There’s no feast quite like a Thanksgiving dinner. The mere mention of it conjures up vivid memories: the sweet flavor of a deep red cranberry sauce; a savory spoonful of stuffing melting on your tongue; the warm, homey smell of fresh-baked bread as it’s pulled out of the oven and set beside the stove to cool. And of course, at the heart of it all, a big, beautiful turkey, crisp-skinned and roasted to perfection, sitting in the middle of the dining room table.
Aside from making our stomachs rumble, such rich imagery makes Thanksgiving fantastic fodder for creative work in a 1st-grade classroom. It’s perfect for working on descriptive exercises and building vocabulary. But don’t just stick to the same old vocab lists your students probably saw last Thanksgiving—get their creative juices flowing with some truly imaginative Thanksgiving lesson plans and project ideas that will get their gears turning and their mouths watering.
Lesson Plan #1: Attending the First Thanksgiving
Your 1st-grade students are blessed with being young enough to still thoroughly love playing make-believe. Redirect that creative energy to their writing with a twist on a classic writing prompt. Instead of asking them simply to list what was on the menu at the first Thanksgiving feast, ask them to pretend that they are pilgrims who have just attended that very occasion. Their task now is to write a letter home to their family in England describing what it was like.
Encourage them to think not just about the food they ate, but other details like the weather, who they ate with, what they talked about. To help spark their imaginations, you can use framed paragraphs or other simple writing strategies to guide their writing—for example, assigning one topic to describe per paragraph.
Lesson Plan #2: The Ideal Meal
Kids rarely get to choose what they have for dinner, which makes this Thanksgiving lesson plan particularly mouth-watering. Provide your students with a list of foods and drinks to choose from. Assign each item on the list a number of how many people it can feed—for instance, a turkey might feed a dozen people, while a cob of corn would only feed one.
Give your students a worksheet with four categories—main dish, side dishes, desserts and drinks—and ask them to pick at least one of each from the list. Provide them with the number of students there are in the class and ask them to choose just enough food in each category to feed the entire class; they can repeat choices, such as buying two turkeys to feed a larger class, but they cannot buy in excess, such as buying two turkeys and a ham to feed a class of 13.
Lesson Plan #3: Sharing Homemade Recipes
This Thanksgiving lesson plan involves a bit of homework. Ask your 1st-graders to ask their parents, grandparents or whoever else in their family who cooks to share and help them copy out a favorite Thanksgiving recipe. (If their family does not particularly celebrate or cook for Thanksgiving, they can use an everyday favorite instead.)
Ask them to then describe that food to someone who has never tasted anything like it before. How would you describe the flavor of green bean casserole to someone who has never heard of green beans, or the glow of yellow corn to someone who is blind? Finally, ask them to share their recipes and descriptions. The more detail they provide, the better!
Adding Flavor to Your Thanksgiving Lesson Plans
Whether they’re pilgrims at the original Thanksgiving dinner or meal planners creating menus and sharing recipes, your students are, first and foremost, kids who love to play. Make lesson plans feel less like work and more like play with writing prompts and activities that let their creativity shine. You may not be able to have a real Thanksgiving feast right in the middle of your classroom, but you can still feed your 1st-grade students’ imaginations by giving them truly inspired assignments to sink their teeth into this November.