Thanksgiving lesson ideas

I’m teaching 4th grade this year and so I can’t spend much time teaching about Thanksgiving. At least not as much as I did 2 years ago when I last taught 5th grade. 5th grade studies American history and so it is a natural year to teach the whole story in-depth.

However, to send my students off with at least something to think about I use these two resources:

What the World Eats – Part 1
Is a feature done by Time magazine a few years back. It is a photo slideshow that simply shows what families in different parts of the world eat in a typical week and how much it costs. There are 4 parts to this now, so if part one isn’t enough for you search for the others, they are easy to find.

The Water Buffalo Movie
Is a modern classic and gives students a taste of what poverty really is (have tissue available). The video is about 7 minutes long and delivers a very powerful message about giving and what we have to be thankful for.

Using these resources can be just as stand alone pieces to ponder, or starts to writing pieces, art pieces and more.

Learning is messy!

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5 thoughts on “Thanksgiving lesson ideas

  1. Thanks for sharing. I had seen them before but had forgotten all about them. I used them with my 4th grade daughter today and she found them fascinating.

  2. Thank you for sharing these wonderful ideas. Obviously these resources could be used anytime throughout the year, but I think they are powerful and intriguing ways to incorporate Thanksgiving into a tight curriculum.

    I am a preservice teacher and several of my classmates are eager to explore different cultures in their classrooms through food. Although I believe that tasting foods from around the world would be engaging, I personally found the What The World Eats slides much more powerful – seeing the families in their homes, with a visual of the amount of food they eat each week.

    The Water Buffalo movie was amazing (and yes, tissues should be close by). I am grateful that you shared this clip! I am currently taking a multicultural education/social studies class and we are discussing the importance of bringing social action into the classroom. I think this movie would be a powerful springboard for social action projects.

  3. I really appreciated the Thanksgiving lesson ideas. I will use them this week in my classroom. I think it is a great reminder about the diversity in our world and even our little corners of the world that lie in our classrooms. I am very excited to share this with my students and coworkers. Thank you!

  4. Thank you so much for these resources! Fantastic way to bring to get the focus off ourselves and onto other people and the rest of the world. Sometimes I find we place to much focus on us and not all the other people and cultures on our world. These clips will really help my students see beyond themselves! Thank you again!

  5. These are good and relevant ideas. I am a student teacher in two different grade levels, first and a 4-5-6 split. I can see how modifying these ideas to fit requirements and developmental levels could be beneficial. The one that stood out most to me was “What the World Eats-part 1.” Not only does every student eat, but they are also curious about the foods and traditions of other lands. For Thanksgiving, I visited a local teacher supply store and searched for hours on Amazon & other online book stores to find one accurate and age appropriate Thanksgiving story or related story that would be sensitive to all of my students. Having studied the truth about the first Thanksgiving and the oppressive acts and thievery of the European settlers, I am appauled by the untruths that classrooms and schools still teach our young people in regards to Thanksgiving. Furthermore, I wanted to find an activity that didn’t focus on the European experience from which this cultural tradition is derived. What I came up with was an activity much like your suggestion: Since Thanksgiving is about good food and families, the most equitable lesson would therefore reflect these subjects in the interest and experience of my students. I bought a book called “Let’s Eat” by Beatrice Hollyer and planned a unit around the celebration of cultural foods in authentic settings. This (if you are wondering where the Thanksgiving tie-in is) includes the American experience with all of the many cultural foods that comprise our country’s Thanksgiving celebrations and the many reasons that cultures might celebrate differently at Thanksgiving. It is a Social Studies based unit, but fits perfectly into a Thanksgiving study that is sensitive to the needs of all of the students in a diverse setting.

    Thank you for your ideas.