3 Thanksgiving Activities for Middle Schoolers

Thanksgiving is my favorite time of the year.  I love the focus on togetherness and family, the big meal of turkey and stuffing, the roots into history and our background as a nation.  It's a wonderful time to teach students about our past, the ideas of family and thankfulness, and build community. 


3 Thanksgiving Activities for Middle Schoolers

Whether this is your first year teaching, or you've been around the block a few times, having some Thanksgiving activities planned out, or waiting in your back pocket for when you need a quick idea for an alternative plan, is a great idea.  I hope you'll find some ideas in this post that you maybe hadn't thought of before.

Complete a Thankfulness Activity

Even if you teach middle school students, they still love a great picture book from time to time.  So grab a good one and read your students a story about thankfulness.  There are lots to choose from in this blog post, but I like Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts.*  This story focuses on Jeremy and his ideas of wants versus needs, and how those things change at different times and in different circumstances.  Towards the end, Jeremy realizes what his needs really are and just how thankful he is to have them in his life.  Once the story is over, have a discussion with your kids about their ideas of wants and needs and how they have maybe grown in this area as well.  *This is an affiliated link. I am an Amazon Associate and earn on qualified purchases.


Complete a Thankfulness Activity

Then, using an acrostic poem, a word cloud, a journal, or a craftivity, have your students write down items that they are thankful for in their life.  Depending on the story you choose, it could vary your activity quite a bit.  For Those Shoes, you might want to use pictures of shoes and have students write items on the shoelaces or in different places within the shoe.  If it's a story about Thanksgiving itself, you could use a turkey, and if it's about just the season of thankfulness, you might want to use cut-outs of leaves.  You can download a shoe and some leaves here, but there's no wrong way to be thankful.



Explore on a Virtual Field Trip to the Plimoth Plantations

Another option this season is to take your students on a virtual trip to the 17th Century English village of Plimoth Plantations.  View a nineteen minute long video on the journey to America, and the homes, gardens, store fronts, and fort that make up the re-created village of the Plimoth Plantations.  In this video you'll also hear from several character actors who play the roles of pilgrims in various positions, such as militia members, farmers, home-makers, gardeners, etc.  


Explore on a Virtual Field Trip


You can also view an eighteen minute video on the Wampanoag Homesite which is a re-creation of the Wampanoag Native American Village.  In the video they demonstrate their currency, homes, clothing, and toys.  They discuss the roles of men, women, and children, and the various duties in which they partook.  You get to look at their gardens, the animals they hunted, and the construction of a mishoon, a boat of the Wampanoag people.  It's a wonderful examination of Native Americans and a look at just one tribe of hundreds that first roamed this nation.  Your students are sure to learn a lot from this virtual journey to Massachusetts.


Take a Closer Look at the First Thanksgiving Dinner

Take a Closer Look at the First Thanksgiving Dinner
Along with a virtual trip to Plimoth is a look at the real first Thanksgiving dinner between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag people.  Although often depicted as a great gathering of the two races at a long table, this is honestly not the case, and this History Minute First Thanksgiving Dinner Unit explores what the real first dinner was truly like.  Should you want to learn more about History Minutes, I wrote about them previously in this post.  

With an informative two-page reading passage, which includes a 5-part close note reading lesson, the true story of the first harvest is brought to life.  A fun geography page, and a comparative math lesson on traditional versus original meal calories is included.  With guided notes, smart scribbles, and word puzzles to go along with it, this is a unit lesson that your students are sure to love.  With little teacher intervention needed, students can complete a little bit each day over the course of a week, or you can give it to a sub to occupy several hours in one day.  It integrates language arts, social studies, math, and geography, and helps students to see the inter-connectedness of thoughts.  It's a great and innovative way to explore the Thanksgiving holiday.


If at first click this video does not play, please refresh your screen and try again.  Thank you!

Whether you choose just one activity, or tackle all three this Thanksgiving season, honoring this special time in the fall and in America's history is a great way to gather your students and work on building the classroom community while celebrating what we're all thankful for.  


How do you plan to celebrate Thanksgiving in your classroom this fall?  Let me know in the comments.


The Colorado Classroom Signature - Brittany





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Hands On Learning Isn't Lost With Digital Instruction

When the pandemic first hit and schools shut down, I panicked.  I felt like my love of hands on learning was lost and there was no way to get it back.  The need to teach digitally had come, virtually overnight, and with it, interactive, cooperative learning had died.  At least that's what I believed, until I had an awakening.


Hands On Learning Isn't Lost with Digital Instruction


Just because each student was holed up in their house, on their own computer, interacting with a keyboard and a mouse, didn't mean that lessons needed to be bland and independent.  Material could still be interactive, vibrant, engaging, and hands on if it was approached in the right manner.  And that is when Puzzling History began.


Puzzling History Together - A Digital Inquiry Interactive Lesson


History is like a puzzle...the more pieces you can assemble, the clearer the picture becomes.
Born from an idea shared in a Facebook group, and grown through discussions shared with other sellers and my family, I determined to create interactive puzzles that students could assemble on their own or with their classmates in an inquiry process that would help them see the correlation between puzzles and history while allowing them to explore landmarks around the world.


Puzzling History presents students with a set of four progressively more challenging puzzles, where students are given more and more puzzle pieces.  At first there is no way to solve the puzzle.  That is the point!  They have no idea what they are looking at.  Just like with history, when we have too few artifacts or clues, we have trouble making sense of that period or civilization.  We don't know what we're seeing.  Students are then given more pieces and more pieces until they can piece the puzzle together in its entirety, finally revealing what is going on.


Assign students 4 progressively more challenging puzzles.


For students who need more support, get frustrated easily, or may need assistance in the classroom, there are two different versions of puzzles for the teacher to choose from when assigning slides to them.  There is one slide where a picture of the final outcome is visible to help guide the student through the process, and there is another slide where, not only a picture is visible, but several pieces are already locked into place, making this assignment more accessible for all the students in the classroom.


Two puzzles are provided that lend support to students who need it.


Finally, a reflection sheet helps guide students through the process, asking them what they can contruct and visualize, and how this correlates to history.


An optional reflection sheet follows students through the process


Puzzling History - A Digital Inquiry LessonOn top of that, Google Slides™ allows you to assign slides to an individual or to a group.  This allows this inquiry activity to be truly interactive as the teacher can have the puzzle with 35 pieces go just to student A, but the puzzle with 54 pieces go to students A, B, and C, getting them to engage and work together to create the image.  Better yet, give the puzzle with 48 out of 54 pieces to several students and have them complete it.  Then have them discuss and deduce what is happening, what is missing, and what is truly going on.  How fun is that?




These Puzzling History Digital Inquiry Activities will allow students to get hands on and explore history with a new twist on learning.


For what historical location would you like to see a puzzle?  Let me know in the comments.


The Colorado Classroom Signature - Brittany




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