What Thanksgiving activities do you do with your students? Thanksgiving in middle school is a wonderful opportunity to focus on harvest, fall, and kindness to one another. Below, you will find a brief history of Thanksgiving in Canada, as well as ways you can celebrate the holiday in the middle school classroom.
What is Thanksgiving, and why is it celebrated?
While Thanksgiving in the United States is a wildly popular holiday, closely tied with Christmas in terms of how many celebrate, its roots are much different here in Canada.
In Canada, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday in October every year – ever since parliament declared the day as Thanksgiving back in 1957. The traditional food of turkey and pumpkin was introduced to the people of Halifax by the United Empire Loyalists and spread across the country thereafter.
While Thanksgiving wasn’t officially declared as a yearly celebration until 1957, the earliest Thanksgiving feast in Canada happened in 1578 in then Frobisher Bay (present-day Nunavut).
English explorer Martin Frobisher and his crew gave thanks for their safe arrival by feasting on salt beef, biscuits, and mushy peas – they were grateful for their safe arrival and for what food they had.
And Canadian Thanksgiving wasn’t always held in October. It was first declared a national holiday to be held on November 6th each year until it was decided to observe Remembrance Day after World War II. The date was moved so the holidays would not be so close together.
What are some Thanksgiving traditions?
While some do continue to observe the holiday in a spiritual light, others simply look at it as a time to celebrate the bounty of food they have worked for, sharing it with friends and family.
- Thanksgiving dinner: Many families celebrate the holiday by having a Thanksgiving dinner with turkey, potatoes, and pumpkin pie.
- Friends and family: Thanksgiving is a time to be with friends and family, all coming together to give thanks.
- Festivals: Fall is a time when local farms have harvest festivals, hay rides, corn mazes, and much more. It is also a time when families visit pumpkin patches to pick out pumpkins for the upcoming Halloween.
- Outdoor activities: Fall is a beautiful time in parts of Canada, and families take advantage during the long Thanksgiving weekend to visit local farms, see the changing leaves, or go hiking.
These are just some of the traditions that are associated with Thanksgiving. As Thanksgiving differs from city to city, province to province, and family to family, all Thanksgiving activities and traditions are different.
Engaging Thanksgiving Activities
Check out these engaging middle school Thanksgiving activities that you can use on the day leading up to this holiday with your students. These activities are related to food and gratitude and do not cover any traditional Thanksgiving narratives or stereotypes.
Middle School Canadian Thanksgiving Activities
Enhance your Canadian Thanksgiving festivities in your classroom with these Middle School Canadian Thanksgiving Activities. This resource contains 11 different Thanksgiving activities, all with a Thanksgiving theme, such as a non-fiction article, a 9-option choice board and a word call game.
Included Thanksgiving Activities:
- Non-Fiction Article (Regular and Modified)
- Thanksgiving Choice Board (9 Options)
- Word Search
- Crossword Puzzle
- Field Trip List
- Plan Your Menu
- Social Media Posts
- Vegetarian Thanksgiving Foods
- Dinner Guests
- Word Detective
- Thank You Card Lesson & Templates
- Whole Class Word Call Game
Thanksgiving Digital Escape Room
This Thanksgiving Digital Escape Room allows students to work independently or with their peers to solve 10 food and gratitude-themed challenges. Students must solve the required challenges to “escape” the school basement storage room they accidentally got locked in. Participants will use their reading and listening comprehension skills and any general knowledge about Thanksgiving foods (turkey, pumpkin, gravy) to solve each escape room challenge. Note: This digital escape room is about food and gratitude. It does not cover any traditional Thanksgiving narratives or stereotypes.
- Digital Escape Room with 10 Challenges (“locks”)
- Detailed teacher directions in text and video format
- Answer Key
- Student Instructions
- Reflection Questions
Books to Celebrate Thanksgiving
Picture books are a fantastic way to celebrate Thanksgiving with your students and a great addition to you Thanksgiving activities. There are many different areas you can focus on when it comes to the holiday – harvest, family, being thankful, generosity, and community.
For nature lovers, Giving Thanks is about a boy who learns from his father how to show gratitude for the Earth and everything on it.
This story is all about Betsy and how she learns where happiness and gratitude come from. It is a perfect story to teach kids to be thankful for what they already have.
Amelie wants to have a “traditional” Thanksgiving with “traditional” Thanksgiving food, but when her Bubbe and Nai Nai decide to make their famous matzo-ball and wonton soups, Amelie doesn’t know what to think.
This story is based on a family who lived in upstate New York and held an outdoor Thanksgiving feast in the woods on their farm every year. Every year, they would celebrate family, faith, and friendship.
Thanksgiving Activities for Your Classroom
There are so many ways you can celebrate Thanksgiving in the middle school classroom. These Thanksgiving activities are the perfect addition to your Thanksgiving lessons.
- Read books. Thanksgiving can be a fun time to focus on kindness and thanking the people around us, and a lot of books are about that.
- Do you know why a turkey is the main event of a Thanksgiving dinner? This article on CBC Kids tells you why.
- Modern Mississauga shares 15 Fun Facts About Canadian Thanksgiving.
- What are your students’ favourite Thanksgiving foods? Daily Hive shares what the most popular Thanksgiving dishes are in each province. They might be surprised by Nunavut’s favourite food!
- Have your students compile a gratitude journal throughout the month of October to share what they’re thankful for.
- In this Podcast Listening Comprehension Lesson, students learn about the effects of restaurants writing personalized thank-you notes on take-out bags or containers. Along with your Thanksgiving activities, have your students write their own thank-you notes to the people they’re thankful for. Get the Personalized Notes Podcast Listening Comprehension Lesson on Teachers Pay Teachers USD or Shopify CAD.
- Have students create a poster about what they are thankful for. Have them either draw out pictures or compile images from magazines or online. For a fun addition to your Thanksgiving activities, you can also have them colour a pre-made poster, such as this one from the Brain Ninjas.
- Did you know that inflation is making Thanksgiving dinner more expensive than ever? Have students read the CBC article and then complete the Podcast Listening Comprehension on Unit Pricing to learn more about unit pricing and why some stores offer the breakdown on the shelves while others do not. Get this Unit Pricing Podcast Listening Comprehension Lesson on Teachers Pay Teachers USD or Shopify CAD.
- Thanksgiving in Canada is different from Thanksgiving in the United States. This article from CNN talks about those differences – 6 ways Canadian Thanksgiving is different from the US holiday
Other Festive Lesson Plans
- Halloween Unit – Buy CAD$ or USD$
- Halloween Non-Fiction Article – Buy CAD$ or USD$
- Halloween Digital Escape Room – Buy CAD$ or USD$
- Halloween Creative Writing Assignment – Buy CAD$ or USD$
- Podcast Listening Comprehension Lesson – Halloween Stores – Buy CAD$ or USD$
- Christmas Unit – Buy CAD$ or USD$
- Christmas Writing Prompts – Buy CAD$ or USD$
- Christmas Creative Writing – Buy CAD$ or USD$
- Christmas Digital Escape Room – Buy CAD$ or USD$
- Christmas Non-Fiction Article – Buy CAD$ or USD$
- Middle School Christmas Activities Bundle – Buy CAD$ or USD$
- Christmas Truce of 1914 Media Analysis Unit – Buy CAD$ or USD$
- Diwali Non-Fiction Article – Buy CAD$ or USD$
- Remembrance Day Unit – Buy CAD$ or USD$
- Hanukkah Non-Fiction Article – Buy CAD$ or USD$
- Kwanzaa Non-Fiction Article – Buy CAD$ or USD$
- Article of The Week: Holidays Around the World – Buy CAD$ or USD$
- Global Holiday Celebrations Research Assignment – Buy CAD$ or USD$