Thanksgiving Tips and Activities for English Language Learners

thanksgiving tips

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to integrate American culture into lessons. Some ELL learners will have celebrated Thanksgiving their entire life.  These students will be able to share their family’s traditions around the holiday. Other students will have never experienced the holiday before and will benefit from a basic overview of what the holiday is. Here are some ideas for integrating the holidays traditions into your lessons.

Speak and Write about Thanksgiving Traditions 

Students can share family traditions around Thanksgiving day. Some students may need assistance identifying what these traditions are. Food is one place to start that is concrete even for young students.  For ELL learners give opportunities for them to draw and/or orally share before moving on to writing.

I have writing task cards to help students write about Thanksgiving. I include pictures to help with vocabulary and to generate ideas. Topics include what students are thankful for and describing food that they eat.

Thanksgiving themed illustrated vocabulary sheets

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Use Read Alouds to Introduce the Holiday
There are many picture books that can be used to introduce students to the history and cultural practices surrounding Thanksgiving. Check out my list of books to use with your ESOL students.


Integrate Thanksgiving Vocabulary into Content Lessons 

I have created coloring sheets that cover parts of speech using Thanksgiving themed vocabulary and Thanksgiving themed coloring sheets.


In math students can practice graphing skills with Thanksgiving themed pictures.


**Check out my Pinterest board for additional Thanksgiving ideas.

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Integrating Speaking and Writing

My ESOL students need a large amount of practice with speaking and writing. Writing in particular is often a difficult task for them.  Some of them have a hard time generating ideas, others get bogged down with the mechanics of writing (especially spelling).  We have also been working this year on adding details to their writing.

Using speaking as a springboard for writing is an effective strategy for all students, but particularly ESOL students as it helps to build their oral language skills. I created some
Everyday Event Picture Strips for my students to discuss.  I modeled with one set of pictures, and then partnered students up to discuss the remaining pictures. I gave them sentence frames to help guide the discussion.

Afterwards I gave students a graphic organizer for the same pictures they had been discussing.  Depending on the needs of each group I sometimes gave students a specific set of pictures to write about and for other groups I let the students choose which set of pictures they wanted to write about.

Some students received a graphic organizer with a word bank and others did not require this scaffold.
Next they wrote a story adding in additional details.  Having previously spoken about the pictures helped students expand their writing.

Mood and Tone

My 5th graders are studying author’s tone, and mood.  These are complex concepts for my ESOL students to understand.  To start off I adapted a great Author’s Tone and Mood lesson. Before having student write, I they took turns talking about their stories this really helped my lower ones generate ideas, and gave all of them practice using the vocabulary. I created a visual list of words that they could use to describe the tone.

Then we used task cards to practice identifying tone in a passage.  They also practiced identifying the mood that a setting can create using task cards.

Describing Characters & a Freebie

I’ve been working with my first grades on using adjectives to describe characters.  They did a great job of using evidence from the books to describe their answers.  Even my lower language students were able to participate.

We read two books: Llama Lama mad at mama & Yoko.

 

 

 

 

 

First I showed students pictures of character emotions.  They shared examples of when they felt various emotions.  Then as I read the books they would identify how the character was feeling and tell why.

emotions
Get these as a part of my Illustrated Vocabulary Words

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a follow up students will fill out a graphic organizer after reading one of their guided reading books where they identify how the characters are feeling and show why.

Free: Describing Characters Graphic Organizers

What am I Poems

My second graders are starting a unit on poetry.  As an introduction we read what am I poems.  Each poem described an animal or food. They students enjoyed trying to guess what food/animal it was describing.

For my low language ELL students, I also have vocabulary sheets that they could refer to while guessing.

Then they used a template to write their own what am I poems. There were great for my struggling writers. They did not get overwhelmed with a large amount of writing, and were very excited to have their peers guess what their poem was describing.

These task cards and writing templates are available on my TPT store.

What am I poetry Bundle

What am I Poems

 

Word Walls & Vocabulary Folder

ESOL students benefit from easy access to words.  A movable or portable word wall is one way to increase students exposure to sight words.

In my classroom I have a magnetic word wall.  Sometimes, when students ask for help finding words I will take down two or three words and have them identify the word they are looking for.  Then they have the word at eye level to copy. I have a magnetic chalkboard.  I used sports tape to separate the letters.

When I travel to other classrooms, or work with students that need fewer words to choose from I use a portable word wall. This is made from three file folders glued together. Each word it attached with velcro.

To help students with writing, I have vocabulary folders. They are made with sheet protectors in folders with brads.  These pages are available in my TPT store.

Writing Poetry

April is national poetry month.  Poems are fun for students to read any time during the year.  They are typically short which is less intimidating for struggling readers or ESOL students.

Writing poems is also fun for students.  Many of the traditional writing conventions are not as strictly enforced in poems.  Students can use fewer words to convey powerful messages.  Poems are a fun way to play around with language.

When teaching poetry there are a number of terms that students are expected to learn. I have developed poetry writing task cards to help introduce students to rhyming, alliteration, imagery, and onomatopoeia.

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