Did you know that the New York Times has an archive of student crosswords listed by subjects on this page? From American History to Technology, you can find puzzles created by Frank Longo as well as the answers and suggested curriculum links. I found this link when I discovered this page that provides a printable crossword puzzle on how people say thank you around the world. A couple of other timely suggestions are, “Thanksgiving,” “Giving,” and “Holidays Around the World.” These seem to be targeted at the teenage age range, though some upper elementary and middle school students can probably work on them in groups, given the proper resources.
To justify the hours that I spend looking for “just right” activities for my gifted students, I try to share as much as I can on this blog. Yesterday I hunted for critical and creative thinking activities with a Thanksgiving theme, and found quite a few that you can print for free.
From Minds in Bloom (Rachel Lynette) on Teachers Pay Teachers:
From Growing Gifted Minds on Teachers Pay Teachers:
From various other authors on Teacher Pay Teachers:
- Thanksgiving Differentiated Math
- Thanksgiving Tangrams
- Thanksgiving Anagrams
- Thanksgiving Figurative Language Bookmarks
- Thanksgiving Idiom Match
- Thanksgiving Hink Pink
- Turkeys Incognito Creative Thinking and Writing
- Thanksgiving Sudoku
From other sources:
- Thanksgiving Logic Puzzle
- Thanksgiving Cryptogram
- Thanksgiving Word Sudoku
- Poetry Pairing from the New York Times
Some of my past Thanksgiving posts:
Due to a creative schedule we have this year, I have the occasional opportunity to meet with students in different grade levels who are not necessarily identified as Gifted and Talented. When I have a class in K-2 during one of these “enrichment times,” I only have 25 minutes to make an impact. Most of the students in the class have never been in my room before, so lately I have been employing a technique I like to call “Taboo Brainstorming” to elicit some creative thinking in a short period of time.
With Taboo Brainstorming, I give the students a topic and they brainstorm ideas as a class as I record them on the board. Then I deliver the bad news.
“Okay, good job, everyone! Now you can choose a response of your own – but it can’t be any of the ones we just brainstormed.”
I get groans, eyes wide open with disbelief, and a few, “But can’t I just…” which I shut down quickly.
“We don’t have much time, and I know you have even better ideas in those brains that we didn’t get a chance to put on the board. Use one of those!”
The results are always a vast improvement over the average responses I would usually see. For example, the 2nd graders I met with this week brainstormed things they are thankful for that are soft. Normally, I would get 5 or 6 papers with a pillow or a marshmallow on them, despite my pleas to, “think of something no one else will put on their paper.” This time, I got papers with such answers as: a foam pit, a cinnamon roll, and a car seat. None of these students are in my gifted class. The 1st graders, who had to think of something to be thankful for that started with an “s,” were equally as creative: sesame seed, security, and the movie, The Secret Life of Pets. (By the way, both of these topics were taken from this activity on “Minds in Bloom.)
Now you’ve probably already figured out the down side to this idea. It’s a “one-off,” unfortunately. Once you let them know that the ideas on the board are taboo for their independent work, then they are probably going to hold back the next time you try to brainstorm. No worries. There are a few other tricks to get some good ideas:
- Tell them you want them to brainstorm the “bad” ideas first
- Do a brainstorm relay
- Try reverse brainstorming
- Tell them they must choose one of the ideas that wasn’t theirs, and then think of 3 new things it reminds them of on the back of their paper and choose one of those.
Or, don’t use any of these ideas, and think of one of your own 😉
Last year, Colossal did a story on artist Hannah Rothstein’s “Thanksgiving Special” series. Rothstein imagined the Thanksgiving plates of 10 famous artists. It would be fun to show students one or two examples, and then have them choose an artist to represent in their own Thanksgiving plate art. This activity would not only amp up creativity, but also be a lesson in art history and in seeing things from another perspective. You could also use it to teach about parody.
I’ve gathered a few more ideas this year to add to my Cornucopia of Creative and Critical Thinking Activities for Thanksgiving, which I published a couple of years ago.
- First, I want to go back to a suggestion in my Cornucopia post, which was, “What are you Thankful For? Ask it Better.” I’ve been using different prompts from this article with each grade level. For example, my 5th graders brainstormed what they are thankful for that they cannot see. My 2nd graders brainstormed what teachers might be thankful for, as you can see below. I really like this twist on giving thanks.
- I found 10 Thanksgiving Writing Prompts Inspired by Children’s Literature on the “We are Teachers” blog the other day. My favorite is, “What do you wish you could ‘hold still’ about the holidays?”
- “We are Teachers” also has a post called, 10 Fresh Thanksgiving Crafts with History, Math, and Writing Connections. I was pretty thrilled to see that most of them were actually ideas I hadn’t seen before. If you want a fast, fun way to practice cursive writing, take a look at the “Thankful for the People in my Life” activity.
- Make a Turkey is a nearly 10-minute tutorial from Hopscotch, one of my favorite programming apps, that might get your students prepared for December’s Hour of Code extravaganza.
What are teachers thankful for? You might not see it in the picture above, but one of the students wrote, “Other teachers.” And that is very true. Thank goodness for all of the awesome educators who are kind enough to share their resources on the web for those of us who aren’t quite as creative!