Holiday Homework for Thanksgiving Break

This Thanksgiving, don't let your elementary students feed only their bellies over the holiday. Nourish their minds, too! These ideas for holiday homework easily integrate classroom activities with family and real-world connections. Our Thanksgiving traditions are packed with what our diets need for healthy bodies and minds. Tap into your students' traditions to cover multiple standards for grades K-6, especially in the areas of English and social studies. Plus, these assignments will make great dinner table conversation!

Family Member Interview

Thanksgiving traditionally brings family together. Many of us will spend time with close and distant relatives. This activity encourages youngsters to get to know their relatives in a different way by learning about their holiday memories and favorite Thanksgiving traditions. The main objectives are for students to use interviewing skills they have learned in class to create narrative and descriptive writing samples.

Before school is dismissed for your Thanksgiving vacation, practice the skills students need to conduct an interview. You may want to use audio recording equipment if your students will have access to similar devices. Otherwise, demonstrate how to take notes on key details. Model an appropriate interview using a student volunteer. Ask a few questions to the student about their holiday expectations from a prepared set of questions. You can display these questions to your students prior to the interview. In addition to these questions, ask those that come to mind spontaneously while conducting the interview. Students in the audience can record those that deviate from the prepared list. After the interview, discuss what made you ask the extra questions. Students will need to ask their family members custom questions to understand the details, to clarify confusion, or to know more about interesting topics that come to light during the interview. Following your modeling activity, pair up your students and have them practice interviewing each other and recording their partner's responses.

For students' homework over Thanksgiving break, assign them to interview a relative about either what happened during the best Thanksgiving or what their favorite tradition is during the holiday celebration. The notes or audio recording should be in hand when school resumes. As an additional part of the interview assignment, require students to write a summary explaining why they chose to interview this relative.

Once students a return from Thanksgiving break, use the homework assignment to begin a writing lesson. Students can report their findings to the class in narrative or descriptive essays. As students engage in the writing process, they will have the chance to proof and make suggestions for revisions of each other's work. During this part of the process, students will have a chance to learn about the diverse lives of their classmates. Once final drafts have been published, select volunteers to share their final product. Another possible way to end this activity is to have students share their writing assignment with the relative that had been interviewed.

Mapping Travels

Thanksgiving is one of the most popular times for U.S. travel. In this lesson, students will draw a map to places where they traveled during Thanksgiving break. Before assigning the homework, practice reading and drawing maps in class. Students will need to know the key features of a map. You will want them to proficiently understand the importance of a map's legend, which will indicate what the map's graphics mean. Here, students will see how the map can be used to locate roads, buildings, parks, and even lakes and streams. Understanding a map's scale and distance between points is important for kids to know, too. Likewise, they must have a sense of direction, so be sure to include mini-lessons on telling the difference among north, south, east and west.

Cartography, the art of map-making, should be practiced in class. Students can use what they know about maps to draw their own map, showing how to get to key locations within the school building or on the school grounds. Students can also practice by drawing simple maps of the town that can be used to locate the school, favorite stores or restaurants, and other key points of interest in your town. Students may also add the location of their homes to the maps. Don't forget to show your students where your town is located within the state and country, as well as its position on the globe.

For homework, it will be your students' job to illustrate a map showing the key places they visited during the Thanksgiving holiday. For those students staying at home, they can add the places visited in town or even the places they frequently visited on their own property or inside their homes. Travelers may make similar maps of the places they visited, and, of course, they can show the location of a relative's city to their own.

When students are back in school after the vacation, they will be excited to see one another and talk about their holiday memories. The map assignment can be a structured way to do this. During a short presentation to the class, each student can show the class the map that was made and use it to show where the most memorable events took place over the holiday.