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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Lesson about American Thanksgiving

            Today I gave my first lesson in my class at South Coogee School.  Since the students are learning about different types of celebrations, my teacher asked me to teach about American Thanksgiving.  I spent time discussing with my CT what aspects of Thanksgiving she would like me to teach about.  She said she would like to hear about a basic history of the holiday, as well as any symbols and traditions that go along with the holiday.  Since these students have no prior knowledge of Thanksgiving, I had to keep all of my information simple and interesting.
            To begin my lesson, I asked the students to go around and say something they are thankful for.  I felt this was a good way to introduce the first-graders to the main theme of Thanksgiving: giving thanks.  Most of the students said they were thankful for their families and friends.  A few students even said they were thankful for their school!  After this opening activity, I showed a PowerPoint presentation with a few slides discussing the Pilgrims and Native Americans.  I used maps and pictures to illustrate what I was talking about.  I also did a slide that had Thanksgiving symbols, such as a turkey and a pilgrim hat.  I asked a few students to tell me what they thought the meaning of each symbol was.  I was impressed with the knowledge the students had gained during my presentation.  To close my presentation, I showed them a video clip of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.  I thought this was a good way to connect the history of Thanksgiving to the present day celebration.  The students loved the video!  The variety of visuals/activities during my presentation held their attention.
            After the presentation, I showed the students how to make hand turkeys.  They all traced and cut out their handprints.  The students then glued feathers onto their hand turkeys and colored them.  Once everyone finished their hand turkeys, my CT and I glued the turkeys on a poster that said “Happy Thanksgiving.”  The poster is now displayed proudly outside our classroom!  To close a successful lesson, my CT brought in apple pie to share with the class.  I explained to the students that apple pie is a common autumn food (I also explained that the seasons in the U.S. are opposite the seasons in Australia) in the United States and that many people eat apple pie at Thanksgiving.
            Overall, I really enjoyed teaching my lesson.  The students responded wonderfully to a holiday they had never heard of before.  My CT told me that most Australians only know about Thanksgiving from watching American movies so she enjoyed learning about the holiday from me.  The students were interested in hearing about my own Thanksgiving traditions with my family.  This lesson was a great way to share my own culture with my Australian students!


  1. Hi Kelly!
    This sounds like a great lesson; I love the mix of activities you chose to do with the students to really engage them in the purpose of the lesson - to teach them about Thanksgiving. I am studying in Spain this semester and taught a similar lesson to high school students about American holidays, and was very surprised by how receptive they were to the information presented, and how much prior knowledge they had about the holidays. As you said, I think that learning about the holiday from your point of view, as someone who actually celebrates it, makes the lesson that much more meaningful and interesting for the students. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thanks Katharine! That's great that you did a similar thing in Spain. A few teachers at my school told me that many people only know about Thanksgiving from watching American movies so like you said, it's a great opportunity for students to learn about the holiday from someone who actually celebrates it!

  3. Hi Kelly!

    I just recently taught my Thanksgiving lesson and I did something very similar! I loved your arts and krafts turkey! I wish I could do that, but unfortunately I am teaching middle school kids and they will think that this activity is too "babyish for them.

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  4. Hi Kelly! This lesson sounds great, I wish I would have come across it earlier and gotten to do something similar with my students. I found that a lot people I talked to in Scotland didn't know exactly what the Thanksgiving holiday was and how we celebrate it. They obviously knew about the turkey and pumpkin pie, but I really enjoyed telling them about the deeper meaning behind the holiday and what it means to me and my family. It would have been nice to share this with the students I worked with as well. Great Post!
    - Sarah

  5. I love the idea of teaching lessons that share your own culture with the students. Your lesson sounds like it was very well planned and implemented. One day in my primary school in Ireland my CT and I got into a discussion about the Super Bowl that had just occurred the previous day. We designed an impromptu lesson for my first class students about the differences between Gaelic football and American football. It was really fun because I showed the class highlights from the Super Bowl and explained the rules and talked about some of the players. Then the students were able to share their knowledge of Gaelic football with me. I would have like to have thought out and designed this lesson prior to teaching it because I think it would have gone more smoothly and been more informative. However, it is exciting to share cultural aspects with students regardless of preparedness.


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