Thanksgiving and Giving Thanks


Newspapers cover holidays and historic events. Thanksgiving is both a holiday and historic event. One NIE professional offered this advice, “Thanksgiving is on students’ minds, so use that to your advantage.” Using news makes teaching and learning relevant and integrates informational text and multiple subjects. To focus on character traits associated with Thanksgiving, use two graphic organizers. New York NIE’s three-part series provides background information about Thanksgiving: Perry Ground, a traditional storyteller, cultural educator, and the Project Coordinator at Native American Resource Center for the Rochester City School District, wrote the series. Contact Mary Miller about reprinting any of the features. New York’s Mary Miller developed student worksheets or graphic organizers to support the use of the series. In the back, she included a letter by Edward Winslow that includes a description of what happened at the first Thanksgiving and a description of the harvest written by the governor of Plymouth Plantation, William Bradford. Miller includes Original and New English versions of the descriptions: During his career, David Pego, journalist, NIE professional and Native American offered lessons on varied subjects. Here is one that addresses the question: What is a tribe? He invites whoever studies Thanksgiving to identify the Native American tribes in their state. In thanks and remembrance, Pego-isms were published in 2007. Educator Cynthia McFadden offers a quiz based on the Mini Page’s 2013 issue, Thanksgiving: Native American Foods: /how-news-connects/. The Mini Page archive offers other issues on Thanksgiving. Search “topics” on the site: ACTIVITIES based on TODAY’S NEWS, complete individually, in teams or small groups

Thanksgiving in the News—A Scavenger Hunt

Have students find one or more of the following items in their newspapers, print and/or online. Ask them to explore all sections of their newspaper and check archives in electronic editions.
  1. Something or someone for whom you are thankful
  2. Someone in need and something you’d like to give that person
  3. The words “thanks,” “giving,” or “Thanksgiving”
  4. Expressions on faces or in words that mean or suggest “thankfulness”
  5. Items or symbols that represent Thanksgiving
  6. Foods or recipes suitable for a Thanksgiving dinner
  7. Something that is the same as when the Pilgrims and Native Americans shared the first Thanksgiving meal
  8. Something that has changed drastically since the first Thanksgiving
  9. A story about a family’s celebration of Thanksgiving
  10. A reference to a Thanksgiving tradition
  11. TV shows and movies that your friends and family will enjoy over the Thanksgiving holiday
  12. A story about the movement of people and ideas and the effects of the move
An NIE professional from Arkansas offered the following teaching ideas:
  1. ART: Look through the newspaper for advertising that catches your attention. Find at least four examples of ads you like. What are the reasons the ads appeal to you? Create a list of what made the ad stand out (for instance, was it the use of a border, the amount of white space, the colors or other? Now look through the newspaper and find at least ten items (words, phrases, photos or graphics can be used) for which you are thankful this season. Create a Thanksgiving collage (or ad), that employs some of the techniques you found appealing in your chosen advertisements
  2. CAREER EDUCATION: Many employers hire seasonal help beginning this time of year to handle the holiday rush. Look through today's Classified “help wanted” ads and see how many opportunities you can find for seasonal jobs. Which of the jobs do you think you'd enjoy most? Least?
  3. ENGLISH/ LANGUAGE ARTS: Thanksgiving is a holiday seeped in tradition. For instance, every November, a Presidential pardon is issued to save a turkey from becoming Thanksgiving dinner; the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade is always televised that morning live from New York.
    • Find examples of other Thanksgiving traditions mentioned in today's newspaper. Make an argument for or against maintaining the tradition. What you create should be supported with facts and statistics. Use archives available through your newspaper, other credible online sources and/or your library.
  4. GEOGRAPHY: The college football season is winding down. Look at today's sports section and find information about at least three college football teams that will be playing games during the Thanksgiving weekend. Assume you'll be traveling by car:
    • If you wanted to visit all three cities where the games will be played, what route would you take and in what order would you travel to the three cities?
    • Use a United States map to calculate how many miles you'd travel.
    • What geographical features would you cross on your drive (i.e. rivers, mountain ranges, deserts, etc.)?
    • What is the latitude and longitude of each city on your list?
    • What states do you visit or cross in your travels? What regions?
    • Review the weather map in today's newspaper. What is the probable weather in each of your chosen cities at this time of year?
  5. MATHEMATICS: You've been assigned to make the Thanksgiving feast at your house this year, using only $65. Use the grocery ads and any published recipes to decide what you'll make. Since this is your Thanksgiving feast, be creative about what you cook. Decide on a main course, at least two side dishes and a dessert. Use the grocery ads to determine the following:
    • The total cost to purchase the ingredients needed, including the appropriate sales tax for your community (Remember your $65 budget! Is it enough?)
    • The percentage of your funds that will be spent on each item in your meal—the main course, both side dishes and the desert.
  6. MUSIC: Christmas is known for a variety of music. Your assignment is to create a song that will establish Thanksgiving as a musical holiday! Work with at least two classmates on this project. Clip out at least ten headlines and divide them into their parts of speech (noun, verb, adjective, adverb, etc.). Your goal is to create a Thanksgiving song that incorporates only the words you've cut out (you do NOT have to use all the words you've clipped, but you cannot use any words you haven't!). Use any familiar tune to set your words to music, and share with the class.
  7. NEWSPAPER KNOWLEDGE: Write the word T-H-A-N-K-S-G-I-V-I-N-G down the left-hand portion of a plain piece of paper. Look through the newspaper to find examples of stories, advertising and/or photos that begin with each letter. Write a phrase to describe the word's significance to today's news and identify where in the newspaper you found it. (EXAMPLE: T-echnology: this refers to a story in today’s newspaper about technological developments in music, computers, games and more).
  8. SCIENCE & HEALTH: Many fitness clubs and weight-loss programs encourage people not to overindulge during the holidays. But, because it always happens, those same organizations count on increasing their membership as soon as Christmas is over! Develop a strategy to help your family avoid gaining weight this holiday season. Use grocery ads to design a healthier menu for your family's holiday meals. Also look in today's newspaper for physical activities your family can enjoy together during your vacation.
  9. SOCIAL STUDIES: Different people celebrate Thanksgiving in different ways. Look through today's newspaper to find ways that area groups and families are celebrating the holiday throughout our region and throughout America. Other countries also celebrate holidays similar to our Thanksgiving (obviously not started for the same reason). Find examples of such countries. Research in the news, the Internet and in your library to find out the major differences in how the holidays are celebrated outside of the United States.
  10. COMMUNITY SERVICE: Some people in our communities don't have as much to be thankful for as others. Look through your newspaper for organizations that are requesting holiday food donations. Hold a canned food drive at your school and donate the food to the charity your classroom chooses. Or, look in your newspaper for words and or phrases that remind you of Thanksgiving. Use those words and phrases to design decorations (banners, placemats, etc.) for an area homeless shelter or soup kitchen. If possible, schedule time for members of your class to hand deliver the items. Be sure that organizations receive the items before the holiday.


  1. Of the items you are thankful for, which result from living in your community, state and nation? What are the benefits of living in the United States?
  2. Thanksgiving is a time to focus on American heritage. On what principles was the country established? Are the principles evident in actions and words reported in newspapers?
PHOTO CREDIT: Flying Pig Party Productions.