My Thanksgiving Book

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 have any families with Native American roots I invite them to share any traditions or cultural things they would like.  I spent quite a lot of time talking 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 am sharing the book that I loved making with my classes.  I genuinely hope I don’t offend anyone.

I gave the children this book completely bound together, but we did not do this house on the front until the rest of the book was completed.  The kids just cut the roof and glued it onto a folded yellow rectangle.  They used scraps to decorate the outside, the inside opens and they drew and labeled members of their family.

Whenever we used the term ‘Indians” I reminded the children that we were talking about the original occupants of our country.  Some teachers at my school changed this text to read Native Americans lived here long ago.  I didn’t like the flow of that…

One of my favorite things when I worked on this page and talked about the Mayflower with my students was introducing the idea of compound words – it is perfect with Mayflower and Thanksgiving.  The entire rest of the year the children would be picking up compound words and definitely understood the concept.

I brought in Indian corn and used bingo markers to decorate their corn.  Another cutting technique I taught at Halloween was cutting a spiral to add to their pumpkins – sometimes we added a cut spiral here instead of just drawing the detail.

The pot on this page opened up and the children glued in clipart of different foods.  I spent some time introducing the basics of food groups – we would spend more time on it later with out Healthy Me unit.

We spent a lot of time in November talking about things we are thankful for.  At the writing center I had little books titled Thank you for – and inside the children would  draw and phonetically write ‘my family’ or ‘my car’ or ‘my food.’  I also worked on the sight word MY.

In this book we watercolor painted the turkeys.  Some years we cut and pasted them, or just drew with markers or crayons.  It is fun to use different media.

I realize this page is too small for you to read, but I loved including it in this book.  One day I sat with each child and asked them how to cook a turkey.  We talked about how we were just pretending and it was fine if they didn’t really know how – but these recipes were always so fun.  I found that if I brought my laptop and typed as they dictated it goes much faster.  I prompted the children by asking where they got the turkey, how much it cost if they bought it – how they caught it, how they brought it home, if they cooked it on the stove or in the oven, what they stuffed into it, what else they put in the pan, what other food they ate with it, who came for dinner, how they knew when it was done – what it looked like when it was done, who did the dishes, what they do after dinner, etc.  Of course I didn’t ask all those questions of every child – some just rattled off their ideas – others needed prompting to make it longer or more fun.

Along with these dictated recipes the children free cut turkeys with feathers, wattles, feet, etc.  Then I copied gray “pots”.  I printed off each child’s recipe and glued it onto a pot, and then glued their turkey behind the pot.  The children knew their turkey had to be larger than their hand or it would be covered by the pot.  It became a tradition for me to post these in the school hallway and everyone told me how fun it was to read them.  Sometimes I sent the recipes to the local paper and they published them.  One time I took them to the local grocery store and they posted them above the turkeys for sale.

It usually took me 2 pages to type the entire class recipes, and I liked including them in this book – I just glued one sheet on each side of the construction paper page.

It usually took me about 2 weeks to complete this book because we had so many other things we were working on, so by the time we finished it we had read and reread it so many times the children were very confident reading it.  I sent home a note asking parents to take this book to their family Thanksgiving celebration and give their child a chance to read it to the other guests.  Then the family could sign the last page making a nice memory keepsake.

I also liked doing a Thankgiving Feast at school.  We cooked in my classroom every week, but for the feast the parents sent in small portions of food like cornbread, popcorn, cranberry sauce, etc.  The children wore pilgrim, Indian and turkey hats.  I used a Reader’s Theater play called Hooray for Thanksgiving that I basically read and each group of kindergartners (Pilgrim men, Pilgrim women, Indian Men, Indian Women, Turkeys and Pilgrim Ministers) chimed in with a response whenever the story mentioned their name.  It was very cute.  I found that this book provided another great presentation.  The kids had memorized the words to this book after all the reading.  I had them in a formation for the little program.

Indian Men were standing in back next to Pilgrim Women

Indian Women on knees in front of them, next to Pilgrim Men

Pilgrim ministers sitting next to Turkeys in the very front.

So I asked the children to chant off the words from the book.

Indian men said – “Indians lived here long ago.”

Pilgrim women – “The pilgrims came, their ship was slow”

Indian women – “They planted corn and pumpkins too.”

Pilgrim men – “They had a feast to say thank you!”

Pilgrim ministers – “I’m thankful for the things I’ve got.”

Turkeys – “But on Thanksgiving, the turkey is not!”

It was very fun.  We also sang an assortment of thanksgiving songs that had motions, then we all sat at the tables arranged in a long row to have the feast!  I miss it already!


One thing I have not mentioned in my notes about making books with children is the importance of using a large, easy to read font.  I also often put 2 spaces between words.  In the beginning of working with emergent readers one of the big goals is for them to see the spaces and realize that all these symbols are individual words.  Of course we work on that in lots of ways – but double spacing between words can be a lot of help.  I know sometimes I wasn’t able to do that because I had too much text or just forgot – but it is really a good idea.

This book was a remake of a poem that has been around for many years – sorry I don’t know the original author. I always thought it was a good project as a wind down after Halloween, and a good transition before Thanksgiving activities.

I usually read this book several times with the children – usually it was in the pocket chart and children took turns pointing at the words, but unlike some books – I usually did this entire book in one morning or afternoon.   I put the materials to complete a page at one table, so the children would have a pre-bound book and travel from table to table to complete the inside.  Then they would read it to me before they put it away to take home.  Of course you might choose to keep these books for Reader’s Workshop as books they can read independently – but I think it is important to send a lot of books home that they feel good reading too.

The sight word I really emphasized with this was ‘no’.   I brought all of the materials with me to circle time and actually completed the entire book in front of the children.  Then I took the staples out of that book and put my finished page on each table where the materials for that page were kept.  That was one more way to help the children remember what to do on the page.  I think this might have been the first time I introduced the scissors technique of fringing when they cut this grass.

Here they just free cut a cloud – you could easily add cotton or fiberfill too!

The trick was trying to get them stamp the feet as if they were walking across the page – often didn’t happen that way!

If you can’t tell this is supposed to be a bird nest on a branch with 2 yellow dot birds inside.  Feel free to adapt!

Sometimes I provided tissue paper to cut wings – other times we just drew the wings.

This book was only 9 x 6 inches.  When I made it full sized I used to have the children trace their hand and arm for the tree trunk.  Also sometimes we used colored tissue paper or the melting tray for the falling leaves.

Please click on this link to open a blank pdf copy of this book.   Since this is an 8 1/2 x 5 1/2 inch book I put 2 pages on each sheet.  That way you can print and collate on your copy machine, then cut them in half and staple them to make 2 books at a time.

November Book

Happy Fall!

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