Primary Thanksgiving Lessons and Resources To Keep Students Engaged

Being that this is a year of survival, we figured some of our primary teacher friends might still be hunting for some Thanksgiving ideas to get you through these next few days. Have no fear because we are here with some of the latest trends for math, language arts and STEM instruction. Once you see these next 10 primary Thanksgiving lessons you’ll be sure to want to give these teachers a follow.

Primary Math Thanksgiving Theme Ideas:

One of the easiest ways to engage students in mathematics is to use different shapes and patterns. Chrissy from @kinder_charm had the amazing idea to build a shape tree. If you need an independent activity for kinders, then this is perfect. Her example is for kindergarten, but imagine the possibilities of enhancing this project for older grades. You could easily focus on three dimensional shapes or have students create a pattern in the tree with colors and shapes. 

If your primary students need practice counting on or taking away, then you definitely want to checkout learning.for.the.littles Turkey Trot. What an engaging method to have students count with you. And if your students are anything like our students, then you know how just by adding a simple manipulative can turn an everyday task to one of pure engagement.

Finally, what would Thanksgiving be without pumpkin pie? Well, @glitterandglueandprektoo knew we couldn’t go without it so she created Pumpkin Pie Number Smash. Students choose a slice of pumpkin pie, count it, and then smash the number on the pie with whip cream (Play-Doh). She has numbers 1-10, 11-20, or 1-20 available in her TPT store. Obviously, this is another great tool for kindergarten and possibly even as a first grade review or intervention. 

For older primary grades, you could easily take this same concept and incorporate flash cards. Give each student a set of flash cards. As they answer the flash card, students will then have to find the answer on a pumpkin pie and then S-M-A-S-H it. Your students are sure to have a smashing good time!

Primary ELA Thanksgiving Resources:

Where to even begin with these engaging and purposeful ELA activities? The best place to begin is at the very beginning so let’s jump to the resource we found first.

Who doesn’t love a Mad Lib? Well, Laura from @loving.learning has created a MadLib edition for older primary students (grades 2-5). Your students will be laughing out loud while working on parts of speech and even reading skills. Everyone's a winner with Mad Libs!


Now, what would Thanksgiving be without all of those fabulous read aloud books? Holly from @thegreenappleteacher has put together an A-M-A-Z-I-N-G collection of books to get you started. How To Catch A Turkey by Adam Wallace is definitely a must read. Keep reading below for an activity to go right along with this book. Holly includes not just turkey books, but a plethora of Thanksgiving topics.  

So once you read How To Catch A Turkey, you might want to follow this book up with Diana from @mydayink’s activity of disguising a turkey. In her post from 2020, Diana shares how this activity can be done with a paper roll and students using accessories to disguise their turkey. For at home learners or perhaps you simply don’t have paper rolls, you can head to her TPT store to grab the handout that will work just as well. Finally, you might also decide to read Turkey Trouble by Wendi Silvano as a wrap up to this activity.

If you are looking for a phonics sound activity for next week, take a look at Vanessa from @teaching.little.einsteins word family craft. Depending on grade level, you could do this as a whole group activity or break down into small groups and assign each group a different sound to build. Either way, your students will have a gobbling good time! 

We all know how important vocabulary is for our little learners. Dominique from @theesleducator prepared a cut and paste Thanksgiving vocabulary FREEBIE. So not only will your students be exposed to new vocabulary, but they will also practice fine motor skills. Winner, winner! Turkey dinner! 

Primary STEM/STEAM Thanksgiving Resources

As much as we love all of the adorable math and reading activities, the one subject we love most of all is STEM/STEAM instruction. Our favorite go-to STEM educators are Bonnie Kirkley from @iheartsteam and Brooke Brown from @teachoutsidethebox. These two extraordinary educators will have whatever it is you are looking for and Thanksgiving ideas are no different.

Let’s start off with Bonnie’s “Can You a Build A Thankfulness Tower” STEM activity. The project is pretty much stated in the title, but Bonnie goes even a step further to include a scoring rubric and student awards. When students finish building, then try asking them, “How can we make this even taller?” The solution is to find more ways to be more thankful! Bonnie’s lesson includes all the parts and pieces to a perfect STEM project. 

Remember the book How To Catch A Turkey that we talked about earlier? Well, Brooke Brown from @teachoutsidethebox created a lesson where students use geoboards and marbles to design mazes for The Great Turkey Escape. Depending on the materials you have available and the grade level you teach, you might want to use a shoebox and linking cubes as part of the process. So many options for this book!


One last STEM project we had to share from @teachoutsidethebox was the Balloons Over Broadway Project. You will read and discuss the book Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet. Then, students will begin to share what they are thankful for and write/draw their ideas. These can then be glued to balloons that you should blow up beforehand. Attach the balloons to a car or robot (Brooke used BeeBots) that you have available. Finally, hold a class parade for all to see. You can find this activity in Brooke’s FREE RESOURCE LIBRARY



There are so many amazing ideas out there for Thanksgiving resources in the primary grades. Hopefully you are able to pull from these resources and map out what you need. Your students will have fun, stay engaged, and learn which should really help with classroom management.

As always, our mission here at Lesson Plan Toolbox is to help primary teachers reduce stress and avoid burnout by saving them time and energy. If there’s something you need, please feel free to reach out to us. We’re happy to help!

Happy Thanksgiving!


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