English Advantage

Opinions, Reflections, and Resources from an ESL Teacher

Tag: Thanksgiving

Turkey Day Lessons

from eyehook.comJust a subtle reminder that I have the greatest Thanksgiving Day lesson plans on earth!

At least, I like them. The most popular one is a guide to showing A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, including comprehension questions students fill out as they watch, post-video summary activities, discussion questions and ideas for extensions.

My Food and Holidays lesson plan introduces American foods, teaches key words and phrases for describing foods, then gets students talking about their traditional foods and holidays that are strongly linked to food. It’s a great way to introduce the concept of Thanksgiving to international students.

Thanksgiving Lesson Plans and Activities

from eyehook.comGetting ready for Thanksgiving? Here are some of the lesson plans I like to use to teach Turkey Day.

  • The Food 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 because 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.
  •  My A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving lesson plan is another great activity. The video does a great job of introducing the pilgrims and the Native Americans, the first thanksgiving, the religious side of this holiday, as well as turkey and mashed potatoes, and even the football game! You can also have fun introducing the Peanuts characters and plot items like Linus’ blanket, Sally’s crush on Linus, and Lucy always pulling away that football. I’ve designed two worksheets: A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Comprehension Questions that can help students keep up as they watch or test how much they retained. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Summary is a guide for teachers that summarizes the major “chapters” of the movie and some words or phrases or slang that students may have trouble with. 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.
  • Finally another original lesson plan I love that introduces persuasive writing to Thanksgiving is Turkey Writing by Boggles World ESL. Students imagine they are a turkey on Thanksgiving and must come up with good reasons why they shouldn’t be eaten!

Thanksgiving Wishes from MakeBeliefComix

Thanksgiving WishesAnother great writing prompt from Make Belief Comix on Thanksgiving Wishes:

On this Thanksgiving imagine a day without tears or grief, a day without shootings and crime, a day without drugs, a day without hunger…What stories would be told?

Thanksgiving is such a great holiday to talk about in class because students don’t know anything about it–it is the only uniquely American/New World holiday, I believe. So students are interested in it. It also comes with rich traditions and history that can be described such as the turkey, the Pilgrims, the Mayflower. So you have a lot of material to work with. And although people in other countries don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, gratitude is a universal theme. Plus every holiday involves food of some kind so at least at that level, students can relate to it.

And I love all these printables from Make Belief Comix. It’s much more fun to write on a comic than it is to write on a blank piece of paper. Plus if you hang them on the wall, they look much cooler. Don’t get me started on how much I love letting students warm up by doing some prompted free-writing either!

Word Processing Skills

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

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


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


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. 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.

Food and Holidays

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.