ESL Thanksgiving Activities: The Top 6 to Try Out in your Classes

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When you teach a language, you’re teaching a lot of vocabulary and grammar. Vocab are the words we use and grammar is how we organize them in a way so that people understand what we’re saying.

However, foreign English teachers, especially those teaching abroad are often expected to be a kind of cultural ambassador as well. Not just teaching a language, but showing students what life is like in their countries. And of course, even if this isn’t explicitly expected, language is intertwined with culture and it’s hard to separate the two.

Thanksgiving is a popular holiday in the USA and Canada, and many countries around the world have a roughly equivalent holiday as well (Chuseok in Korea for example). It can be an interesting class for the students to do some ESL thanksgiving activities to share a little bit of what this holiday means to you. Plus, your students will certainly encounter some new vocabulary words that they’re never seen before (Gobble, gobble!).

Let’s get to some of my favourite ESL Thanksgiving activities that you can try out with your students today.

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Fun ESL Thanksgiving Games and Activities

ESL Thanksgiving Games and Activities

Okay, so let’s get to what you’re looking for: fun activities and games that are related to Thanksgiving!

#1: What are you Thankful For?

As the name implies, Thanksgiving is a time when most people reflect on what they’re thankful for. Of course, to some, it’s just a time to watch football and eat too much! But, it can be an interesting class to have students think about their lives and what they have.

Here’s how you can do it:

  • Introduce the topic of Thanksgiving to your students, perhaps by sharing a personal story of what your family does.
  • Give students some thinking time about this question and allow them to write a few notes.
  • Put students into small groups of 3-4 students and allow them to have some time for free-talking.
  • Finally, invite some students to share some thoughts with the entire class.
  • If you want to do some follow-up, students can write a paragraph about things they thankful for. Or, for homework, they could make a short YouTube video answering this question.

#2: Thanksgiving Bingo

Let’s get real here, who doesn’t love Bingo, right? Basically everyone loves a good Bingo game.

You can make up a Thanksgiving themed one for your students, but you may have to pre-teach them some vocabulary. I usually choose around 30 words that I have on a PowerPoint. Or, even better, elicit Thanksgiving themed words from your students and write them on the board.  Give students a blank bingo grid, and they can make their games.

And because I’m all about teaching, even on “fun” party days in class, I don’t do the regular Bingo where you just say the word, but instead, I describe the word and students have to choose the correct one. Learn more here: ESL Speaking Bingo.

Quick teaching tip about Bingo: Get student to just cross off each word with an X, instead of scribbling it out entirely so that you can check answers at the end. And of course, bring a small prize for the winner of each round!

#3: Thanksgiving Charades 

If your students know a decent amount of Thanksgiving vocabulary, you could consider playing charades with them. If they don’t, then do an activity where your students can learn this vocabulary. For example, this listening comprehension one below. It’s a very fun game for a “party” class!

Divide the class into two teams. Then, have one student draw a word out of the hat and they have to act it out within a certain amount of time while their team guesses what it is.

Learn more about it here: Charades for ESL Students.

You may also consider doing this by drawing as well (Pictionary).

#4: Listening Comprehension (Thanksgiving Themed)

If you want your Thanksgiving lesson to include some actual learning value, then you could consider showing you students this listening comprehension video about Thanksgiving dinner. Of course, use a listening lesson plan to get the most value out of it.

The basic steps are:

  • Set the context by having students talk with a partner (or the entire class) about what they know about Thanksgiving. Beginners can just say some words that they associate with this holiday.
  • Assign some simple true/false questions based on the listening. Students answer, then compare with a partner and the whole class.
  • Assign some more difficult comprehension questions for the second time listening. Students answer and again compare with a partner and then the whole class.
  • Some sort of follow-up activity related to Thanksgiving. It could be another activity on this list, or get creative and use something else!

#5: Thanksgiving Dinner Game

If you’ve taught lots of Thanksgiving vocabulary to your students, particularly related to food, then you’ll want to consider playing this memory circle game with them. In a smaller class of fewer than 10 students, play all together. Or, in a bigger class, you can divide students up into small groups.

The first person starts the game off with, “At Thanksgiving dinner, I’m going to eat ____.” The next person repeats what the first person said, but adds their own food on to the list.

Each following person has to repeat all the foods in the exact order. If they make a mistake, they sit down and they’re out of the game. Continue on until only 1 person is left standing.

More details here: Memory Circle Game.

#6: Thanksgiving Puzzles

Who doesn’t like a good word search, hidden message, etc.? If you want to have a quieter activity to do related to Thanksgiving, consider making your own puzzle. I use the following resource which makes it quick and easy to make your own custom puzzles, hidden messages, mazes, etc.

Discovery Education Puzzle Maker.

Have your Say about ESL Thanksgiving Activities

What’s your go-to ESL thanksgiving activity, game or worksheet that you like to use with your students? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.

Also be sure to give this article a share on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter. I’ll help other busy teachers, like yourself find this useful teaching resource.

p.s. If you’re looking for other holiday activities, you’ll want to check out the following:

ESL Halloween Activities

ESL Christmas Activities

 

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