photo of family at thanksgiving dinner
American Culture
Thanksgiving

Content Spotlight: Thanksgiving

You and your class can participate in the activities below or learn more about Thanksgiving.

Social Media Activities

  1. What are you thankful for?
  2. Do you have a holiday similar to Thanksgiving in your country? If so, how do you celebrate?
  3. What do you think would be a good way to give thanks and show appreciation?

Post your answers on the AmericanEnglish Facebook page!

Classroom Activities

Activity 1 (Intermediate Learners)

Read the article, “Americans Express Gratitude on Thanksgiving Holiday” as a class. After reading, have students identify some of the different ways Americans celebrate Thanksgiving. Next, ask students to work in small groups to name all the reasons they are thankful. Help students focus specifically on these topics:

  1. Family
  2. Friends
  3. Access to educational opportunities
  4. Clean water

Activity 2 (Advanced Learners)

Have students read Celebrate! Holidays in the U.S.A.: Thanksgiving to learn about the history and traditions of Thanksgiving. Ask your students to pay special attention to the relationship between the Native Americans and the Pilgrims. Who were the Native Americans? Who were the Pilgrims? How did the Native Americans help the Pilgrims? What was the relationship between the Native Americans and the Pilgrims? What might have happened if the Native Americans had not helped the Pilgrims? What do you think are some other ways that the Pilgrims could have shown their gratitude to the Native Americans? Can you think of any sacrifices that the Native Americans had to make to help the Pilgrims? If so, what might these sacrifices have been?

Next, ask your students to think of a time when someone helped them to do something. Maybe a teacher, a friend, or a family member helped them complete a task? Ask your students to reflect on why they are grateful that this person helped them. Tell students to list specific ways that the person helped the student. Have students write a letter to the person, thanking the individual for his or her help. You might ask students to send the letter to the person when they are done. Students can mail the letter or deliver it in person.

About Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November each year. On this holiday, Americans give thanks for many things, including their family and friends, access to educational opportunities, and their personal and political freedoms. The main Thanksgiving event in American homes is the large meal typically consisting of turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, cranberries, bread, green beans, casseroles, and pumpkin pie. Many of these dishes are made from family recipes that are used only on this special family day.

The first Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621 by the Pilgrims and the Native Americans. The Pilgrims were a group of people who left England in search of religious freedom in North America. Native Americans were indigenous people who had learned to use the natural resources on the North American continent to provide food and shelter. The Pilgrims joined the Native Americans for a three-day feast to celebrate the successful harvest. Many people still celebrate the cross-cultural dimension of Thanksgiving by welcoming an international student or other guest into their home for a Thanksgiving meal. The many international students studying in the United States would be lonely on this family-oriented federal holiday, when the university is closed. The invitation to spend Thanksgiving with an American family is a welcome opportunity. Everyone can participate in Thanksgiving, which has expanded from a celebration of the harvest to include giving thanks for all of the good fortune in life.

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