Living in Europe, we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, and we have another holiday on that day – Day of the Republic. On the other hand, since I teach English, interculturalism is very important in my curriculum, so I was happy to attend a Thanksgiving workshop Beth Wendt, a guest professor from the USA, held at my university. She shared plenty of Thanksgiving activities in her workshop.
This workshop actually took place last year for Thanksgiving, not this year. I completely forgot to write about it, so I remembered to write a reflection now to try to recycle some of the activities we had in my holiday lessons.
I will focus on the activities that we did since they were pretty good. Most of them can be used in any lesson when we want to discover a new culture or holiday.
We started with a conversation and sharing basic information and traditions about Thanksgiving, and then we continued with a very active game which I loved. The game used PowerPoint with photos (just photos, no text) connected to Thanksgiving and strips of papers with words spread out on a desk. We had to move the tables around the classroom to have more space for movement. The professor changed the slides, and as she did, our task was to locate the strip of paper which describes that slide, take it, run to the other desk and drop it there, while also reading the answer. When the professor shared the correct answer, we went to the next slide.
We were separated into two groups, and the group who selected more correct pieces of paper won in the end. The game was very competitive and very fun, and I believe I can use the game with older learners as well, basically with any topic. I would continue with a photo description to further practice English with new words.
Listening, sequencing and filling the blanks
The next thing we did was listening. We watched a video about Thanksgiving traditions and history. Then we filled the blanks and then sequenced the events in the order they were presented in the video. There was one more task with sorting, where we sorted the food from the original Thanksgiving, and the modern Thanksgiving mentioned in the video.
After the sequencing and sorting, we made a turkey and all of us added one thing we are thankful for. This activity is easy, and it is good for reviewing vocabulary and spelling. Immediately after we started making costumes – in this case, we focused on masks and hats. To inspire us to create our masks, we had a script of a Thanksgiving play. We chose which characters do we want to be, which is important when it comes to motivating young learners to participate. We knew our names and based on them, we were able to create an individualized Native American headdress to match our character.
A Thanksgiving play
When we completed, we started acting out the play, first with the scripts, and then, finally, without scripts. If I ever use plays in holiday lessons, I will definitely do some guided reading first and then demonstration to stress how important body language and intonation is.
The play was focused around the first meeting between the British and the Native Americans, and I believe the British characters had longer lines than Native Americans, which is a great idea if we want all the children to participate in case some children have a bit lower level of English.
To summarize, here are the activities which we did in this Thanksgiving workshop:
- Conversation and answering questions;
- Run and guess vocabulary game with paper strips and ppt;
- Historical video about Thanksgiving – sequencing, and sorting;
- Creating masks and hats for the play;
- Acting out the play.
All in all, the workshop was very fun and we were able to actually learn something new about a holiday we don’t normally have a chance to see. I believe the activities were effective and appropriate for young learners, giving the fact that we had a lot of different tasks.
Have you ever participated in a holiday-themed workshop? If you live in the USA, what are your favorite Thanksgiving workshop activities? Do you think that workshops given by actual native speakers of a language can help understand certain traditions better? Write in the comments or via the contact page, I would love to hear your opinion!