Thanksgiving Turkey

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Name of Teacher: Sarah Gudan

Class/Grade/Language Level: ES 1-6

Textbook and specific lesson: none

Goal: cultural lesson

Materials and Preparation: explained in plan

Class time: whole class

[note]: Pictures of the arts and crafts made by the students can be viewed at the bottom.

1. Warm ups

2. Thanksgiving Talk

A. Print Thanksgiving pictures (food, clip art, etc.) to show the kids and talk about Thanksgiving. You can explain as much or as little as you like. Adjustable to the class. (Basically, a lot of Thanksgiving food pictures and "What's this?" Or, you can try to explain the history if you want...)

B. Question Time. Usually, my younger kids ask more questions than the older ones, but it all depends on the class.

C. Review: The most important thing about Thanksgiving is remember to be thankful for everything we have and try not to take things for granted. That's today's point: thankfulness.

3. Turkey Activity (Choose one)

A. Individual hand turkeys

1. You've probably made one of these before as a kid. It's just the simple little hand turkeys. Have an example to show the kids. Prepare plain white paper or colored construction paper before class (about half a page for each student, roughly hand-sized). Have kids trace their hands. Drawing little turkey feet is optional. Draw a turkey face on the thumb. Write "Happy Thanksgiving," "I'm thankful for~" or "~~にかんしゃする" on the body. Have them write things they're thankful for on the fingers/feathers. English or Japanese is ok. If using plain white paper, have the kids color their little turkeys. Drawing pictures is also encouraged. Have the kids cut them out and then write their names and class number on the back.
2. Kids can take these home right away, or you can decorate the classroom with them for November and let the kids take them home later.
3. If you have a separate eikaiwa class, let the homeroom teacher know beforehand that the kids need to bring scissors, pencils, and colored pencils (if you want them to color.)

B. Classroom turkeys

1. You'll need to prepare turkey bodies ahead of time, one for each class. My turkey bodies looked like fat, brown bowling pins, plus a little turkey face and some feet.
2. Make feathers.
a. Feather-shaped feathers. If doing this method, cut them out ahead of time and hand out one feather to each kid. Have them write "Happy Thanksgiving," etc., and things that they're thankful for, same as if making individual turkeys. Name and class number on the back.
b. Hand-shaped feathers. Have pre-cut construction paper for the kids to trace their hands on. Then write and cut just like all the other options.
3. Assemble the turkeys after class, then give it to the homeroom teacher later. Can either decorate the eikaiwa classroom or the homeroom, depending on your situation.

4.Thanksgiving Video

If you have time left over, you can show the kids a short clip from Charlie Brown Thanksgiving or some other Thanksgiving video you find online. You'd be surprised what's out there, so just look up something ahead of time if you're worried that you'll have extra time after making the turkeys. One of my teachers like a Turkey Time song that the kids dance to.

5. Wrap up

We do a self-evaluation, but feel free to do whatever your usual closing procedure is.


1. We did this last year, so this year, instead of making general Thankfulness Turkeys, we made thank you cards for the kyushoku ladies. Just made small turkey bodies and small feathers, and had the kids write "Thank You" in English (they can all do it if you explain slowly and write it on the board, even first graders) and then their usual thank you greeting for lunch in Japanese on the back. Some kids also drew their favorite lunch menu items or wrote "~~が好きです。" Then we put them together and took the kids to the lunch ladies to give them in person, saying "Thank you for the yummy lunch!" Just be sure to check with the kyushoku ladies before hand and let them know what you want to do.

2. In my city, we have JTEs in the elementary schools, so I've never actually had to make a lesson plan or time an activity. The timing for each activity is roughly 10~15 minutes. We've done these things in different classes, and it always works out and uses the entire (45~50min) class period. I think it's better to have more prepared and just cut things than to run out of time, unless you have go-to games and activities for those situations.

3. Obviously, this is just a cultural lesson, so there's very little English. The important point of this lesson is thankfulness, so don't worry about it. That being said, some of the older kids might be a little more advanced/ambitious, so they might ask you, "What's ~~ in English?" while their writing things they're thankful for, so just be prepared. Bring a dictionary if you're not so sure of your Japanese.

Cute plump turkey
Fantasy turkey card
Turkey window display 1
Turkey window display 2