Thanksgiving math activities and reading comprehension can be so much fun with Thanksgiving Project Based Learning! What upper elementary student doesn’t love turkeys, pies, and Thanksgiving Day parades? Turn that excitement into learning with a creative, engaging, hands-on Plan a Thanksgiving Day Parade Project!
This project is not only perfect for classrooms already familiar with project based learning (PBL), but it’s also ideal for teachers who are looking for ways to really engage students with a high-interest activity.
Kick off your Thanksgiving Project Based Learning Unit by showing several different videos or ads which highlight past Thanksgiving Day parades, floats, and giant balloons. These can be found with a quick YouTube search (be sure to preview them ahead of time). In fact, the famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has its own website, where students can explore the route, balloons, and parade history!
Then, in groups, brainstorm and make lists possible themes of floats they could create for their own Thanksgiving Day parade. Make a master list with the class and keep that list displayed throughout the entirety of the unit.
Once the unit is properly introduced, your students will be super excited and motivated to plan the best Thanksgiving Day parade ever!
From this point, you can choose to have students work in small groups to complete the project or you can have students work independently. Keep in mind, however, that students working in groups can develop important communication skills as a result of working together.
Ideally, a Project Based Learning unit will include certain key components, such as academic content, inquiry, a driving question, student choice, and a public audience. Here is the unit guide I use with my Plan a Thanksgiving Parade Project Based Learning Unit. By planning out the project ahead of time, you can easily meet those PBL expectations.
While this project is quite fun, it also should be academically aligned and should allow for problem-solving opportunities. My project has 3 goals:
- Design, map, and find the distance of a city parade route.
- Plan and create a model of a Thanksgiving parade float.
- Use the 3 modes of writing (persuasive, informational, and narrative) on a newspaper page covering the parade.
Here are some more details and photos of how students work through each of the 3 goals:
Design and Map the Parade Route:
You can either provide graph paper or blank paper for students to plan their parade route. Keep in mind that it is much easier for students to find distances in block units when they use graph paper.
Also, by giving them an example parade route and a few symbols to use on their maps, it will be easier for them to get started. I’m not great at making big charts, so I prefer to make copies of mine for students. If chart-making is your gig, go for it!
Thanksgiving Parade Float Model
Students generally LOVE this part of the project. It’s a chance for them to really let their creative skills shine! Provide students with a list of everything their parade float must include beforehand, and let their creativity take over.
I also think that when students can refer to a scoring rubric while make their projects, it helps them to do an even better job and meet the criteria for an outstanding project. (All scoring rubrics for my Plan a Thanksgiving Parade Unit are included for you.)
3 Modes of Writing
This is a great chance to help students understand that we write for different purposes. Through the three modes of writing, they can persuade people to watch the parade, inform them about the parade route, events, or floats, and describe (narrate) an event that happened at the parade.
Have students plan and write a paragraph about the parade and/or float for each of the three modes. I like allowing students to publish their writing in more creative ways, so I used a newspaper page set-up for this activity. This way, they could add a couple of photo illustrations to the page. Lined paper would be just fine, though!
Other Thanksgiving Project Based Learning Ideas:
Of course, I always like to throw in a few other bonus activities that I know students will enjoy. Some other ideas of things you can do during this unit are:
- Create a parade float shopping list
- Planning the parade float
- Choosing a parade float theme
- Drawing the float
- Planning the props
- Parade text messages
- Instagram time
- Parade playlist
- Parade day purchases (math word problems)
- Mapping the parade route
- Write/Read all about it newspaper page
- Create a parade float model
This unit can be such a fun learning experience for upper elementary students! Here are some photo examples of the ideas I listed above:
This Thanksgiving Project Based Learning Unit is pretty much guaranteed to be a homerun with your students!
Remember that you are free to make the project as big or as simple as you feel is best for your students. The key is to provide them opportunity for collaboration and problem-solving.
While some PBL units will require research, this Thanksgiving project based learning unit does not demand it. It definitely can have its place, though.
My ready-to-go, printable Plan a Thanksgiving Parade Unit includes all the pieces you see in the photos above, plus a few more. All scoring rubrics, templates, and printables are included! I created it keeping your busy schedules in mind, so it’s basically print and go. Isn’t NO PREP a great thing? Click HERE to purchase the complete Plan a Thanksgiving Day Parade Unit.
Looking for More Seasonal Learning?
If you love connecting your classroom learning to the seasons or holidays then you must check out these other posts. Here are many seasonal activities that will engage your students while still keeping them focused on the important skills and standards they need.
- Winter Project Based Learning Activities
- Thanksgiving Printables for Kids
- Thanksgiving Descriptive Writing Activities
- Christmas Activities for Elementary Kids
- Christmas Math Activities
- Christmas Writing Prompts
- Christmas Tree STEM Challenge
- Christmas Holiday Resources for the Elementary Classroom