Thanksgiving or another holiday. As they talk, write their name and the name of their recipe on the board. Then ask them to write out their recipe on an index card, modeling your example on the board. Once they are finished, they can talk about their recipe in pairs or small groups. Perhaps students would like to swap recipes and then report back about how the recipe turned out for them.

Alternative to recipe swap

Have students write the recipe on a single sheet of paper and then create a class recipe book. The students could include a sentence or paragraph on the bottom of the page about why this recipe is special to them.

Another possible twist

If your class has access to computers or laptops, you can have them go to Eat Right Ontario and research information about how to safely handle and cook turkey. You could divide up the information about turkey safety among students and they could provide instructions or report back to the class their section of the reading. There are also some recipes for leftovers.  Talk about leftovers. Do you like leftovers? What is your favourite way to eat leftovers? Then they can choose one of the turkey leftover recipes and copy it down on an index card. They can then share with the class or small group why they want to try that recipe.

Thankful for Quizlet?

If you use Quizlet, this is a good opportunity to introduce Quizlet Live. Create your vocabulary set with words and pictures. Put students in groups, make sure they each have access to Quizlet – Get them into a friendly competition on Quizlet Live. Remember – there’s an App for that!  See John Allen’s previous blog, Add fun to your vocabulary lessons with Quizlet Live.

Harvest, horns, and leaves – ideas for literacy or low-level classes

Teach about the harvest and the Cornucopia – the horn of plenty – a major symbol of Thanksgiving. Bring in several vegetables from the fall harvest. Introduce them by name, write the names on the board, have students copy the names in their notebook. Show them pictures of a cornucopia. On poster boards have students draw the horn and then cut out fall vegetables and fruits from flyers and magazines. Students could also use the picture dictionary to identify and label the produce.

Finally, enjoy the beautiful autumn leaves. How about sharing the tradition of picking up beautiful fall maple leaves and pressing them between wax paper with an iron to preserve them. Students can use them as decorations around the home for the fall. Share the idea of pressing a beautiful leaf inside a favourite book. Then every time you open the book and see it, you can think of something you are thankful for.

Now it’s your turn….

Please post your ideas below.

For your reference:

The Canadian Encyclopedia is a good place to get started: http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/thanksgiving-day/

The Eat Right Ontario web site has some great info about turkey safety and some recipes.  Here’s the link:  http://www.eatrightontario.ca/en/searchResults.aspx?searchTerm=turkey&searchMode=allwords

The link below is a Canadian ESL blog for Intermediate and Advanced Students who want to learn and improve their English:


Here’s a link to the ESL Library lesson: http://tomboulian.wikispaces.com/file/view/Thanksgiving-I.pdf

Here’s an introductory on Canadian Thanksgiving with links to other sites: http://www.eslmadeeasy.ca/2014/10/october-topic-thanksgiving.html

Cornucopia pdf: https://www.education.com/download/worksheet/61617/color-cornucopia.pdf

Hello TESL O members. I'm Beth Beardall. I manage the TESL O Blog website working alongside an amazing team of editors and bloggers. I truly enjoy working with the TESL Ontario Blog Admin Team and have been volunteering with the TESL O Blog since 2016. I am OCELT certified and have a master's degree in Adult Education. I work in the LINC/ESL program with adult learners. I enjoy learning from others, teaching or tutoring ESL and getting to know people from around the world, and, of course, copy editing and proofreading.


11 thoughts on “Let us be thankful”

    1. Thanks, John. That’s a great idea. I think I remember seeing that one when I was in school way back in the day. The added review quiz is a nice addition as well.

  1. I have a general comment. When I talk about Thanksgiving with my class, at almost any level, I try to reference a similar event from my students’ first culture. There are many connected to harvest time, in different parts of the world. Usually, my students are the source of this information.

    We used to be more connected to nature’s cycles; the provision of food.

    1. Thanks for the idea, Heidi. I think starting from your students’ own experience is definitely the best way to begin the discussion/lesson.

      True, so many people have lived in a city or suburb all of their life without experiencing the cyclical nature of our food source.

    1. Wow, that’s a great way for students to get a quick overview of the vocabulary before trying the flashcards and other activities. Thanks for sharing it, John.

  2. I used the recipe swap idea, but since I’m working on emails, I had them write their recipes in an email instead of on an index card. Thanks, Beth!

    1. I love that idea! I’m glad you could incorporate the recipes into what you are working on with your class. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  3. Thanks for this post, Beth. I am becoming increasingly aware of the lack of sensitivity we model and propagate when we do not include Aboriginal perspectives of this holiday in our lessons. This year I helped students understand how Thanksgiving is traditionally celebrated by a descendant of a European settler, but I also went into how some First Nations people and groups would like us to stop and think about the history we are white washing or conveniently glossing over.

    My students were very open to such discussion and reflection. One student was able to see parallels to the situation in Gaza. This was a springboard for further study on the quality of life on First Nations reserves, lead-contaminated water supplies, sub-standard schools, and the fact that our First Nations brothers and sisters have experienced cultural genocide. Our next step could be to invite a guest speaker to share feelings and perspectives on this holiday.

    1. Hi Kelly,
      It sounds like you had a really good lesson going that came out of your Thanksgiving activity. It’s so insightful that in looking at the holiday from the perspective of some First Nations people that naturally lead to a discussion of other troubling human situations and dynamics world-wide. Having a guest speaker from a First Nations community would give a Thanksgiving lesson balance and is a great idea.
      Thanks for sharing!

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