Thanksgiving Lesson Plans and Activities

Thanksgiving Lesson Plans and Activities are always a fun way to teach American culture. But Thanksgiving lessons also raise timeless themes such as gratitude, types of food, and how we celebrate holidays in general. Plus, it’s nice to pop in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving sometimes and have some fun! So here’s some links to some of my most popular Thanksgiving activities and lesson plans.

Thanksgiving Day Lesson Plans and Activities for ESL, EFL, ELA Classes on Teachers Pay TeachersThanksgiving Lesson Plans and Activities


  •  A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving lesson plan is another great activity. The video does a great job of introducing the pilgrims and the Native Americans and the first thanksgiving. It also depicts the religious side of this holiday and the turkey and mashed potatoes. Even the football game is mentioned! You can also have fun introducing the Peanuts characters and running gags. Linus’ blanket, Sally’s crush on Linus, and Lucy always pulling away that football all are here.  There are a number of comprehension questions for students to answer as they watch. There’s also a guide for teachers that breaks the movie into scenes. For each scene, there’s some key vocabulary, major themes, and a summary of the action. You can use it to break the viewing into parts. Or to pre-teach some vocab you think students might need to know. Or ask students to make their own outline of the video and then compare it to your outline.
  • The Missing Mashed Potatoes. This is a clue by clue critical thinking mystery puzzle with a Thanksgiving theme. Maybe you had a favorite dish that you only ate on holidays. And everybody fought to get more than anyone else. In my family, it was the mashed potatoes. That’s what led me to write this mystery where students have to follow the clues to figure out who ate all the mashed potatoes!
  • Looking for a quick warm-up for your Thanksgiving Lesson Plans and Activities? The Thanksgiving Word Association Brainstorm is exactly what it sounds like: A worksheet that asks students to name 5 things they associate with Thanksgiving. It’s a simple activity, but powerful. You can elicit vocabulary, use their answers as discussion prompts, discover misunderstandings your students have, create a word cloud, or ask students to share the reasons for their associations!
  • Word Processing Skills Thanksgiving Day Edition is a fun activity that teaches students basic word processing skills. Students are given a text and rules on how to manipulate that text. In the process, they uncover a mystery message. This one is all about thankfulness! Tired of students that don’t know how to copy-and-paste? Want to make sure they know how to format in 12-point Times New Roman? Try this fun activity out.

FoodThanksgiving Lesson Plans and Activities

  • The Food and Holidays Lesson Plan gives students a chance to talk about their national food, then gives you a chance to discuss Thanksgiving and the traditional foods we eat on that holiday. Finally students get talk about their special holiday meals. It’s a great way to approach Thanksgiving with international students. They may not know a lot about this primarily American holiday, but they do know how to talk about food. It’s also a topic that is accessible to advanced, intermediate and beginner students.
  • One part of the Food and Holidays Lesson Plan is the food and adjectives worksheet. In fact, I’ve designed it in two different ways:  a Food and Adjectives Chart where students fill in words to describe tastes, ways of cooking, ways to describe food.
  • For less advanced students, there’s also a Food Adjectives Cloze Worksheet that gives some more support in the form of sample vocabulary and sentence frames. Students can also graduate from this scaffolded version to the more open Food and Adjectives Chart.

Word Processing Skills

Student on Computer

Students need word processing skills. These days, professors at any rate expect essays to be typed. However a lot of ESL programs don’t include typing lessons, let alone word processing skills. And from what I have seen, international students don’t always get it at home. I have seen essays typed up in emails because students didn’t know anything about word processing. And I have seen students literally retype a final draft from scratch because they didn’t know how to save! I was lucky enough to work for a school that had a technology class and a couple of times I ran a typing/word processing lesson. Here are some of the resources I used:

  • Mystery Message teaches students to select, move, delete, cut, copy and paste text.
  • My Thanksgiving Day Word Processing Worksheet is similar but it adds some review questions and it’s adapted for Thanksgiving because I plan to use it in the next couple of weeks.
  • Not a worksheet but just an idea. Do something similar to the Mystery Message but with bolding and italicizing and underlining. Tell students to write a message on the computer and then direct them to bold a certain word, underline another word, change the font of another word, change the font size. Cover centering and right aligning and maybe margins and double spacing so they can learn to format essays.
  • If you don’t have big expensive Word on your computers, you can use this Web Editor with commands to practice and teach. But don’t let your students type essays in that box either!
  • Also, in reference to the expense of Microsoft Office:
    • Remember you can download Open Office for free.
    • Or check if you and your students are eligible for any student discounts. I got Office Student Edition for $40 through my host university!
  • A real basic tutorial on Word Processing functions. I run my students through these functions on the computer so this is a nice take-home reminder!
  • My essay formatting activity. I give students a Model Essay with Rules that I make myself. You can do one for your class. I do warn them that every teacher has their own expectations and I usually add at the bottom my rules about late essays and how they will be graded and so on. I go over the formatting with them and show them how to do it–may with a Mystery Message Activity? Then I give them the  Unformatted Essay and make them transform it to look like the Model Essay.

How do you guys teach word processing?

UPDATE: I totally forgot about my earlier post about the Microsoft Office teaching game, Ribbon Hero 2.

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Lesson Plan

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is a great introduction to Thanksgiving particularly for EFL students who don’t know a lot about the holiday.

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Lesson PlanObjectives

  • Teach about the American holiday of Thanksgiving
  • Discuss traditions and the meaning of Thanksgiving
  • Practice understanding videos


  • Video Summary [for the teacher]
  • Video Comprehension Questions
  • Discussion Questions
  • Extension Ideas
  • Answer Keys
  • Video of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

Warm up

Write on the board: “How we Celebrate”, “History”,”Meaning”,”Related Events”. Ask students what they know about Thanksgiving. Write their contributions in the appropriate categories.

Alternate Procedure Have students come to the board and write their own ideas on the board where they think they fit.

Alternate Procedure Give students 2 minutes to write down whatever comes to mind when they think of Thanksgiving. Then elicit one suggestion at a time from different students and put them on the board.

The goal of this exercise is to elicit vocabulary and get students thinking about Thanksgiving. This will also generate questions and get them articulating what they want to know. On the flip side, foreign students may be surprised at how much they do know about this American holiday.

Introduce the Video: Tell students that you are going to show a video about a funny Thanksgiving. Ask if they know who Charlie Brown is. Spend some time discussing the characters and their personality types. It’s helpful if students understand that Charlie Brown is rather shy and unsure of himself, Peppermint Patty is very assertive, and Snoopy is very creative but sometimes silly. However, they will quickly grasp these details as the film starts.

Then hand out the Video Comprehension Questions and tell students to answer the questions as they watch.

This activity has been moved to my Teachers Pay Teachers Store. If you like this sample, you can purchase and download the full A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Lesson Plan there. Check out all my Thanksgiving lesson plans and activities here.

Food and Holidays

Food and Holidays is a popular topic that almost all your students will have something to say about!
Food and Holidays Lesson Plan

This is a pretty simple discussion lesson plan to get students talking about food from different perspectives. It can be used as part of a lesson, or supplemented with activities, games, and so on. I found this was a good lesson to do when I was still getting to know students because it is a pretty universal topic and as a foreigner in a foreign country, students love telling me about their traditional food. I talk about US foods and holidays here because I am American but obviously it could be used to talk about your own native cuisine instead. If you are American, it’s a great way to introduce Thanksgiving or other traditional holidays that revolve around food!


  • To promote fluency and discussion
  • To practice vocabulary related to food, tastes and ingredients
  • To encourage students to describe in detail
  • To talk about holidays and traditions and customs related to food


  • Discussion Questions
  • Food Adjective Cloze or Brainstorm Worksheet
  • Pictures of typical American food (or food from your culture)

To prepare, put pictures of some typical American food on the board. For example:

but without the captions. Ask students to guess what these typical foods are. Then explain that in the US we also eat a lot of international foods. See if they can guess where these typical “American” foods come from.

Now ask students to name some of their national foods. Prompt them to describe the food in detail: what it is made out of, how it is made, how it is eaten, what it looks like, what it tastes like, etc. If you are familiar with their national cuisine you can prompt them. If you are not familiar, you can use your ignorance to elicit details. You can also get into what international foods have been absorbed into their culture and are now typical foods.

This activity has been moved to my Teachers Pay Teachers Store. If you like this sample, you can purchase and download the full Food and Holidays Lesson Plan there.

And check out all my Thanksgiving lesson plans and activities here.