Creative Thanksgiving Language Arts Activities

Karen Frazier
Contributor: Amy Finley
kids writing in a classroom

Using Thanksgiving language arts activities to augment whatever you're doing around the holidays, can help add pizazz to your lesson plans. Doing seasonal or topical language arts activities with kids is a great way to inject a little variety into daily studies, and there are plenty Thanksgiving-themed activities to help kids hone their language arts skills. With a little creativity, you can have a full Thanksgiving language arts curriculum in the days leading up to the holiday.

Fun Thanksgiving Language Arts Activities

Try the following Thanksgiving language arts activities with preschool and elementary-aged students. Activities can be adapted in age-appropriate ways to support your current language arts curriculum.

Thanksgiving Dinner

This Thanksgiving food activity builds memory skills, vocabulary skills and reinforces alphabetizing concepts. The Thanksgiving game is a variation on other memory games, but with a Thanksgiving theme. To play, have students sit in a circle. The first student starts out saying, "I'm making Thanksgiving dinner, and I'm going to make..." The student then lists a food that starts with the letter "A." The next student says the same thing, and then repeats what the first student said and then adds her own item that starts with the letter "B." Each student adds on the next item in alphabetical order, repeating what the students before her said before saying the food that starts with her letter.

Word Jumble

Word jumble activities help build spelling skills. Give each student a piece of paper with "Happy Thanksgiving" written across the top and have the students make as many words from the letters of "Happy Thanksgiving" as they can in an allotted time period.

Invitations

Hone writing and penmanship skills by having students create invitations from the pilgrims to the Native Americans inviting them to the first Thanksgiving.

Menus

Once the students have created their invitations, have each make a formal menu for the first Thanksgiving feast. Have them describe each menu item briefly.

Selling America

This is an activity that works best with slightly older students (grades three and up). It helps to develop persuasive writing skills.

Have the students design sales materials such as a brochure or sales poster convincing people in England to come to the New World. Let students do a bit of research beforehand so that the brochures or posters they create are appropriate for the time period. This is a great way to incorporate technology into the curriculum if students have access to computers.

Family Tradition Interview

Older students can develop interviewing and writing skills with this activity. Send each student home with an assignment to interview a member of his family about a Thanksgiving tradition. Students can then write the interviews as a newspaper article. When all of the interviews have been turned in, the class can compile the articles into a book on Thanksgiving traditions.

Thankful for "Man on the Street" Interviews

Work together on a classroom video project. Have the students design a newscast where they do "man on the street" interviews with students in the classroom discussing what they are thankful for.

Thankful Poetry

Have students start by free-associating a list of things that they are thankful for. Once students have their list, ask them to write a Thanksgiving poem using some of the items on their list.

New World Debate

Students can sharpen their debating skills with this activity. Pair students together and assign one student to take the "pro" position and the other to take the "con" position. Now have students debate the pros and cons of coming to the New World on the Mayflower.

Pilgrim Dialogue

This activity stresses properly using quotation marks and punctuation while helping students hone their dialogue writing skills. Have students write an imaginary dialogue between two pilgrims who are landing at Plymouth Rock using the appropriate punctuation and dialogue format.

Thanksgiving Jokes

Hone the writing skills of budding comedians with this humorous Thanksgiving activity. Start by telling students a few Thanksgiving jokes such as:

Q: If April showers bring May flowers, what do May flowers bring?

A: Pilgrims

Now have students make up their own Thanksgiving jokes and write them down to share with the class.

Dessert Directions

A good language arts activity for elementary students is to have them think of their favorite Thanksgiving dessert. Instruct them to write down how to make it, using clue words to suggest sequence such as first, second, next, then, last etc. (If students are unsure about the true directions, you can suggest they use approximations or their imaginations to fill in the blanks).

Plan a Parade Float

Assign students to work in small groups and come up with an idea for an imaginary float they will design for a Thanksgiving parade. Students should come up with a list of materials and supplies they would use as well as the steps for how to create it. This helps build skills for expository writing as well as working together.

Wishbone Wishes

For many kids, breaking the turkey's 'wishbone' for a change to get the bigger half and make a wish is a fun part of the holiday. Turn this idea into a creative language arts activity by asking children to come up with a designated number of wishes. In the spirit of the holiday, have them create wishes not just for themselves, but for others as well. Ask them to write sentences with what they would wish for a friend, family member, the classroom, the school their neighborhood or even the world.

Pick-a-Pie Alliteration

Draw a variety of different 'pies' on a large whiteboard, each with a different Thanksgiving-themed word on it. Have the students choose a pie (or multiple pies for older ages) and write a sentence that uses alliteration and the Thanksgiving word. For example, one pie could be "pumpkin," and an example sentence could be "Polly picked the prize piece of pumpkin pie" or one could be labelled "turkey" and an example sentence could be "Tom Turkey trotted toward the open door."

Thanksgiving Word Wall

This is a great language arts activity for younger elementary children. Get a large piece of poster board and ask children to come up either individually or in small groups to write words associated with Thanksgiving. Encourage them to consider all their senses to come up with great adjectives, then discuss them as a class.

Turkey Day Synonym or Spelling Challenge

Divide students into two groups for a fun Thanksgiving challenge. Have them stand in two lines, and give the first two students a word associated with Thanksgiving. You can either make it a synonym or spelling challenge; the first student to give a good synonym or spell the word correctly earns a point for his or her team.

Thanksgiving Reading Response

reading a book together

A great way to get kids using their language arts skills is to read a Thanksgiving text together (this can be a fictional story, historical fiction, an expository text or even a Thanksgiving poem). After you've read it together, ask children to use examples of text evidence to support a language arts concept. These might include things such as:

  • What was the author's point of view? How do you know?
  • What was the problem in the story? How did the characters resolve it?
  • How did the main character feel about Thanksgiving?
  • Is this text about Thanksgiving fact or fiction? What are the clues that tell you this?
  • How does the author use figurative language to describe what the first Thanksgiving was like?
  • What are some similarities and differences between in the text and Thanksgiving today?

Thanksgiving Then and Now Venn Diagram

Another way to incorporate language arts skills into Thanksgiving lesson plans is to have students compare and contrast modern and historic Thanksgiving celebrations using a Venn diagram. Read and discuss two different stories or texts, one that has a historic perspective, and one that's contemporary. Have the students fill out the diagram with similarities and differences, supporting their answers with ideas from the texts.

Thanksgiving Writing Prompts for Kids

One of the best activities to enhance language arts skills is to just get kids writing! Give them writing prompts about Thanksgiving to write about in their journals, or as a rough draft for a short response or essay about Thanksgiving. Use the following prompts to give kids inspiration for writing about this special holiday.

Crazy Thanksgiving Day

Encourage creativity by having kids write a story about a zany Thanksgiving. Invite them to use unusual characters and situations to create a story about a Thanksgiving Day that's really out of the ordinary. Encourage them to use sequence details so the story makes sense (even if it is off-the-wall!). Allow them to come up with their own introductions, but also give a simple prompt as an example, such as :

"One Thanksgiving Day, the strangest thing happened…"

Fun Thanksgiving Foods

The Thanksgiving feast is one of kids' favorite parts of the day. Build vocabulary skills with a writing prompt focusing on fun and favorite foods. Encourage them to use as many strong adjectives and sensory details as possible with the prompt:

My favorite Thanksgiving foods are ________, ________ and ________. (Adjust the number of foods as needed for grade level).

My Favorite Thanksgiving Memory

Ask kids of they have a special memory of any particular Thanksgiving. It could be when a certain family member visited, they took a family trip or they got to do something extra special like watch or participate in a parade. Use the prompt:

"My favorite memory of Thanksgiving was when…"

Great Ideas for Kids

These are just a few of the many Thanksgiving activities for kids that you can do. By incorporating Thanksgiving language arts activities and word games into your curriculum, you can keep kids engaged and entertained as they learn.

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Creative Thanksgiving Language Arts Activities