A Thanksgiving Workshop – Lesson Activities to Discover a New Holiday

Living in Europe, we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, and we have another holiday on that day – Day of the Republic. Still, nevertheless, this post will share some Thanksgiving lesson activities I learned in a workshop! 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. Unfortunately, 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 to discover a new culture or holiday.

Let’s start this Thanksgiving workshop and share some engaging lesson activities!

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 paper 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 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. 

Thanksgiving Workshop - Lesson Activities

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 sequenced the events in the order 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.

Thanksgiving Workshop - Lesson Activities

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 for a Thanksgiving play. We chose which characters we want to be, which is important for motivating young learners to participate. We knew our names, and based on them, we could 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 finally without scripts. If I ever use plays in holiday lessons, I will definitely do some guided reading first and then demonstrate how important body language and intonation are.

Thanksgiving Workshop - Lesson Activities

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:

  1. Conversation and answering questions;
  2. Run and guess vocabulary game with paper strips and ppt;
  3. Historical video about Thanksgiving – sequencing, and sorting;
  4. Creating masks and hats for the play;
  5. Acting out the play.

Overall, the workshop was enjoyable, and we were able to actually learn something new about a holiday we don’t normally have a chance to see. Moreover, I believe the activities were effective and appropriate for young learners, given 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 or lesson 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!

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About Alice Glass

Alice is a 29 years old English teacher with a B.Ed and M.Ed. with a double minor (English teaching methodology for young learners and Serbian language teaching methodology). She is also a young but published academic researcher, materials designer, and an online ESL teacher for children in her own school, ELLoquent. She is passionate about teaching young learners, environmental education, storytelling & drama, and distance learning. Last but not least, she is a mother of an autistic toddler with SPD.

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