Last updated November 6th 2023
Thanksgiving is a day to reflect with gratitude on the blessings of our lives. It’s one of the most beloved American holidays, celebrated by people of all religions and backgrounds, and ideal for incorporating into your curriculum.
However, our understanding of the day has changed over the years. While some of the following Thanksgiving lessons, activities, and games include familiar elements such as turkey and pumpkin pie, others inquire into the historical record and modern social perspectives, helping students gain a fuller, more authentic understanding.
Before diving into the following free Thanksgiving lessons, activities, and games, educators can get an overview of the changing way Thanksgiving is taught through the articles listed below under Thanksgiving Perspectives, Past and Present.
Thanksgiving Perspectives, Past and Present
Time: The Way American Kids Are Learning About the “First Thanksgiving” Is Changing
Should we be teaching students myth or history? This excellent article is a great starting point for teachers to learn the truth, the myths, and the historical interpretations surrounding the first Thanksgiving. Best to read before planning your lesson.
Teaching the Real Story of the "First Thanksgiving"
Education World explores the stereotypes, myths, and half-truths that pervade our Thanksgiving lore. The article also extends seven simple, practical, and positive strategies for teaching Thanksgiving while honoring both the history and cultural practices of the holiday.
Native educators say Thanksgiving lessons can be accurate, respectful, and fun
If you’re wondering whether there’s anything suitable left to teach about Thanksgiving, don’t despair. This article details simple steps you can take right now to make your Thanksgiving lessons accurate and inclusive.
Best Free Thanksgiving Lessons and Activities
Plimoth Patuxet Museum Teacher Toolkit
A five-unit curriculum that takes a deep dive into the first Thanksgiving. The standards-aligned lessons comprise sections on the Patuxet people, leadership and diplomacy, the crucial role of corn, the celebration as a historical event, and ways to think about giving thanks. Included in this comprehensive resource are vocabulary, themes, historical notes, and bibliography.
StoryCorps: The Great Thanksgiving Listen
The nonprofit organization Storycorps has been capturing the voices and stories of Americans since 2003. Storycorps’ Great Thanksgiving Listen invites young people to take part in this oral history project by recording an interview with an elder, mentor, friend, or anyone they admire. The Educator Toolkit provides step-by-step guidance on every aspect of the Great Thanksgiving Listen and includes printable handouts for students.
Lesson plan: After helping Pilgrims, today's Wampanoag tribe fight for their ancestral lands
A lesson for grades 6-12 that teaches about the Wampanoag people of today in the context of their historical role at the first Thanksgiving. Choose from among topics such as Thanksgiving history as told by the Wampanoag, land disputes, and gambling, then ask the provided questions. Lesson available as a Google Doc. Note the correct link for the first item under “Additional Resources.”
Thanksgiving printables from Makebeliefscomix
MakeBeliefsComix is about helping kids to imagine and create within a highly supportive online environment. This simple Thanksgiving printable invites students to imagine what the best Thanksgiving might be, and what they would be thankful for. The related Gratitude printables offer gratitude prompts, and invites young learners to follow suit. The site’s gentle vibe is welcoming to kids of all ages and abilities.
The Circle of Life and the Clambake
The Circle of Life and the Clambake tells the story of how the Wampanoag people first understood about the circle of life. Featuring the giant Maushop, this brief story is full of powerful ideas that relate more than ever to our current world. Have your students read the story, then ask them to compare and contrast today’s society with the society depicted in the story.
Celebration, Conflict and Contemplation: Digital Thanksgiving Activities and Lesson Plans for Students
Ideal for distance or hybrid learning, these free preK-12 digital Thanksgiving lessons include thought-provoking writing assignments, recipe-based math lessons, humorous turkey hijinks, and a look at the modern day lives of the Wampanoag People.
Thanksgiving Directed Drawings
Directed drawings are a great way for kids to gain basic drawing skills and confidence while creating their own artwork. Whether apple pie, cooked turkey, Happy Thanksgiving message, or cartoon turkey, these free and fun video drawing lessons are perfect for both classroom and remote learning. If you need help incorporating YouTube videos into your curriculum, check out 6 Ways To Access YouTube Videos Even If They're Blocked at School.
Favorite Thanksgiving Music Lessons
Bring the joy of music into your classroom celebration with five Thanksgiving-themed music lessons from elementary school music teacher Jessie Johnson. Ever heard of Super Turkey? How about the Pumpkin That Ran Away? These and other light-hearted tunes tell engaging stories, while kids learn about glissando and dotted half notes. Includes the traditional Native American Racoon Song Game.
Rethinking Thanksgiving Celebrations: Native Perspectives on Thanksgiving
Seven lessons and activities for teaching Thanksgiving in an ethical, accurate and culturally sensitive way.
Turkey Templates for Thanksgiving Creativity and Writing
Education technology expert and Google app guru Eric Curts shares Google Slides templates for building and disguising a turkey. Use it as a fun art lesson, or as a jumping-off point into a discussion about empathy with animals.
Best Free Thanksgiving Games and Interactives
Plimoth Patuxet Museums: Activities and Games
Living like people of the 17th century is an excellent way to learn social history. Talk like a pilgrim, cook 17th-century food with modern recipes, and ponder 11 tricky riddles. Fun for students and teachers alike.
6 fun Thanksgiving-themed games for young learners
If you’ve never tried ABCYa games, here’s the perfect opportunity. High-quality digital games are accompanied by an amusing soundtrack that only adds to the fun. Best of all, five out of these six games are CCSS-aligned. Try the Thanksgiving printables too!
You Are the Historian: Investigating the First Thanksgiving
A great way for students to investigate and learn a more nuanced history about Thanksgiving, from both the Indigenous and Colonial perspectives.
Thanksgiving Puzzles - Fall Holiday Games for Kids
A super-fun iOs app that provides colorful animated Thanksgiving puzzles for children aged 4-6.
Thanksgiving Games for kids
Thanksgiving puzzles, connect-the-dots, memory games, drawing games, and more help preK youngsters learn shapes, numbers, and images while having a blast. Free Android app.