Boy, do the holidays sneak up on us quickly, don’t they? One minute it’s August, the next it’s November! Now it’s already time to start planning Thanksgiving activities for the classroom.
Sometimes making these plans can seem redundant or less than lively, because it’s the same thing year after year. We talk about the Thanksgiving story, the Mayflower, and the feast. Well if you are tired of doing the same Thanksgiving lessons over and over each year, imagine how many times your students have done them by the time they get to you.
What if instead you planned unique activities for Thanksgiving your students have never done before? Activities that tie in your standards, but also totally engage them in what they are learning? Sound amazing? Take a look at these fun alternatives to your typical Thanksgiving activities!
Ever read the story Stone Soup? It’s an oldie but a goodie! While there are so many versions of this story, they mostly all have the same moral in the end, sharing is caring. Which is why this story is perfect for Thanksgiving.
The story involves hungry, tired, strangers that come across a town of villagers. These villagers are not openly willing to share their food and shelter. The strangers creatively convince the villagers to share their goods by “showing” them how to make soup from a stone. Each townsperson gives a little of what they have to make the soup and by the end there is enough soup for the entire village to share.
And that my friends is how we tie in the message of Thanksgiving!
The week of Thanksgiving I read several versions of Stone Soup to my students. There are so many versions of Stone Soup and my students love to see how the stories and characters change from version to version. The great news is this story has been around for decades, so it’s easy to find versions online or in your local library. Youtube even has some fun read-a-louds as well.
First we discuss the idea that once the villagers started sharing the little bit of food they had, the whole town was able to enjoy the soup.
I send a letter home to parents explaining the story and its moral about the value of sharing. The letter asks each student to bring in one canned vegetable or chicken broth to share for our own class stone soup. Get a copy of the letter HERE!
I bring in the chicken, either from a rotisserie chicken or 4 large cans of canned chicken, as well as salt and pepper. You can bring in other seasonings as well. Also, look and see if there is a canned veggie or two you need to add to what your students have already brought in to balance out the soup. That way the soup isn’t all carrots, corn, or green beans.
The day I make the soup, I bring in two large crockpots (I usually have to borrow one from someone). DO NOT forget a can opener! I open all the cans and dump them in. I turn the crockpots on high, add the seasoning and let them cook. Voila! You have stone soup. Watch the temperature when serving the soup to your kiddos!
One year I did find a stone from the playground, washed it really good and added it to the soup. The student that found it in their bowl got to make a wish! The students thought that was pretty cool!
- When reading this story with your students, you can read a version a day or devote a day to reading two versions, then compare and contrast them using a T-chart.
- For writing they can create a paragraph that compares and contrasts the two stories, by using their T-chart to help them.
- You can also use this story to teach other standards like sequencing, cause and effect, and even theme.
Pumpkin Pie Science
So you want to do fun science activities with your students but never know when you can fit them in, huh? The week of Thanksgiving, might just be your week to do it! This Pumpkin Pie Science activity is not only tasty, but will also be so much fun for you and your students!
In this activity your class can learn about the scientific process in a fun and engaging way. Your students will get to conduct an experiment to see if their peers can taste the difference between a store-bought pumpkin pie and a home-made pumpkin pie. YUM! As they go through each step in the process they will jot down all their data in a cute little science booklet.
This activity literally walks your students through the entire scientific method. Your students will work together to:
- Brainstorm a science based question about pumpkin pie, form and state a hypothesis, conduct an experiment and record their results, as well as write a conclusion about their findings from the experiment.
This is an activity your students won’t want to miss out on.
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You know what goes great with Stone Soup? Some bread and delicious whole made butter! While this activity can be fun to do the same week as Stone Soup, it’s a lot of fun and learning all on its own. Students enjoy shaking things up to make home-made butter.
The best thing about making butter is you only need one ingredient, whipping cream. There’s not a lot of steps to follow with this recipe either. You literally pour whipping cream in a jar and get to shaking! The magical part of this activity is what you do with your shaking time, because there is A LOT of shaking.
This activity always gives my students a chance to do something they don’t get to do as often as they’d like….share. We move the desks and sit in a huge circle. I pour the whipping cream in a mason jar so that it hits the halfway point. Then seal the jar tightly.
I start by shaking the jar and sharing something that I’m thankful for with my class. Then I pass the jar to the next person in the circle. They also shake the jar and share something they are thankful for. Continue shaking and passing the jar. Once you have gone all the way around the circle. Play some fun music and continue shaking the jar.
Be sure to open the jar every so often and check the butter. If it’s frothy, you have more shaking to do. If it looks like cottage cheese, you have more shaking to do. Once the liquid completely separates from the fat, it’s ready! This usually takes about 15 minutes of heavy, continuous shaking. When it’s ready, pour off the fat. The butter is ready to spread on bread, rolls, or crackers. If you’d like you can add a little salt for extra flavor.
- Expository text writing- Once done making butter, have your students take time to create the recipe. Give them a format to follow (Title, materials, directions/steps, etc.) and have them recall the steps the class took to create a recipe for butter someone could easily follow.
- This activity can also be used to teach the scientific method. Students could ask a question about the butter making activity, create a hypothesis, conduct an experiment, discuss their results, and write a conclusion.
Cranberry Towers- STEM Activity
My kids absolutely loved this super creative STEM activity. The possibilities for this tower building fun are endless!
The hardest thing about STEM activities is keeping your students on track! They have so much fun using their imaginations, enjoying the conversations with their classmates, and taking the challenge. However, if we are not careful, the STEM activity that we planned for them to get so much learning out of, can turn into an hour of chaos.
Basically all you need to do for this activity is put your students in groups, give them a bag or two of real cranberries and a box of toothpicks. The end goal? Create the largest tower that you can using these two materials.
It’s so important to give your students about 15 minutes to think of a plan. This allows them to talk strategy, think of a design, and possibly get any disagreements about design out of the way before they begin building. It also gives you time to walk around and check the status of the groups before hand.
Once you have a good idea that your groups are ready to build or create. Give them a certain amount of time to reach their goal and set a timer. STEM activities can take up your entire day if you let them, because they are so much fun!
Decide how many subjects you want this activity to cover. Cranberries are so fun to learn about! Outside of STEM you could also cover some of these standards.
- Like many of the other activities have your students go through the steps of the scientific method. They can create a science based question, a hypothesis, test their experiment, state their results and write their conclusion.
- There are many videos on YouTube about cranberry farming and how cranberries are grown. Show a few of these videos and have your students write a paragraph sequencing how cranberries are grown and farmed.
- You can also have your students create geometric shapes with their cranberries and toothpicks. They can discuss vertices, sides and faces of their shapes.
So, I challenge you to try something a little different than the traditional Thanksgiving activity that you are used to. Whether it’s one of these or something else, see how your students respond to an activity outside the box, but along the same lines!
Have a Not So Wimpy day!