Thanksgiving Lesson Plan: Public Speaking & Organization Skills

Submitted by: Allisyn Levy

Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8, 9-12, K-3

In this lesson plan, which is adaptable for grades K-12, students use BrainPOP Jr. and/or BrainPOP resources to learn about the origins of the American Thanksgiving holiday. Students will share and appreciate the similarities and differences of different holiday traditions. They will also practice public speaking and organization skills by designing their own Thanksgiving holiday menu, guest list, and toast.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Learn about the origins of Thanksgiving
  2. Share and appreciate the similarities and differences of different holiday traditions
  3. Practice public speaking and organization skills by designing their own Thanksgiving holiday menu, guest list, and toast


  • Creative supplies for making menus (construction paper, markers, etc.)
  • Clipart from BrainPOP Educators for students to use on their menus
  • Collection of menus from a variety of restaurants to share as examples (try to include plain, boring menus and more colorful, creative menus with vivid descriptions of food)
  • Printed copies of several activity pages for either the BrainPOP or BrainPOP Jr. movie (these can be used for note-taking and/or homework)
  • Copies of assignment and class-created rubric
  • Computer and projector or interactive whiteboard to watch BrainPOP movie
  • Paper and pens
  • Apple cider (or any drink you'd like to use to drink to for student toasts!)
  • Paper cups


Thanksgiving; pilgrims; Mayflower; Squanto; Wigwams; Plymouth


Determine whether you will use the BrainPOP or BrainPOP Jr. movie with students. Read a few Thanksgiving books with your students for background knowledge. Tell students you are going to use BrainPOP to learn about the origins of Thanksgiving, and then embark on a creative assignment organized around a menu!

Lesson Procedure:

  1. On the day of our celebration, I bring a special drink and paper cups so everyone can actually raise a cup during their toast. I've also invited students to bring in one of their favorite holiday dishes, if they wish.
  2. After explaining each assignment, create a class rubric based on the expectations you've set for each part of the project.
  3. Challenge students to see what they already know by taking the quiz on Thanksgiving as a class.
  4. Watch the movie on Thanksgiving. Pause to discuss and allow for note-taking. You can challenge students to take the quiz again after viewing the movie, and use the additional interactive features throughout the study/project.
  5. Explain that over the next week (or 2), your students will be working on a Thanksgiving project. Even if they don't celebrate Thanksgiving, they can participate and highlight the traditions, foods, and customs from a holiday that they do celebrate. The project will be broken into 3 parts.

    Appetizers: Share a Tradition & Write a Toast! Ask whether your students know what a "toast" is, in this context. Brainstorm examples of reasons to toast, and what might be included in a toast. For this part of the assignment, students need to write their own, brief (I kept mine to 1-2 minutes each!) toast to share with the class during our Thanksgiving celebration. I ask my students to also share a favorite holiday tradition before they're toast, so we can learn about different traditions and customs. Students should write out their toast, practice with their families, and deliver it with great fluency and expression (and confidence). We model slurred, speedy, fluffy style examples of what a not-so-good toast might sound like ("IamthankfulformyNintendo") and together, role play high quality toasts that show thoughtfulness and great public speaking skills.

    Main Dish: Create a Menu! Include "juicy" details and show, not tell each dish you're serving so that your descriptions are mouth watering! Come up with a format with your class and make your expectations clear. I always used bad examples and had kids analyze why those didn't sound good, and then we'd create an above and beyond example together, to set high expectations. Share collected menus for inspiration (good and bad!) and collection of materials available for students' use.

    Dessert: Create a Guest List (*extra credit!) To work in a bit of practical, real life skills, students need to create a realistic guest list. How many people could they accommodate? Who is it appropriate to invite? I tell students they can earn extra credit by writing or typing out each guests' address.
  6. Ask students to brainstorm what comes to mind when they think of Thanksgiving. I do this in small groups, and then share out ideas.
  7. Hand out the Vocabulary Activity or Word Wall pages you've printed and copied. Invite students to pencil in definitions that they feel they already know. You can invite kids to come up and type their definitions directly into the Vocabulary page. They'll have a chance to add and revise later.

Extension Activity:

There are five fantastic extra tidbits of Thanksgiving-related, high interest reading materials in the FYI. Pick out the ones that will work best with your students. My favorites are the Stats & Numbers and Myths. I would print these out and send home for students to share with their families. I also always enjoy using the comic as a shared reading with my students.