Looking for a way to engage your secondary ELA students this holiday season? Try using simple yet meaningful Thanksgiving writing activities to keep your classes focused and interested during those final days before fall break.
It can be challenging to think of meaningful ways to keep middle and high school students engaged around the holidays. Through trial and error, I’ve found that the best approach is to channel their energy about the upcoming season in lessons instead of plowing through our units as usual. But how? It’s also important to maintain the integrity and rigor of our curriculums. I have a few ideas.
1. Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Writing Extension Assignment
Have students watch the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving cartoon. I like to use a simple comprehension movie guide to keep students’ attention and to guide discussion. Following the film, ask students to write about the film’s accuracy. What information is true? What information about the history of Thanksgiving seems questionable? If necessary, ask students to conduct a little fact-checking research to support their evaluation.
2. Turkey Pardon Plea
Get creative. Read this article and Watch this video clip about the United States’ Thanksgiving tradition of pardoning turkeys. Then, have students participate in a creative writing assignment. Ask them to take on the persona of a turkey who is vying for that coveted spot of being pardoned to a life of luxurious retirement. In their piece, students should work on developing a specific voice. How would a turkey in this situation share his or her plea? Would it be most effective to be humorous, desperate, cunning, argumentative, defensive, or despondent? Write along with your teens, and have fun laughing as you share your responses.
3. Top 10 List
Families appreciate when students bring home information to share at the Thanksgiving dinner table. Ask students to write a Top 10 list of what they are most thankful for. For an added level of difficulty or to differentiate, you could also have them research Thanksgiving and write down the Top 10 most interesting facts about the holiday or the Top 10 Thanksgiving myths everyone believes. To further tie this activity into your writing standards, have students work on properly citing their facts in MLA format.
4. Thankfulness Chain
Make a thankfulness chain to decorate the classroom. Even secondary students appreciate the time set aside to reflect on what matters most during the holiday season. Each student can take a turn sharing their ideas, or it could be more private and intimate. To add an option for writing instruction, have students start with brainstorming. Walk them through the entire writing process with just this one simple sentence. Upon publishing the ideas (which would be printing the final version on the chain link), talk with students about how their ideas became stronger due to the pre-writing, revision, and editing stages.
It’s important to show our students that learning can be fun. That it applies to the holidays. That reading, writing, and discussing what we are learning can be applied to Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and everything in between. Try one (or more) of these ideas this Thanksgiving to engage your students and share some laughter.