It’s fall, and with the leaves changing, candy corn calling, and Christmas looming, Thanksgiving can be lost in the shuffle. Retail stores jump from Halloween to Christmas in a span of a few days. Each season, we often feel we don’t fully appreciate Thanksgiving, save for the Peanuts special, “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving!” Sure, we gather around the table and stuff ourselves silly, but if we don’t highlight the holiday, we miss the opportunity to teach our kids valuable lessons. Thankfully (see what I did there?), we’ve put together some Thanksgiving and fall lesson plan ideas for all grade levels to help you fully appreciate this amazing and important holiday. Switch out your normal homeschooling routine with the Mayflower, Pilgrims, and more, to truly spread Thankfulness!
Kindergarten-5th Grade Thanksgiving Lesson Plans
Delight your younger kids with crafts and interactives exploring Thanksgiving traditions, touring history, and making crafts!
- National Geographic Kids has a great webpage for kids to read about Thanksgiving traditions. Did you know Thanksgiving is the busiest travel day of the year? (We thought Christmas, to be honest, but who knew?)
- Check out the Plimoth Plantation website for an interactive tour of Native American and Pilgrim villages. Immerse yourself into a 17th-century English or Wampanoag village. Pretty cool, right? If we can’t make it to Plymouth, Massachusetts, at least we can take a virtual tour. After the tour, discuss with your children one interesting fact they learned about the plantation.
- The “turkey hand craft” is a classic that appeals to the younger set of this grade group. Trace your hand to make a turkey. Decorate with feathers and maybe some glitter. Talk to your child about why we eat turkey for Thanksgiving. Have fun and gobble, gobble!
6th-8th Grade Thanksgiving Lesson Plans
Explore in-depth the history behind Thanksgiving through studying primary sources — documents from the time period. Your child will use critical thinking skills to understand why the fourth Thursday in November was chosen as Thanksgiving Day, based on Lincoln’s proclamation. There’s also a website completely dedicated to the Mayflower that you don’t want to miss. Check out these activities for fall lesson plan ideas regarding Thanksgiving!
- Did you know Thanksgiving wasn’t a holiday in the United States until 1863? Take a look at President Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation establishing Thanksgiving Day. Ask your child why this day was chosen, especially since this was during the Civil War.
- Be a history detective with this award-winning interactive on what really went down at the 1621 celebration (it wasn’t just a feast).
- Explore the Mayflower. The Mayflower carried the Pilgrims over to the new land, but it wasn’t all sunshine and roses. Check out the primary sources, such as books and letters, from the Pilgrims. Plus, you can trace the genealogy of Mayflower passengers! For a more in-depth look at the Mayflower, check out this lesson plan from Scholastic, specifically tailored to middle school.
9th-12th Grade Thanksgiving Lesson Plans
The older kids will appreciate these fall lesson plan ideas that use their reasoning and reflection skills (and include videos!). From Mayflower myths to the differences between sweet potatoes and yams, history, food, and physics are about to collide with Turkey Day!
- The History Channel has a great video discussing the myths surrounding the Mayflower. Have your child watch it and use this quiz from ReadWorks via History.com to discuss the text and video.
- Learn how turkey oven timers work. Did you know those pop-up timers are reusable? Neither did we! HowStuffWorks.com shows us how these timers know when a turkey has reached 185° F (85° C) and that it’s time to eat!.Thanksgiving as science? Yes! Check out these two activities based on plants and physics.
- Sweet potatoes vs yams. Yes, Virginia, there IS a difference between yams and sweet potatoes, although they look very much alike. Check out this website from Texas A&M to compare the two. You’ll be very surprised at the results!
- Volunteer at a local shelter or soup kitchen. We have a lot to be thankful for, and this is a great way for your kids to see how truly blessed they are. Make sure the shelter or soup kitchen allows children under 18 before driving over — some places won’t admit minors.
These fall lesson plan ideas should help you determine how to present Thanksgiving to your homeschoolers. From crafts to critical thinking, there’s something for every grade level! Try the interactives or experiment with pop-up timers at Thanksgiving. Make this holiday more special and a fun learning experience.
But the most important part of this holiday is about Thankfulness. If there’s anything your kids will learn about this year, it’s that we are thankful for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.