Thanksgiving just isn’t Thanksgiving without a turkey on the table for most families. This gives us a great opportunity to teach our students about turkeys, both domestic and wild, and to have some fun while we’re at it. This activity is great for younger children.
Thanksgiving Hand Turkey Art Lesson Objectives
- Develop fine motor skills
- Investigate animal facts
- Build color recognition skills
- Explore shape, texture, and pattern
- Distinguish between reality and fiction
- Read a Thanksgiving themed turkey story with your students. We have plenty of recommendations below.
- Show your students pictures of wild turkeys and domesticated turkeys. Discuss with students the difference between the two types of turkeys and the turkeys in the story you read. Students should look at colors, feather texture, size, and patterns on turkeys.
- Ask students to compare the real world turkeys in the pictures to the turkeys in the stories. Discuss with students how the turkeys in the stories behave and how they think real turkeys behave. Compare holiday themes to real-life animals by asking students to talk about turkeys they see for Thanksgiving and turkeys in the books and photos.
- Using paper and coloring supplies, ask students to trace one hand on three sheets of white paper. Then ask them to decorate one hand like a turkey in a story that represents Thanksgiving, one hand like a wild turkey, and one hand like a domestic turkey.
Still excited about turkeys? Check out our Turkey Lesson Plans for more ideas.
Learning about the Pilgrims and their journey to America is important to understanding the founding of our country and the history of the United States. The Pilgrims’ voyage on the Mayflower was full of hardships. Today, a replica named the Mayflower II sits in Plymouth Bay, where the Pilgrims eventually landed and settled in Plimoth. Plimoth Plantation is also a great field trip if you’re in the New England area — it’s a great opportunity teach your students first hand what living as a Pilgrim was like.
One way to understand the Pilgrims and the trials they went through to get to America is to experience a little bit of those trials through reenactment.
The Mayflower Voyage Reenactment Activity
To experience the Mayflower as best we can, we can take students on an imaginary journey from England to Plimoth. Young children can reenact the voyage together as Pilgrims and older students can read first hand accounts and documents from the events of the voyage to get in-depth knowledge of the history of the Mayflower.
Life Before the Voyage and Preparations
First, discuss with your students what the Pilgrim’s lives were like living in England. The Pilgrims were originally called Separatists because they were dissatisfied with the Anglican Church but because the king, King James I, was the head of the church, it was treason not to practice Anglicanism. The Pilgrims were prosecuted for their religious beliefs and fled to Holland where they could practice freely.
Explain to students that in England, they are not welcome because of what they believe. Have younger students pretend that others are picking on them for their beliefs. Older students can read a passage from the journal of William Bradford about the Separatists and their beliefs.
While in Holland, the Pilgrims had to work hard at menial jobs and life was difficult. They decided that settling in the New World was the only way they could live the way they wanted, free from prosecution. But Jamestown, the only English colony at the time, was full of Anglicans and they feared they would experience the same troubles as in England. So they decided to settle and start their own colony. Since England owned America, they had to return to England to get permission to go to America. They signed a land patent with the Virginia Company in London that granted them an area of land in Virginia on which to settle. They chartered the Mayflower to take them and joined up with more Separatists in England.
For younger students, you can print out a copy of a land patent and give it to your group of Pilgrims. Older students can read a passage from the journal of William Bradford about the decision to go to America.
The next step is to prepare for the voyage. The Pilgrims couldn’t take everything they needed and had to pick and choose what to take. While the Mayflower was one of the largest ships at the time, it is tiny by today’s standards. They prepared stores of food, chose which furniture to take, and packed the ship for the voyage.
Young students can best learn about the choices the Pilgrims had to make by having to choose between items. Print out different items, like clothing, tools, furniture, food, and other items. Ask students to pack a box together and decide what to take with them. Older students can read through documents of provisions and recommendations from settlers on what to bring with them.
The Voyage to Plimoth
The Mayflower itself was a small ship and the Pilgrims spent 66 days traveling from England to Plimoth, although that wasn’t their original intended destination. They lived in between decks in a small, cramped space with no fresh air and little to do and terrible food to eat. Soon after they left, a storm hit the Mayflower and blew her off course.
Build a “Mayflower” with your younger students but outlining a ship on the floor in tape just big enough for all the students to sit in together. Explain to them what life was like in the ship and ask them to sway back and forth. Ask them to pretend they’re smelly, that there’s little air to breathe, and that the food is bad to eat and has bugs in it. When the storm comes, ask students to pretend they are seasick, ask one to fall overboard and the others to save the student, and have students imagine the ship is being tossed in the angry ocean. Older students can use this interactive timeline.
After the storm, the Mayflower continued to America but first spotted land in Newfoundland, far north of where they intended to settle. They stopped for provisions and then attempted to navigate to the area they had signed the patent for but the waters around New England were treacherous so they made land on Cape Cod. After giving up and deciding to settle in the area, they went to the area now known as Plimoth.
Take younger students on the journey by using a map to explain how far the Pilgrims were off course and the path they took down the coast to Plimoth (named Plymouth today on maps). Asks students to pretend to get provisions in Newfoundland but decide not to stay there. Have one student spot land and ask all the students to exit the Mayflower and return to their seats. Older students can read first hand accounts of the last legs of the voyage and read the Mayflower Compact.
After taking the journey with the Pilgrims, ask your students to reflect on what the journey was like and how it formed our ideas of America today. Highlight that later when the United States was founded, religious freedom and tolerance were important parts of our decisions on how to govern our country, which we still use today. You can also connect this lesson to other lessons about bullying and tolerance in your classroom.
Ask students to write a journal entry about what they learned from experiencing the voyage of the Mayflower and what it was like to be a Pilgrim. Older students can write analysis of primary sources and reflect on how the Pilgrim’s voyage affected our country’s history.
- Pilgrim Hall Museum
- Primary Sources from the Mayflower
- Eyewitness to History on the Mayflower
- Scholastic’s Interactive First Thanksgiving and Mayflower website
- Online resources for If You Sailed on the Mayflower book
- Resources from Plimoth Plantation
- On the Mayflower: Voyage of the Ship’s Apprentice & a Passenger Girl by Kate Waters
- If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620 by Ann McGovern
- Mayflower 1620: A New Look at a Pilgrim Voyage by Plimoth Plantation
- American Documents: The Mayflower Compact by Judith Lloyd Yero
- Across the Wide Dark Sea: The Mayflower Journey by Jean Van Leeuwen
- Of Plimoth Plantation by William Bradford
Edgar Allen Poe was an American author and poet, and a master of the scary tale. Around Halloween, Poe’s stories are a great way to introduce older students to writing techniques like tone, perspective, and setting. Keep in mind that many of Poe’s stories might be too scary for younger children.
- “The Tell Tale Heart”
- “The Raven”
- “The Masque of the Red Death”
- “The Cask of Amontillado”
- “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”
- “The Fall of the House of Usher”
- “The Pit and the Pendulum”
- Choose one Edgar Allen Poe story for your class to read.
- Read about Edgar Allen Poe’s life to learn about what motivated him to write scary stories. The Poe Museum has a great history of Poe. Talk about impetus, how authors decide to write stories, and how their lives affect their work.
- Read one of Edgar Allen Poe’s stories out loud and call on students to read different parts of the story. Ask students to have pencil and paper ready. As they listen, have them note the creepy parts of the story. Do the stories start out spooky, or do they gradually become scary?
- After reading a story, ask students to identify different parts of the story and the plot. Have students identify the narrator and the narrative time throughout the story, including any changes and what they mean.
- Talk about literary techniques like hyperbole, repetition, irony, and foreshadowing, all of which often appear in Poe’s stories. The Poe Museum has teacher resources for identifying techniques used in two tales.
- Ask students to analyze the tone of the story by pointing out specific words in the story that appear often or have similar meanings. Write the words on sentence strips and add them to your word wall.
- Ask students to identify the emotions in the story and create their own artwork about those emotions.
In it, a penguin who has always wanted to be cool and his counselors, who are very proud of how cool they are, are taken in by a couple of tricksters. The idea of wanting to be cool may have more immediacy for today’s students than the idea of wanting to be thought wise.
Enjoy the book as a read aloud for your younger students, or use it as a lesson starter for older students.
Here are some cross-curricular activities for the book:
- Use a Venn diagram to compare this book with The Emperor’s New Clothes.
- Click through to the less plans for the traditional story for more activity ideas.
- The story begins with an emperor penguin who was teased about his clothes when he was a kid. Specifically, they made fun of his bow tie and his checked pants, but his “before” picture also include horn rimmed glasses and an old-fashioned Dad-type belt and sweater vest. Discuss the idea of whether clothes affect how people are thought of or treated. If your school has a dress code or uniforms, this is a good time to talk about it. It’s also a good time to talk about teasing and bullying. How about wearing bow ties or Bow Tie Stickers for a week to promote awareness of bullying?
- The cool clothes in the book have patterns such as paisley, chevrons, and skulls as well as stripes and dots. Spot all the patterns, learn their names, and use them in art projects.
- The rogues in the story have “a special formula.” Have students find ads for “special formulas” and create a bulletin board. How many seem truly to be new technology and how many seem as though they might be trickery?
- The rogues shop online for themselves . This is a good chance to remind students never to share private information online without their parents’ permission, never to share passwords, and about any school rules regarding internet use on campus.
- Author Lee Harper explains, “I’ve set my story in an imaginary kingdom where emporer penguins, walruses, albatross, seals, and polar bears all live — and shop — together.” Have students identify the animals in the story and find where they actually live. Add the information to your classroom map. Use Google Earth to learn more about the animals.
- Check out our penguin classroom ideas.
Los tres cabritos is Eric Kimmel’s Tex-Mex take on the traditional story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff. In this story, Chupacabra, the “goat sucker,” a monster traditionally found in Puerto Rico but also part of folklore in other Hispanic communities, lives under the bridge across the Rio Grande which the three goats want to use to cross into Mexico.
Each goat tells Chupacabra to wait for his older brother, as in the Scandinavian tale, but each goat also plays music for Chupacabra to dance to. The oldest brother, however, can make the monster dance with his music. The biggest brother plays his accordion till Chupacabra ends up exhausted, like a punctured balloon, and the goats all get safely into Mexico.
The book is in Spanish, so it’s a great choice for Spanish language classes.
Here are some cross-curricular activities for this book:
- Use a Venn diagram to compare this book with Three Billy Goats Gruff.
- The three main musical instruments in the story are the violin, the guitar, and the accordion. A harmonica is also pictured in the book, when the narrator says he always packs his harmonica when heading to Mexico. Bring the instruments or pictures of them to class. Compare them and put them in order by size. Sort them by the way the sound is made: the violin and the guitar are stringed instruments, while the accordion and harmonica are free reed wind instruments.
- Chupacabra is a traditional monster. Use some of the ideas from our Monster classroom theme to study this creature, or check out the student project page, Chupacabra Home Page.
- The cabriots had a fine time in Mexico, and were never again afraid of Chupacabra, “or so they said,” according to the story. The narrator, however, always makes sure to pack his harmonica, just in case. Ask students to finish the sentence, “I always make sure to pack my ___________ when I go to __________, just in case.” Have students illustrate their sentences. Challenge older students to write a story, using their sentence as the final sentence of the story.
- There is a pinata in the illustrations of the book. Why not make and/or play with a pinata in your class?
Mt. St. Helens erupted on May 18, 1980. I was living in Northern California at the time, and we had ash falling on us from the sky. For so many of us, volcanoes are something we think of as having happened long ago and far away — the eruption of Mt. St. Helens changed our minds.
57 people died in that eruption.
Share this with your students:
Point out the image in the video (1:17) showing the dome as it forms and let your students know that something similar is happening right now in South America, in the so-called “sombrero uplift.” The current uplift is growing at about the same rate as fingernails. Mt. St. Helens was growing at a rate of six feet a day. Have students figure out how to chart the difference in the rates at which the volcanoes are/were progressing.
Visit Annenberg Learner’s interactive volcanoes exhibit (use your projector) to learn the basics about how volcanoes form, how they can be predicted, and how people deal with the dangers of volcanoes.
Now that you have your students’ attention, here are two lesson plans we like to use to study volcanoes. The first, a literature based study, is a good choice for upper elementary, while the second is suited to middle school or older.
- Read The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene du Bois and check out a fun Flash movie summarizing the book. Challenge students to catch the typos.
- Check out our hot air balloon classroom theme for more resources.
- Learn about heat and decide whether the 21 balloons really would have been able to escape the volcano as they did in the book.
- Have students design and draw their own balloons.
- Compare Krakatoa in the book with the real Krakatoa, located in Indonesia. Study more about the rainforests of Southeast Asia, where Krakatoa is located.
Preparing for volcanic eruptions
- Are you in the path of a volcano? Use the USGS map to find the nearest volcano to your school. Use Google Maps (or just ask Google directly) to find the distance from your school to the volcano.
- Determine whether you would be in any danger if the nearest volcano erupted. Divide students into ten pairs or teams and give each team one of the Time Magazine Top Ten Volcanic Eruptions to research.
- Have students add the eruption they’re researching to the class timeline and map. Each team should also identify the furthest point at which effects of the eruptions were reported. Compare the distances with your distance from the nearest volcano.
- If you determine that your school would be affected by an eruption, list the effects you might encounter. Note that the 1815 eruption of Indonesia’s Mt. Tambora, the largest recorded eruption, affected the world’s climate so much that crops failed in Europe and North America. Use this information to remind students to consider consequences beyond the most obvious ones.
- Scientists like those in the video above now can predict volcanic eruptions in ways they couldn’t in the past, so people are usually warned. Check out the CDC’s advice on preparing for volcanoes. Compare this information with the disaster preparedness training you usually cover in school (such as preparation for earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, severe storms, etc.) and take the opportunity to remind students of the importance of disaster preparedness.
- Develop a plan for your school if the nearest volcano should erupt. Depending on your location, it might include preparing for evacuation, staying inside to avoid ash, or raising funds for distant victims of the volcano.
- Volcano World’s lesson plans The site contains lots of photos, virtual field trips, and more. Grab a cup of coffee and explore.
- USGS resources include up to date interactive maps of volcanic activity and alerts.
- Enchanted Learning’s classic volcano diagram
- Discovery Kids Volcano Explorer makes a great game for your computer center.
- Another option is the Volcano Maker
A note on the baking soda and vinegar volcano…
My kids made baking soda and vinegar volcanoes every year in school, I think. I have three problems with this activity:
- It seems to imply that volcanoes are caused by a chemical interaction, which is not the case.
- It’s an art project, which is fine, but doing it every year seems to give unwarranted importance to it.
- Kids get sick of it, even though it’s spectacular, if they do it every year.
If you are determined to conduct this project, put a quarter cup of baking soda into a bottle with some dish soap and a bit of red food coloring. Do something with the bottle to make it look like a volcano — sand, papier mache, or store-bought volcano kits will all work.
Pour in a half cup of vinegar and stand back to enjoy the show.