We Are Thankful!

Thanksgiving is a great time to talk about gratitude and what it means to be thankful.

Here are two of my favorite books to help spark that discussion:


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I also like this book that gives information about the history of Thanksgiving, and a great short description of the first Thanksgiving; and uses the format of an alphabet book!

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I thought it might be fun to use the alphabet book format to make a class book about things we are thankful for.  After brainstorming and making a list as a group, each child could illustrate the page for a different letter of the alphabet.

thankful pdf

I am having so much fun helping out in Owen’s Kindergarten classroom each week.  I am a little rusty on all the copy machine tricks, but I love getting a little peek back into a classroom.  Owen’s great teacher, Ms. Rosing, gave me permission to share a fun turkey book they will be reading.

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Isn’t this a fun idea?  She asked me to tie a feather onto a 26 inch length of yarn and tape it to the back upper corner of the book.   The children can use the feather as a reading pointer, and of course to tickle their turkey!  I know they will love it.

I was thinking about all the different reasons teachers might provide this activity for their class.  They might be focusing on pointing to each word as they read or helping children develop confidence reading, since most of the text is repetitive.  They might be assessing which children try to decode the last word of each sentence that changes from page to page.

I thought it might be helpful to add a picture cue so every child could be successful reading this book independently.  Of course you can cover the pictures before you copy it if you prefer.

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Here is another idea you might like:


Happy Thanksgiving!

As for me, I am thankful for my family … and for teachers who share!  (Thanks Laura!)

A Fresh Look at “ME”

I received a very nice email from a talented reader in Australia, named Lavinia.  She told me that she really liked my book Special Me, but she asked if I minded if she redid it with updated text and graphics.  I am always happy to share, and she sent back her revised copy for me to share with you! If you would like to see my original book please click on Me Book Under the Categories on the right side of your screen. cover 5 1 name 2 colors 3 birthday 4 hand 5 foot 6 tall 7 family 8 TV 9 grow up  Lavinia also created different covers for you to choose from: cover 4 cover 3 cover 2 

Here is a link to open a pdf version that is easy to print:

I am Special

Lavinia sells things on Teachers Pay Teachers but she agreed to offer her adaptation of my book for free. Here are a few pages that she used to explain the book, including thumbnails of what the children did to complete my original book. Lavinia 1 Lavinia 2 Here is contact information if you are interested in what else Lavinia is up to!  I really appreciate the great job she did giving this book a fresh new look!  Hope you do too! Lavinia email

Thanksgiving Party Activities

Yesterday I shared some games that I liked playing with the whole class at parties or just when we had some time for a little fun.  Today I am writing about a few activities that you might be interested in as a party center for a small group at a time.  Lots of these activities can be changed a bit to fit different holidays or themes.  Of course you might just choose to use some of these activities as a regular project instead of a party game.

1.  10 Little Indians

Copy a simple canoe pattern onto brown or tan paper, or have children use a tracer.  Use a hole punch to make holes around the outside and give the children a long piece of yarn for lacing.  I usually wrap the end of the yarn with tape to make it stiffer and easier to use.

Then either have the children cut and color 10 Native Americans – or draw them by themselves.

10 Little Indian clipart

10 Little Indians poem

2.  Thankful Chest

Fold a 9 x 12 piece of construction paper and staple all but one long side to make a pocket.  Copy a treasure chest on construction paper and have the children cut it out, then glue it to the front of the pocket.  Give each child small pieces of paper to draw/write things they are thankful for.  Put these inside the chest.

I gave several kinds of treasure chest clip art pictures because I don’t have a copy of the one I used!

Thankful treasure

3.  A similar idea would be for the children to make small books of things they are thankful for, you could use a treasure chest on the cover if you’d like.  These are like the concept books I talked about under the writing category.

Thankful books

You can copy these back to back, then cut them in half to make an 8 1/2 x 5 1/2 inch booklet.

4.  Have children create a free cut turkey – give them real feathers, construction paper, vinyl, buttons, etc.

5.  Snack

Vegetables and dip – remind the children the Pilgrims learned to plant and grow veggies.

Froot Loop necklaces – tape one end of a piece of yarn to the table, ask the children to create a pattern with their Froot Loops.  When they are done you can tie the necklace around their neck.

Turkey Cookies

I found lots of kinds of decorated turkey cookies online.

  These with the striped shortbread are closest to the ones I used to make with my class.



Cornbread and butter – Jiffy Mix is really pretty good!  We shook whipping cream in a baby food jar to make butter.  It takes quite a lot of shaking!

Apple turkeys –

We stuck one toothpick into the apple and put a gumdrop on it for a head.  Then we put 4 more toothpicks for feathers, kids made a Froot Loop pattern on each toothpick feather.

6.  Blotto

Cut out a simple shape (maybe a teepee?)  Fold it in half, then open it and put paint on one side.  Fold it over and press to make a symmetrical design.

7.  Use pictographs to decorate a bearskin shape or teepee.


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8.  Make a Thanksgiving placemat the children can take home to use.  We used paper copies of pattern blocks to make a pattern around the edge of a 12 x 18 (or 9 x 12) construction paper.  Then we made a handprint turkey in the center.


9.  Melted Crayons

Give each child a picture of a turkey or cornucopia.  Allow them to color it with peeled crayons on a warming tray to give a painted effect.  Lots of fun!  It dries right away too!

turkey pict

10.  Drop the clothespin

Use a coffee can – or similar size container.  Tape a picture of a turkey or Mayflower on the front.  Children will kneel on a chair and try to drop clothespins into the can.  Similar idea – Put the picture on a basket, children toss beanbags.

11.  Pin the Hat on the Pilgrim (or whatever).  Instead of a blindfold I taped large black construction paper circles over the lenses of children’s sunglasses.  A little less lice-friendly!

12.  Child Made Games

Have each child create his/her own board game.  Give them a blank gameboard, stickers or clipart, markers, etc.  Encourage them to “program” their game with numerals, letters, sight words or shapes.  Or you could already program the gameboards and the kids just add decorations.  And then play of course!

We made a spinner with a brad fastener and paper clip.  You could also use dice – or give them numeral cards from 1- 5.  They turn over the pile of numeral cards and flip one at a time to see how many spaces to move.

Here are some blank gameboards – sorry one is decorated with a dinosaur – just cut it off and recopy it!  You can use these for any theme!



game boards


I hope you might find something fun that you can use!  Happy Turkey Day!

Party Day Games

I really love getting comments and questions from people who have read my blog – it is so much fun for me!  Rachel wrote that she is looking for some new games and activities for party days, and I am happy to share a few ideas.  Of course every community and every school is different, the amount of parent involvement and support, whether you can ask for donations of money or supplies, the history of what has been done in the past all make a big difference in what you do for holidays and parties.

One of my strong convictions is that parent education is an important requirement of a Kindergarten teacher.  I think the best way to show parents how to work with and play with their children is to provide activities for them to do together at school.  Every year I had 2-3 parent/child activity days – usually one was during an evening.  Sometimes the theme for this special day was Halloween or Valentine’s Day.  These took the place of a traditional party.  Sometimes I used a theme like Transportation or Dinosaurs for the parent/child days, and did more traditional parties for holidays.  Check out the my posts on parent/child days if you are interested.

For Thanksgiving and Christmas (Winter Holidays) my children usually performed for the parents, followed by refreshments.  I think that standing up in front of an audience helps children build confidence, and when they see the adults laughing and enjoying their performance it builds self esteem too.  These were not elaborate performances, but each child had a chance to stand up with a small group while the entire class sang or chanted, etc. Check out my Nov. and Dec. posts for details.   I invited all families to attend these performances, the amount of attendance varied from year to year.  Often parents would stop in for our little show and then need to get back to work.  We usually played some whole group games after refreshments.

When we had traditional parties I usually asked a few parents to come in to help supervise activities.  Usually I asked each volunteer to supervise a small group of children as they went from center to center.  Keeping the children in groups made it easier for them to play games at the centers.  When I stationed parents at the centers and allowed the children to move independently sometimes they didn’t have enough for a game, or too many wanted to come to the center at once.  One of the centers was usually creating their snack.  At the end of the centers we usually gathered for some whole group games.

So here are a few ideas of games my Kindergartners enjoyed, most of them can be changed slightly to fit any holiday or theme:

1.  This was usually the favorite game – I cut out a simple shape from felt – or used an object that went with the theme.  For Thanksgiving you might use a felt cutout of a piece of popcorn.

One child goes where (s)he cannot see the circle of children but can easily hear – not far away.

The class is seated crisscross in a circle.  I give the felt popcorn to one child and (s)he puts it down in his/her lap.  All children put their hands down into their lap to make it hard to figure out who has the popcorn.

Then the kids chant:

Turkey, turkey!  Come and see!

Who has the popcorn?  Is it me?

The child who was not able to see (the turkey) comes to stand in the center of the circle.  (S)he says the name of the person (s)he thinks has the popcorn.  We use HOT or COLD to tell the child how close the guess is to the person who has the popcorn.  The child has 3 guesses, if they don’t get the right person we tell them.  Whether or not they guess correctly, the child who was hiding the popcorn is the new turkey, (s)he goes where they cannot see, the child who was guessing gives the popcorn to another child and they all put their hands in their lap again and say the poem again.

Another Thanksgiving version could be

Pilgrim, Pilgrim!  Come and see!

Who has the wishbone?  Is it me?

For Valentine’s day we used Cupid and heart, for Christmas – Santa and present; for Halloween – Skeleton and bone.

2.  Here is another simple game they loved.  The traditional poem goes like this;

Down around the corner at the bakery shop, there were 10 little cookies with sugar on top.  Along came Timmy, all alone; and he took the green one home.

Obviously there were 10 cookies cut from different colored paper on the floor.  Instead of colored paper, you could label them with color words, sight words, numerals, shapes, etc.

For Thanksgiving you could say

Down around the corner at the bakery shop there were 10 turkey cookies with sugar on top….

Then you could cut turkey shaped paper cookies and label them with numerals, words, etc.

Here is another version for Thanksgiving:

Late in November; on Thanksgiving Day

There were 10 little turkeys, who tried to run away.

Along came ___________________, all alone

And (s)he took the _________________ one home.

3.  Have all the children stand up in a circle.  Give one child a hula hoop.  Have him/her hold hands with the next child and try to pass the hula hoop to that person without letting go of their hand.  Then that child holds onto the next child’s hand and passes it again.  They need one hand free, the other hand is being held by the next child.

4.  Musical candy

Traditional musical chairs is a more active game, but you could ask the children to sit in a circle.  You turn on a song and give the children a lunch sized paper bag containing individually wrapped small candies (I often used individually wrapped life savers).  When the music stops the person holding the bag gets to take out one candy.  I like this because no one is eliminated, everyone keeps playing.  Once in awhile I let a child have 2 turns to keep the interest of kids who already got their candy.  Sometimes after they get their candy they lose interest in the game.

5.  Fruit Basket

Each child needs a piece of fruit – either laminated pictures or plastic fruit.  It works best when you have 4-5 of each fruit, bananas, apples, oranges, grapes, etc.  They all sit in a circle and you call out the name of a fruit.  Kids with that fruit stand up and run to the spot that was just emptied by another child.  After trying this with all the fruits, try calling out 2 fruits at a time.  If you want everyone to move at once, call out Fruit Basket TURN OVER!

6.  Relay Game

Take 2 paper lunch bags (you could decorate them with a turkey or seasonal picture)

Write out simple instructions like Jump 3 times.

You can draw/write the instructions with picture cues – or have an adult close by to help each child read their strip.  Make 2 identical sets of instructions, cut them into strips and put one set into each bag.  Divide the class into 2 teams.  I would do this right at the circle, – half the circle one team, half the circle the other team.  The bags are in the center of the circle.  The first children for each team get up and take a slip from the bag.  Then they do that activity in front of their group.  When they go back and sit down, the next child gets up and pulls out a strip of paper with an activity.  The team that finishes first wins.

Here are some ideas for the instructions:

Relay instructions

7.  Roll a ball

Pick a category like candy bars, or cartoons.  Call out the name of one thing in that category (i.e. Snickers)  and roll the ball to a child.  That child has to call out a different item from the category (i.e. M & Ms), then roll the ball to another child who has to come up with another candy or whatever the category is.  You could use Thanksgiving Foods as the category.  When a child can’t think of an item you can either allow them to have a ‘conference’ with the child next to him/her – or you can change the category.

8.  Count Down

This is a math game from Everyday Math but my kids asked to play it often.  Everyone stands up around the circle and you choose a number. (I always chose something smaller than 20 to make the game go faster.)  The children count each saying the next number – the child who says the chosen number sits down, and no longer counts.  Example;  they start to count – each child saying the next number 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and the child saying 7 sits down.  The next child starts over with 1 again, continue until there is only one child left standing.  If you are working on counting through teen numbers you might want to choose a larger number.  After playing it once or twice try to get the kids to predict who will be left standing.

9.  Copy and Add

This is an old game, you say “I’m going to Thanksgiving dinner and I’m going to eat ________.  First child says the sentence and adds a food.  The next child (either go around the circle or call on a child by pulling his/her name) says the sentence, the food the first child names, and then adds another food.  Continue until the kids can’t remember, it’s fine to let them help each other.

Here is an adaptation:  Instead of just saying the food, have the child touch something or do a motion.  The kids have to repeat the motion as well as the words.

10.  Build a Tower

Have each child choose a wooden block (different shapes make it more fun)

Start with one child placing his/her block in the middle of the circle.  Go around the circle and the next child stacks his/her block on top.  When the tower falls, move those blocks away but continue with the next child starting a new tower


I hope the description of these games make sense to you, if not – please ask!

Tomorrow I will share some individual or small group activities that we did at parties.  Thanks for reading!

Who were the Pilgrims?

I am reposting a paragraph I wrote last year about Thanksgiving:

I know there is a lot of controversy about teaching about Native Americans and accuracy in the history of the first Thanksgiving.  But I also think that children enjoy the fun and traditions that have long been associated with this holiday.  I guess I don’t have a big moral issue over this, I just want to play.  If I had any families with Native American roots I invited them to share any traditions or cultural things they would like.  I talked about why people called Native Americans Indians.  I tied this back to my Columbus Day activities when I first talked about the original occupants of this land.   I genuinely hope I don’t offend anyone.

ANYWAY – I usually introduced Thanksgiving by telling my Kindergartners a story about the Pilgrims, using flannelboard pictures or laminated pictures with magnetic tape on the back.  I always found that my kids really listened and remembered a story better when I just told it to them, instead of reading the information.

I never wrote this story down before, but here is the basic story I told.  I put up the figures of the King, the Pilgrims, etc. as I mentioned them in the story.

Story of the Pilgrims

After telling this story I also read several children’s books about Thanksgiving, I thought giving this background information helped the children understand these books a little more easily.

Here are some pictures that you might use if you choose to tell the story.  Originally I found pictures from a coloring book that I traced on Pellon interfacing and colored with markers, those work great on a flannelboard.    These could be placed in a pocket chart or backed with magnetic tape.


Thanksgiving clipart

I had a very large Mayflower ship that I put on a wall of our classroom in early November, before I told the story.  This was also at a point in the year when I was encouraging the children to label things in the classroom using phonetic spelling.  As a class we wrote the word Mayflower – using traditional spelling.  I pointed out that Mayflower is a compound word – one word made up of two smaller words.  This is a wonderful time to introduce the concept of compound words:





From that point on children were always noticing and commenting on compound words for the rest of the year.  I also liked introducing it because I was really reinforcing leaving spaces between words – when we saw that a compound word did not have a space between the 2 smaller words it was another reason to draw their attention to the whole concept of spaces.

When I introduced the history of Thanksgiving we also began making our Thanksgiving book – check out that post under the category November and Thanksgiving.

Each child also made a very simple Pilgrim boy or girl using geometric shapes.  We covered the big Mayflower with these Pilgrims – very cute!  Ah, if only I had taken pictures!

I gave the children tracers for the faces, hats and bodies – I cut the rest of the rectangle pieces on the paper cutter so we wouldn’t waste as much paper – finished Pilgrims were 10-12 inches tall.  I encouraged the children to use scrap paper to add details like hands, shoes, belts, etc.

Later in our Thanksgiving study we made a cooperative class book about Thanksgiving – check that out in last year’s post too!

Happy NO – vember!

I always thought that the beginning of November was a perfect time to reinforce a few simple sight words.  After doing the calendar this month almost all children recognize the word ‘no!’  Check out my post from last November if you aren’t familiar with the poem/book – No green grass, no blue sky, etc.  We usually made that book on Nov. 1st.

I introduced this activity by giving each child a small piece of paper – about 3 x 4 inches, and asking half of the class to draw one thing they liked, and the other half to draw one thing they did not like.  Then I printed the sentence ‘Do you like’ and a question mark on sentence strips.  I also made some cards saying yes and no – which were the words I was trying to emphasize and reinforce.

yes and no

Then during whole group time I put one of the children’s pictures into the pocket chart, right after the words ‘Do you like’ and before the question mark.  Then we read the question as a group, I loved hearing the children make their voices go up at the end of a question!  I called on one child to come up and choose the word ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to answer the question.  Then I put another picture into the chart and called on a different child – this time asking him/her to read the question alone, and choose the answer.  I was sure to read the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ while showing the class those words because these were newer sight words.  After repeating this several times I demonstrated a booklet we would make, but I left out the materials for children to use at the reading center.

We made a simple little fold up sight word book.  I gave each child a page of clipart and we talked about which of these things we liked and which we did not like.

I put a dotted line ring around each picture to help children cut them carefully without cutting off any of the picture.  That was a skill I worked on all year, but inevitably many kids cut off half the picture if I didn’t give them a cutting guide.

Then I printed off this sheet and made a copy for each child.

Here is a printable link.

No and Yes

I folded this in quarters and made a small 4 page book.  If you wanted to give them more practice you could cut these apart and staple 6 or 8 together – or whatever you’d like.

Each child chose 4 pictures and glued one on each page.  I instructed them to choose 2 things they did like and 2 things they did not like.  After gluing on the pictures they answered the question by writing “yes” or “no” on the line at the bottom.



If you would like to differentiate for children who are more confident with phonetic spelling you could ask them to write the name of the picture they choose on each page.


The most important key to make this a meaningful activity is to listen to each child read his/her little book before sending it home.  Sometimes I called each child over to read it to me one at a time, other times I had the children bring them to a small group guided reading time and listened to each one read it, and listen to their friend read too.  I know it takes a lot of time to listen to each child individually but I think it makes a huge difference.  It also gives you information about the children.  You might notice if the child is able to point to each word, whether they remember the sight words in the question, if they do try to make it sound like a question, and if they remember how to write yes and no.  Of course you would get some of this information if they just turned them in for you to check, but I think it is important for children to understand that the reason we write something is so we can read it, and that we read to get a message from the page.

When the children created a book or booklet it usually had meaning for them.  I often had the words to projects in a pocket chart and we read and reread them as a group which helped them gain confidence reading.  Also I could made anecdotal notes about each child’s progress as they read to me.   There are so many ways to scaffold and guide children’s emergent reading.  Reader’s workshop, small group guided reading, and one on one reading are all important.  Just like any other skill – the more children read, the better readers they become.  They always love reading with a partner too!  Simple and quick to complete booklets like this give another opportunity to practice!

Thanksgiving Ideas!

Along with our Thanksgiving Feast, my kindergartners used to do a little program for parents who chose to attend.  We did a Reader’s Theater type play called “Hooray for Thanksgiving,” and sang a bunch of Thanksgiving songs.  The children made and wore simple headbands – some were Pilgrim men, some were Pilgrim women, some were Native American Indians, and some were turkeys.  It was fun and cute.   I had not saved the script I used for this choral reading but I found a class performing it on YouTube and wrote it out!

Hooray for Thanksgiving! 1 Hooray for Thanksgiving! 2 Hooray for Thanksgiving! 3


Here are the songs we sang:


For each song I made picture cards for a few children to hold that went along with the song – except 10 Little Indians, the whole group sang that and acted it out.  I put simple motions to the other songs – so while about 4 children stood up holding the picture cards, the rest of the class did simple motions.  Every child had a chance to stand up holding a picture, even though only a few children stood up for each song, everyone sang all the songs.  It was cute.  Then the children all sat at a long table I made by pushing all the tables together and covering them with white paper.  Parents donated food like corn muffins, popcorn, cranberry sauce, cheese & crackers, etc.  I encouraged them to bring food their child likes to eat.

After the feast I sent home a copy of the words so parents could encourage the children to sing the songs at home.

Some years I made simple Thanksgiving cards using the idea of Concept books – here is the template I used.

Thanksgiving card 1

Thanksgiving card 2

I copied these pages back to back and folded them in half.

I also had a few writing prompts that I used sometimes.  I think that children need a lot of experience writing under different circumstances.  In Writer’s Workshop the children usually chose their topic, other times they wrote in response to literature, informational texts, or answering a question.

what are you doing

I asked the children what their families were going to do for Thanksgiving.   Sometimes we made a graph comparing children who were celebrating the holiday at their house, and children who were having Thanksgiving dinner somewhere beside their own house.  This could be as simple as a Yes/No graph – Are you having Thanksgiving dinner at home?  Or you could list a variety of options – Grandma’s, Aunt/Uncle’s, home, restaurant, etc.

We also brainstormed what we would wish for if we got the big end of a wishbone, and drew and wrote about that.

I miss it all!  It doesn’t seem like Thanksgiving because I haven’t cut or fringed  a single turkey feather!

Thank you for the great pictures Elana!

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