thanksgiving activities blog header corgi with a pilgrim hat

The time of year to give thanks is nearly here, and what better way to celebrate than with Thanksgiving activities for your classroom! Conducting holiday-themed activities is a fantastic way to secure your students’ attention and help them practice key reading and math skills.

If you’re blanking on ideas for thanksgiving for your students to celebrate and learn, look no further. We’ve assembled the following collection of themed activities for both ELA and Math learning to best prepare your classroom for the start of the holiday season!

Thanksgiving ELA Activities

1. Thanksgiving Writing Activity: Gratitude Essay

thanksgiving activities gratitude writingThis first Thanksgiving activity on our list will help your students practice their writing skills while resonating with the sentiment of the holiday! This resource will task your class to reflect on what they’re grateful for and guide them in writing a five-paragraph personal essay about whatever it may be.

Perfect for elementary and middle school students, this resource thoughtfully guides students through the writing process. The included pre-planning sheets will assist them in determining what they’re grateful for, writing it down in a structured way, drafting an essay, and editing their work. Included in this free packet is a bonus Thanksgiving coloring sheet for your fast writers and early finishers!

Created and made available for free download by Laura Candler.

2. Thanksgiving Games—Idioms & Context Clues

thanksgiving activities idioms and context cluesThis next themed ELA resource includes Thanksgiving activities for middle school students! A printable resource that only requires dice sets and counters for students to play, your scholars will be tasked with identifying the meanings behind key vocabulary words and idioms. Not all themed assignments have to be just worksheets or writing exercises—an effective learning activity can be anything that turns the gears in students’ heads!

This game is a great way to keep students entertained as they learn these literary concepts and practice deducing meaning from context clues—hitting two turkeys with one stone!

Created and made available for free download by Games 4 Gains.

3. Save the Turkey! Persuasive Writing Project

Save the Turkey persuasive writing project cover pageHave older students whose writing skills are prepped to tackle argumentative essays? This Thanksgiving-themed project can help you guide them through it.

Students will imagine they are a turkey during Thanksgiving season with one chance to spare themselves from the dinner table—a persuasive essay! They are tasked with writing from the perspective of a turkey to convince humans to eat something different for dinner. The packet guides them through the argumentative essay development process: developing a central claim and reasons that back it up, organizing their arguments into paragraphs in their rough draft, and then writing out their final draft after a peer- or teacher-review.

Not only will this activity help your Thanksgiving-ready students hone the writing and critical thinking skills necessary to develop a persuasive paper, but it’ll also help them sympathize and practice writing from a different perspective.

Created and made available for free download by Teresa Kwant.

4. Turkeys or Eagles? Thanksgiving Reading Comprehension Activity

Thanksgiving reading comprehension activity nonfictionThe final ELA resource we’re featuring, developed by a real K-6 teacher, is a reading comprehension activity! Students will be tasked with reading a nonfiction text about thanksgiving, featuring a letter from Benjamin Franklin to his daughter that begs the question, why not represent our country with a turkey instead of a bald eagle?

Students will read the passage, which is filled with challenging, middle-level vocabulary words and paired with a glossary for those terms. Then, they will be tasked with answering five reading comprehension questions—but the learning doesn’t stop here! Teachers are encouraged to take this concept and run with it in their classrooms. Have students research and compare bald eagles and turkeys, write an argumentative essay in response to Franklin, or even research a bird of their choosing and why it would be a better choice! The Thanksgiving lesson plans are endless with the help of this passage.

Created and made available for free download by Rebecca Bettis.

Thanksgiving Reading Comprehension Questions by Piqosity

In contrast to the nonfiction passage featured above, the team at Piqosity has created an exclusive reading comprehension quiz for a fictional Thanksgiving passage! Paired with questions that will put your students’ ELA skills to the test, this quiz is a great way to evaluate their reading abilities around the Thanksgiving holiday break.

The stories of O. Henry are staples in the American canon. Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen is about the practice of making a tradition out of generosity; this excerpt highlights the best part of Thanksgiving for many people—food!

Piqosity has written the three comprehension questions following the passage to quiz you on your ELA skills, each question more difficult than the last.

Thanksgiving Reading Passage: Excerpt from Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen by O. Henry

thanksgiving reading passage o henry

Reading Comprehension Questions

1. “His eyes were like two pale gooseberries firmly imbedded in a swollen and gravy-smeared mask of putty,” (lines 16-18) is…

A. personification.
B. an oxymoron.
C. a metaphor.
D. a simile.

2. “Staunch” (line 66) most nearly means…

A. unreliable.
B. devoted.
C. stern.
D. motionless.

3. Why was Stuffy Pete fearful when he saw the Old Gentleman?

A. The Old Gentleman always tormented him.
B. He didn’t have any money to give the Old Gentleman.
C. He already ate a big meal.
D. He hadn’t seen the Old Gentleman in years.

Passage Answer Key and Explanations 

  1. D

Personification is when an animal, idea, or thing is given human attributes or spoken of as if it was human. An oxymoron is a pair of words that contradict one another. A metaphor is a comparison between two or more things without using “like” or “as”, while a simile is a comparison between two or more things that uses “like” or “as”.

The author says, “His eyes were like two pale gooseberries…” – a comparison between “his eyes” and “two pale gooseberries” using “like”; thus, this figure of speech is a simile.

  1. B

When faced with a multiple choice question asking for the definition of or synonym for an unknown word, a strategy is to insert the answer choices into the unknown word’s place to see which best conveys the sentence’s meaning.

“Staunch” is describing the Old Gentleman: “The Old Gentleman was a staunch American patriot, and considered himself a pioneer in American tradition,” (lines 65-67). As a patriot, he clearly cares a lot about America. “Unreliable” would not fit, as it would describe him to be an unsatisfactory patriot. “Motionless” is also not a fit, because there are no context clues describing movement. “Stern” is also not the best fit because it is most often used in discussion about rules, which there isn’t any of in the passage. “Devoted” is the best answer choice because it describes his loyalty and commitment to America.

  1. C

Since the passage doesn’t explain exactly why Stuffy Pete was fearful, this question is asking you to infer. 

First, look to the last few paragraphs of the passage to see who the Old Gentleman was to Stuffy Pete. “Every Thanksgiving Day for nine years the Old Gentleman had come there and found Stuffy Pete on his bench…and had led him to a restaurant and watched him eat a big dinner,” (lines 57-63). Further, the passage also states, “Truly, the annual feeding of Stuffy Pete was nothing national in its character, such as the Magna Charta or jam for breakfast was in England. But it was a step… It showed, at least, that a Custom was not impossible to….America,” (lines 73-78). 

Since they saw each other every year, “He hadn’t seen the Old Gentleman in years” is incorrect. Since the Old Gentleman gave him food each year for free, “The Old Gentleman always tormented him” and “He didn’t have any money to give the Old Gentleman” are both incorrect.

Stuffy Pete had just eaten a humongous Thanksgiving feast – “Certainly Pete was not hungry. He had just come from a feast that had left him of his powers barely those of respiration and locomotion,” (lines 14-16) – and the Old Gentleman bought him a huge meal every Thanksgiving. Thus, he was afraid because “He already ate a big meal” and he would have to either reject the Old Gentleman’s offer of a meal or continue eating after he was already full.

Thanksgiving Math Activities

1. Free Thanksgiving Math Bump Games 

math bump games thanksgiving activitiesGames are a great way to help your students practice key math skills, and holiday-themed games are no exception! This resource comes with four printable “bump” games, in which students are tasked to answer math problems and place their counter on the corresponding answer choice.

There’s a game sheet for each operator—addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division—making this resource perfect for classrooms with students at different levels or upper elementary classrooms. 

Created and made available for free download by Games 4 Learning.

2. Shopping for Thanksgiving Dinner Packet

Shopping for Thanksgiving Dinner Activity cover pageFor centuries, one of the most reliable and relevant ways to teach children basic math skills has been through money math. As such, this practical math Thanksgiving activity packet is concerned with one of the aspects of Thanksgiving that everyone must use some math to conquer—shopping for Thanksgiving dinner!

This activity comes with a “shopping bag” and a cut-and-paste menu of 16 Thanksgiving food items and their prices. With a budget of $25, students are tasked with selecting at least six items from the menu page and pasting them onto their shopping bag. For example, they can choose to get a $9 turkey, a $7 ham, or even both—but in that case, they’ll only have $9 left for at least four sides.

By having your students experiment with this realistic math situation (Save for the bargain deals that we adults wish were real—only $4 for a whole apple pie?!), they’ll be invested in making sure they have enough funds for all the foods they desire, and they might even get more involved in their family’s Thanksgiving grocery shopping!

Created and made available for free download by Blair Peterson.

3. Printable Thanksgiving Activities—Math Worksheets

free thanksgiving math printablesThis free printable Thanksgiving activity is almost TEN pages of different basic math activities and problems for students to solve! From word problems, to multiplication and division problem sets, to questions about telling time, these sheets cover a wide variety of early math topics, and they double as coloring sheets! Tell your students they can color in a page once they complete all of its problems correctly—they’ll be sure to have a blast.

Don’t worry teachers, you won’t be left alone to explain the instructions and go through each problem to find the right answers. This resource comes with clear instructions for students to follow and answer sheets for each worksheet—once you print them out and distribute them, feel free to sit back and relax or catch up on some grading.

Created and made available for free download by Teaching Naturally.

4. Thanksgiving Math Coloring Activity

thanksgiving activities coloring squaresThis final free thanksgiving classroom activity is great for both elementary and middle grade students. Huge charts of numbers or math problems are provided, which students must solve to complete a color-by-number! The end result for each is a fun, Thanksgiving-themed picture. 

There are more than 350 math problems per puzzle, ensuring that your students won’t run out of questions to do! Perfect for early finishers or for group collaboration, this Thanksgiving activity will test your students’ proficiency with operations while having them flex their creative muscles.

Created and made available for free download by Coloring Squared.

Thanksgiving Math Questions by Piqosity

It’s important to take every chance you can to show your students ways that the math skills they learn in school are applicable to their real life experiences. That’s why on Thanksgiving, it’s most beneficial to add a themed twist. These original math questions from the Piqosity team give a glimpse into the calculations behind the upcoming turkey day. 

We devised these problems, starting at a 5th-grade level and progressing in difficulty to Algebra 1, in order to test your math knowledge and prepare you for a bountiful Thanksgiving. These problems are also easy to copy/paste and turn into your own Thanksgiving math worksheet! 

1. 1 pound of turkey is equivalent to 1.5 servings. Geoff needs to prepare enough turkey to make 90 servings for Thanksgiving dinner. How many pounds of turkey will Geoff need to cook?

A. 75
B. 135
C. 60
D. 90

2. The day after Thanksgiving is great because you will (almost) always have leftovers. If you have 2 types of bread, 3 types of meat, 4 types of vegetables and 5 types of cheese, how many different Thanksgiving sandwiches can you make if you must choose one item from each category?

A. 20
B. 120
C. 60
D. 80

3. Each year, the president selects 2 turkeys from a group numbered −100 to 100 to pardon from participating in Thanksgiving. In order to determine which turkeys get pardoned, the president has his math team come up with the following quadratic function. 

thanksgiving classroom activities

The solutions of the equation are the numbers of the turkeys which get pardoned. What are the numbers of the lucky turkeys?

A. 8 and 7
B. −7 and 8
C. −7 and −8
D. −8 and 7

Math Answer Key and Explanations

  1. C

In order to find the total weight of turkey that needs to be cooked, we will have to convert between the “servings” unit and the “pounds” unit.

To convert 90 servings to pounds, we will need to multiply it by the conversion factor with “servings” on the bottom. This will allow us to cancel out the “servings” unit and be left with pounds.

(90 servings) x (1 pound/1.5 servings) = 90 pounds/1.5 = 60 pounds

Geoff will need to cook 60 pounds of turkey in order to prepare 90 servings.

  1. B

In order to figure out all the possible sandwiches that can be created, we will need to calculate the total number of permutations.
Permutations can be calculated using the following method:

For each selection, write down the total number of options we can choose from.

  • To create a sandwich we will need to pick one bread, one meat, one vegetable and one cheese.
  • For our first selection we have 2 options, for our second selection we have 3 options, for our third selection we have 4 options and for our fourth selection we have 5 options.

Multiply these numbers together to get the total number of possible sandwiches that can be made.

2 x 3 x 4 x 5 = 120

120 different Thanksgiving sandwiches can be made from these selections.

  1. B

In order to solve a quadratic equation, we need to find two factors of our constant term 56 which can add up to equal the coefficient in front of our x term, which in this case is equal to −1.

In this case, the factors of 56 which add up to −1 are −8 and 7.

Factor the quadratic function.

(x^2) - x - 56 = (x - 8)(x + 7)

Set each of the factors equal to zero and solve for the solution.

x - 8 = 0

x = 8

x + 7 = 0

x = -7

The two turkeys which are saved are numbers 8 and −7.

Find More ELA and Math Resources Like These at Piqosity! 

We hope these Thanksgiving activities enrich your classroom and your students’ learning! Celebrating holidays in the classroom, no matter the grade level, is a special way to encourage students to learn about the holiday’s origin and work on their academic skills while enjoying the festivities and, in the case of Thanksgiving, practicing gratitude.

You can find more (non-Thanksgiving-themed) ELA and Math lessons with questions of similar difficulty levels in our ELA and Math Courses! These are complete courses available online through our app, which can be purchased à la carte or bundled with our ISEE test prep courses.

Full-Length Math Courses:

Full-Length ELA Courses:

Thank You, and Happy Thanksgiving from Piqosity!