Teaching Your Students About Thanksgiving

As teachers, we’re responsible for introducing new ideas to our students all the time. On top of providing information, society (like our students’ parents) gives us the added responsibility of preparing children for the real world by exposing them to culture, history, important day-to-day skills, and so much more in order to prepare them for life beyond school.

With November upon us, we have a great opportunity to teach our students about both the history and cultural importance of Thanksgiving . It’s just as important to inform students about the historical significance of Thanksgiving and why we celebrate it today as it is to help them experience what it means to be thankful in their everyday lives.

Try an Experiential Exercise

One of our favorite teaching methods at TCI is the “Experiential Exercise.” This teaching method plays on the brain’s ability to help us remember certain activities and experiences through emotional connections. When an activity is a little out of the norm (in other words, not just a traditional lecture about Thanksgiving), students are more likely to remember it in the months or even years to follow. Students will be able to relate their experiences in the classroom when they go home to celebrate Thanksgiving with their friends and family.

TCI has many Experiential Exercises to help you consider ideas for creating your very own thematic lesson around Thanksgiving, its history, and modern culture surrounding it. We can use the Experiential Exercise to help Thanksgiving stand out in our students’ memories.

Depending on the grade level of your students, you can recreate the first Thanksgiving and have them play out different roles. Another Experiential Exercise you could have your students recreate the voyage to the Americas. Having students take on “roles” during the activity will help them feel like they are a part of the exercise. As a result, they’ll develop a stronger connection to the classroom activity and have better memory retention of what was taught during the lesson.

There is no best approach to teaching students about Thanksgiving. It all comes down to what we think is most important about Thanksgiving and how we, as teachers and administrators, can best portray this in our own schools and classrooms. Do we want to dive deep into the history and specifics regarding its origin? Do we want to address conflicts and resolutions during the earliest Thanksgiving? Or can we approach Thanksgiving in today’s era and spread the message about giving thanks for what we have today?

If you are interested in checking out other lessons based on drawing connections, you can gain access to a myriad of educational tools for helping teachers thrive through TCI’s subscriptions. We help you to save time with our pre-created lessons that can be adjusted to meet your own teaching needs. For an example of an event-centered lesson, you can take a look at our free Black Friday economics lesson available on our website.

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