My first grade teammates and I were always at a loss for how to celebrate Thanksgiving in the classroom. Has your grade level team struggled with the same problem? In the past, we organized a Thanksgiving feast with traditional Thanksgiving food, holiday placemats, costumes, and lots of fall decorations to celebrate Thanksgiving in the classroom. Parent volunteers helped with the festivities.
But, we wanted to make the day more meaningful for students and families.
At one of our team meetings, we discussed ways to change the Thanksgiving activities. We wanted the activities to be relevant to our students and families. And focus on thankfulness for families and each family’s unique traditions.
One of the teachers shared how her child’s teacher had a Celebration of Family activity to replace the Thanksgiving feast in the classroom. She told us about some of the Thanksgiving activities they did in her son’s classroom. We thought it would be a great idea to incorporate some of those ideas into our own “Celebration of Family” event.
We highlighted and showed appreciation for the diversity and uniqueness of our students’ families during this event. The activity included poems and songs performed by the students and a museum featuring special items brought in by students. We also served refreshments. This is how you can also celebrate Thanksgiving in the classroom with a Celebration of Family activity:
Celebrate Thanksgiving in the Classroom: Planning
1. Celebration of Family Invitation
Create an invitation for the Celebration of Family activity. We invited parents, grandparents, and other extended family members. Our hope was that each student would have at least one family member who could attend.
2. Celebration of Family Artifact Placard
Send home an information sheet explaining the event and how parents can help their children choose an “artifact” for the museum. The items can be any object that is a symbol or reflection of something important to the family or signifies a family tradition. It can also be a photograph depicting the tradition. Along with the information sheet, send home a form that students and parents can complete together. You will want to include the following:
- name of the object (artifact)
- why it is special to the family
- something interesting about the object
3. Celebration of Family Student Speakers
Choose speakers who will introduce different parts of the activity. I chose 4 speakers. These were the speaker roles:
- Speaker 1: Welcome families.
- Speaker 2: Introduce the agenda for the event.
- Speaker 3: Announce refreshments. Explain the museum tour.
- Speaker 4: Announce when the museum is ready.
I gave the speakers their parts to practice at home. In addition, I gave them time to practice at school.
4. Thanksgiving in the Classroom: Poems & Songs
Choose some Thanksgiving poems and songs for your students to sing and recite. I usually used 4 songs and 2 poems. We Are Teachers has both Thanksgiving song ideas and poem ideas for kids. You can check these out for ideas.
I put the words to the songs and poems on chart paper. The students practiced the songs and poems at the end of each day to prepare for the event.
5. Turkey Headbands Craft
The day of the celebration, our students wore turkey headbands as a costume for the event. You can use any craft idea you may have to create a simple costume.
Celebrate Thanksgiving in the Classroom: Agenda
- Speaker 1 welcomes families.
- Speaker 2 introduces the activities.
- Children sing and recite the songs and poems.
- Speaker 3 announces that refreshments will be served outside.
- Students transform the classroom into a museum.
- Speaker 4 announces that the museum is ready.
- Families walk thru the museum to view the artifacts.
The students sat at their desks with their artifacts and placard on display on top of their desks. We encouraged parents to ask questions about the artifacts as they toured the museum.
It was heart-warming to see and listen to the children proudly talk to the parents about their family traditions. In turn, the families enjoyed asking question of the students as they toured the museum. Parents would comment that they loved getting to meet and talk with their children’s classmates.
What I loved most about the event was getting to know more about my students’ families. I always found out new things about my students during the activity.
Hopefully, if you try this activity, you will also learn more about your students and their families. It’s a great way to connect with families in a positive way. And create a new way to celebrate Thanksgiving in the classroom.
You can use this Celebration of Family Printables packet for your own celebration of family activity. It’s FREE in the First Grade Schoolhouse resource library.