I feel like the holiday season has officially started. Target and other stores have Christmas decorations up early, my kids are requesting Christmas music and movies, I have already begun to look for Christmas gifts and it has all the feels.
This year Thanksgiving comes late which means that the gap between Thanksgiving and Christmas is super short, for my school, it is just 3 weeks. But I love the month of November because we get to start one of my favorite units on Thankfulness. I like to start this right near the beginning of November so we can work on it all month long. My school this year takes the entire week of Thanksgiving off, that means I only have 3 weeks in November to pull this off.
I have noticed that many of my students have a hard time realizing what they are thankful for. They don’t understand the concept and need to be taught and reminded. We have so many of our students that live in a “I deserve it mentality or it is always there so I just expect it to be.”
They expect the house to be warm in the winter and cool in the summer. They expect that when they look in the fridge they will be food to eat and they expect that mom will make dinner every night and it will be something they like. It is hard to appreciate those things sometimes unless you have been without.
Some of our students live in homes where they don’t have heat, they are the ones thankful for blankets, or dinner is the same canned food they had the last 3 nights. These ones are thankful for the free school lunch they get each day. I was in line the other day at the grocery store and the dad behind me had 2 middle school aged kids with him and the boy was carrying 6 boxes of the $1 TV dinners. I could tell this was their dinner the next 2 nights. These are the kids who tend to appreciate food a little more than my own kids at my house.
They tend to have a higher concept of what it means to be thankful. But our students don’t need to be in these circumstance to understand thankfulness. With practice it starts to come.
A few years ago, I started this Thankfulness project with my class and we focus on it for the entire month of November. We practice being thankful every day. Most days it is just a few minutes that we focus on it. Other days we do our writing assignments or another activity based around the idea of being thankful.
Teaching on Being Thankful
Near the beginning of November, I make strips of paper in fall colors. We begin our first day talking about Thankfulness and what it means. We talk about what it means to be without some of these essential items. This may hit home more this year with all the lost jobs, certain foods and essential items like toilet paper being hard to find. We brainstorm and make a list of things that we are thankful for. I like to do this on an anchor chart so we can keep it up all month.
Then I pass out 2 strips to each person and they write their name on one and the other, one thing that they are thankful for. Depending on their level, I challenge them to be specific and descriptive or use in a sentence.
- Level 1: Water
- Level 2: Water to drink
- Level 3: I am thankful I have plenty of water to drink.
They keep this at their desk and we add to it each day. I have them tape it to their desk and it becomes our room decoration around the room. Towards the end of November it looks really good having them all hanging from their desk. On the last day before Thanksgiving break, they take them home and can use it for decoration at home.
If you are having a classroom feast (most probably will look different this year), but we use these as decoration for the feast as well.
In writing our theme is Thankfulness most of the month. They get to write a thankful poem and make a thankful book. The books can be differentiated so that all levels can participate in them. They are definitely a keepsake item for parents and look super cute if you are having a feast. I set them out for the students to show families and I let each student read their favorite page out loud.
The advantage to do the thankful chain is it sets them up for the other writing activities. It is kind of like a 3D story map.
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This poetry unit is different than the book that students make. This actually has a poetry focus and students learn about 4 different types of poetry and write a poem using their favorite method. These also make for great Thanksgiving Feast display or on a bulletin board. It is really sweet to hear the students reading their poems.
We make these Word Family Turkeys. Since I always have many different levels in my class I differentiate these in my centers groups. One group this year will be doing CVCE words, another will be doing blends, another will be doing compound words and another will be doing suffixes. The body of the turkey has the word family and the feathers have the words that go with that word family.
In my student ELA Centers I have students working on BOOM Cards Frequently for their Word Work. I love to use BOOM Cards. These ones are November themed for CVC words. It is similar to our Word Family Turkeys, but the digital version.
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I love to connect November to art as well. We do a few different activities that involve art
We also do a directed draw with a turkey. I give the students most of the directions and then they have some freedom to do the rest on their own. This is a FREE activity in my store, so make sure you grab it up by clicking HERE.
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FREE! Directed Draw Turkey
FREE! November Coloring Sheets
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Are you having a Thanksgiving feast or party?
You can make the Directed Draw Turkeys on the Large Construction Paper and add “Happy Thanksgiving”, then turn the paper over and have the students make activities on the back, like they would have at a restaurant. They could add a word search, the Dots game, a connect the dots, a maze, jokes, etc.
The students can read their Thankful poems or share some of their Thankful books. These looks great to have on desks at the party so the parents can look through them and take them home that day.
We also decorate the room with our Thankful rings.
I love to use white butcher paper to cover the tables and the kids can draw while they wait for their food or for their friends to finish their food.
Our Directive Draw Turkey is free! This turkey is so much fun. I always give them the directions up to a certain point and then they get to make the choices on the rest. I love giving them the opportunity to be creative. It’s fun to do on a rainy day, during a Thanksgiving party or on a Friday afternoon.
We also have some November art pages to color. These can be used in packets, at the party or in centers.
So what are you thankful for?
- I am thankful that I have a good job and that I am able to provide a place for my children to live.
- I am thankful that my children and I are healthy.