Celebrate Thanksgiving in Your Classroom Without Stress: Connecting Your Lessons to Social-Emotional Learning

Elementary teacher Toymeka Raymond shares resources for emphasizing SEL through Thanksgiving classroom activities.

Fall is here…pumpkins are everywhere, leaves are changing colors, and Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Teachers are thinking about fun arts and crafts featuring painted turkey hands, cutouts made with construction paper, and cute hats. But with all the pressure on educators, many worry about celebrating Thanksgiving in the classroom. One tool we have under our belt is Social-emotional
Learning. This is an essential skill that our young learners need and can be integrated into any

Today, I would like to share some tips to help teachers feel comfortable celebrating Thanksgiving
in their classrooms. Here are some ideas to turn the Thanksgiving holiday into an opportunity to share
positive and mindful lessons while celebrating with our students! Explore some of the ideas and activities to mindfully celebrate Thanksgiving and expand on Social-emotional Learning in your classroom.

Keep It Short and Simple

Plan for the week with 1 to 2 activities. Students don’t need to have an elaborate art activity or take a deep dive into history. Focus on practicing gratitude. Lead class discussions on the meaning of gratitude and how students can develop a habit that displays gratitude.

  • Gratitude Chain-Each day the students will get a slip of paper and write something they are grateful for. Then loop all the paper together at the end of the week forming a Gratitude Chain. Allow students to share what they wrote, and compare it with a fellow peer. Teachers should also share and contribute their thoughts! PBS Kids also has instructions for creating a gratitude garland. Love it!
  • Classroom Food or Clothing Drive-Have students write a letter to share with their families stating how and why the class is helping others. Let the class vote on which charity they would like to donate to. Some options include a local food bank, animal shelter, or homeless shelter. Contact your local shelters to learn more about what items they need and always research your school’s policy.

Explore Thanksgiving Traditions and Different Cultures

Discuss the different ways people in the United States choose to celebrate Thanksgiving and make it special! Share traditions like traveling, the turkey pardon, football, or even the Macy’s Parade, and show it in the classroom! Food is such a large part of how families celebrate Thanksgiving. Discuss how many
families gather together and spend time with each other during meals. Discuss the types of foods people eat during the Thanksgiving holiday. Ask students to share foods that are part of their culture or dishes that are cooked all the time during the Fall season. For example, pumpkin or sweet potato pie. Send a letter to families, asking them to share traditional family dishes. Here are some helpful websites to support the above activities:
Thanksgiving Around the World
Thanksgiving Traditions

PBS Kids: Practicing Gratitude and Honoring the Real Story

eMediaVA Resources:

StoryCorps: The Great Thanksgiving Listen

Thanksgiving with eMediaVA (PreK-12)

YouTube Videos:
Do Other Countries Celebrate Thanksgiving?
Is Thanksgiving Celebrated Around the World?

This information is available in a PDF for you to review and share! View it here.

Toymeka Raymond is a virtual kindergarten teacher in Newport News Public Schools and an eMediaVA Ambassador.

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