thanksgiving classroom activities

By this point in the school year, a lot of us are getting tired; it can be hard to think of fresh and exciting Thanksgiving classroom activities. So how do you celebrate Thanksgiving in the classroom without giving yourself oodles more work?

Well, by exploring our collection of Thanksgiving classroom activities, which offer great ways to sharpen your students’ math or reading skills and create a fun and festive classroom environment.

Especially if you have students in middle or high school that have graduated from crafting turkeys in the shape of their hand, looking for lessons appropriate for your classroom’s education level may be tedious. That’s why we’ve put together the following selection of both reading and math ideas for Thanksgiving classroom activities that are sure to brighten your students’ day while enriching their education.

We’ve also included a short excerpt from O. Henry’s Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen with original Piqosity Reading questions to answer after reading, as well as original Piqosity Math questions with a festive flair!

Thanksgiving Reading Activities

1. Thanksgiving History Passage Activity

thansgiving classroom activities

The first of our ELA Thanksgiving classroom activities, this passage-based activity, which dives into the history behind the holiday, is perfect for both in-person and virtual learning. Students are tasked with reading and comprehending a passage tracing the history of the holiday from its origins—the “First Thanksgiving” and the way certain foods became traditional— to the inauguration of Thanksgiving as a national holiday.

The passage has been adapted for a range of grade levels, from late elementary to middle school, and paired with questions that target key ELA Common Core standards. It comes complete with a guide that can help you integrate the activity into your class period, descriptions of the standards that the activity targets, as well as an answer sheet.

Created and made available for free download by The Sweetest Thing.

2. Thanksgiving Crossword, Coloring, and Gratitude Activities

thanksgiving classroom activities

This collection of Thanksgiving activities for middle school students includes three different tasks, rewarding for students of any grade level. The crossword puzzle, perfect to accompany a history of the holiday, teaches students historical and modern-day trivia about Thanksgiving in a fun way. The coloring page is a great way for students to let their creative juices flow and take a break from instruction.

Finally, the gratitude page lets students practice their writing skills while being creative and mindful of what they’re thankful for. You can instruct them to write a letter to somebody they’re thankful for, describe what they are grateful for in paragraph form, or even tie into your individual classroom curriculum by having them write about what a character in a book they are reading is thankful for – the possibilities are endless…

Created and made available for free download by Teaching on Lemon Lane.

3. Thanksgiving Gratitude Worksheets

thanksgiving classroom activities

These Thanksgiving worksheets let students think more deeply about their gratitude. First, they prompt students to list what they’re thankful for based on specific criteria (like “What are you thankful for that you cannot touch?” or “What do you think a cat is thankful for?”). Then, it prompts them to think of something they’re thankful for for each letter of the alphabet.

Though simple, these prompts provide these guidelines to help students think outside the box while focusing on cultivating a grateful mindset. This activity is perfect for introducing a wider classroom discussion, or as a jumping-off point for a short writing activity based on an item on their gratitude list. Because you can integrate this assignment in many different ways, it is great for all grade levels.

Created and made available for free download by Rachel Lynette.

Thanksgiving Reading Comprehension Questions by Piqosity

The stories of O. Henry are staples in the American canon. Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen concerns 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.

2. B

When faced with a multiple choice question asking for the definition of or synonym for an unknown word, a good 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.

3. 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. Thanksgiving Math Word Problems

If you’re wondering how to bring your middle-schoolers some math-themed Thanksgiving classroom activities, these word problems (approximately middle-school level) are a great choice! The questions dive into topics such as adding and subtracting fractions, converting fractions, decimals, and percentages, complex multiplication and division, and time.

The nine questions have real-life applications and are perfect for starting off a group lesson or as an independent practice assignment.

Created and made available for free download by Lindsay Perro.

2. Graphing Gobbles: A Thanksgiving Graphing Activity

These graphing exercises are the perfect math-based Thanksgiving activities for high school students. Students are tasked with creating a graph based on certain data points. Then, they must interpret their results with a series of questions that encourage them to understand the purpose of graphing and the potential problems that can come with experimentation.

Finally, they are given a subsequent, improved data set to graph along with questions to analyze their work. This set is complete with an answer key and is a great way to supplement curriculum in both math- and science-based classes.

Created and made available for free download by Science With Mrs Lau.

Thanksgiving Math Questions by Piqosity

We’ve reached mid-November and Thanksgiving is on everyone’s mind. Many are already thinking about what they’re planning to cook or what they’re going to eat. These math problems give a glimpse into the calculations behind the upcoming turkey day.

Piqosity 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 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

thanksgiving classroom activities

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:

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.

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

2. 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.

120 different Thanksgiving sandwiches can be made from these selections.

3. 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:

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

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

Find More ELA and Math Resources Like These at Piqosity! 

We hope you and/or your students have enjoyed these Thanksgiving classroom activities! Celebrating holidays in the classroom, no matter the grade level, is an enriching 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 and can be purchased à la carte or bundled with our ISEE test prep courses!

For your convenience, we have outlined lessons relevant to or at the same difficulty level as the above passages and word problems. These can be found below.

Related ELA Lessons by Piqosity 

Lessons related to question #1:

ELA 5 – Figurative Language
ELA 8 – Figurative Language
ELA 11 – Rhetorical Analysis

Lessons related to question #2:

ELA 5 – Word Meanings & Word Choice
ELA 8 – Word Meanings & Word Choice
ELA 11 – Word Meanings & Word Choice

Lessons related to question #3:

ELA 5 – Inference
ELA 8 – Inference
ELA 11 – Inference

Related Math Lessons by Piqosity:

Lessons related to question #1:

Math 5 – Unit Conversion
Math 5 – Multiplying Decimals & Whole Numbers

Lessons related to question #2:

ISEE Upper Level – Permutations

Lessons related to question #3:

Algebra 1 – Solving Quadratic Equations

Thank You, and Happy Thanksgiving from Piqosity!