With Thanksgiving approaching, students seem to be bouncing off the walls. Why not tap into that boundless energy with some fun writing activities?
The following activities work especially well for elementary and middle school students. You can adapt them for in-class writing or expand them into larger projects.
1. Origin Stories
"Family traditions reveal what you value enough to repeat, and—if done with love—build warm, happy associations."
Does your family follow any special Thanksgiving traditions? In a mini research project, explore the origin of a family tradition:
- What is the tradition?
- Where does it come from?
- Who is responsible for carrying it on?
Talk to people close to you to learn more about it.
As an alternative, build an argument for a new Thanksgiving tradition. Answer the same questions as above but also give reasons to adopt the new tradition.
2. Thanksgiving Foods, Ranked
Thanksgiving is a foodie extravaganza. Turkey, stuffing, pie—yum, yum, yum! Which dishes are your favorite? Which ones do you avoid? Rank the food at your Thanksgiving celebration from worst to first. Give reasons for each choice. Present your final rankings in a BuzzFeed-like style, using this article as a model.
3. The Great Gobbler Escape
In a wild turn of events, your Thanksgiving turkey has come to life on the morning of the big holiday. Write a creative story from the perspective of the turkey as it attempts to escape to safety. What destination does it have in mind? How does it get there, if at all?
4. Turkey-Day Camera Roll
If you could describe your Thanksgiving day in three photos, what would they show? Describe each picture—whether real or make believe. Make sure to explain who is in it, what is happening, where it is happening, and when it is happening. Use sensory details such as colors, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures to bring each photograph to life. Arrange your photo descriptions chronologically.
5. Then and Now
Interview a grandparent or other older person about past Thanksgivings. (If the person comes from a culture that doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, ask about a different holiday or family gathering.) Ask about traditions, food choices, and favorite memories. How did the person’s experiences compare to yours? In a brief essay, explore the similarities and differences.
Consider this support as you introduce the prompts.
By responding to these prompts, students will . . .
- Express their creativity through writing.
- Demonstrate a deeper appreciation for their family history and traditions.
- Use sensory language to capture action and convey experiences and events.
- Write clearly and coherently for an authentic task, purpose, and audience.
Note: Some prompts will fulfill additional genre-based objectives.
- Adjust each prompt's language to meet the needs of your students.
- Accommodate students whose families may not celebrate Thanksgiving. Invite them to write about other cultural holidays or traditions. For instance, a student could apply the food rankings activity to a different gathering or celebration.
- Encourage students to add images or other visuals to their writing.