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Lesson Plan


Teacher: Jenet Jacob

Background Information:

This lesson is directed towards 14-16 adult students living in an American environment. This lesson plan introduces students to the U.S. holiday of Thanksgiving. The lesson plan can be adapted to all ages and levels of English production ability, but in this form is prepared for intermediate level learners.

Needed Materials:


  1. Students will demonstrate their understanding of the origins of the Thanksgiving celebration.
  2. Students will recognize and be able to explain and define words associated with Thanksgiving
  3. Students will demonstrate use of sentences beginning with "I am thankful for..." which they should fill in with things they are thankful for.
  4. Students will recognize the important themes surrounding Thanksgiving in American society today and how they relate to the celebration's historical origin.

Warm up/Review: (5 min)

As the students come into the classroom, have them draw a piece of paper from the hat. Tell them to just keep it. Ask the students to list all of the holidays which they have noticed are part of American culture. While they are brainstorming, list their responses up on the board. Ask the students why holidays come about and why they may be important. This aspect can be easily adapted according to the level of the student. This brainstorming will give the teacher a good foundation from which to explain the holiday and should be used to evaluate the student's understanding of U.S. holidays.

Introduction:: (5 min)

Take out a poster on which are written words associated with Thanksgiving (suggested list provided above). Tell them that today's class will be a presentation on this particular holiday. Explain that the list of words might include some that they are not familiar with. Explain to them that these will presented in the class period. Write the word Thanksgiving on the board. Divide the word into the two parts Thanks and Giving. Ask the students to explain the meaning of these two words. Explain that this word has to do with the origin of the holiday.

Presentation: (5 min)

Reinforce for the student the importance of holidays as a reminder of  historical events closely associated to the culture. Explain that Thanksgiving is unique to U.S. American culture. It has historical roots that are very significant to U.S. origins. We cannot understand the holiday without understanding where it originated. Specifically ask a few of the students who have Pilgrim on their small paper to come to one side of the room. Do the same thing with a few of the Indians. Give the students on the Pilgrim side a representative of England either in poster or flag form. Give the students on the American side a representative of Plymouth Rock.

Begin by explaining the story of the first Thanksgiving. If needed use the story written for San Diego city schools. The students representing the Indians or Pilgrims should act out the information discussed in the story as it is being said aloud. Have one of the students hold the pictorial representation of the Mayflower. When it is time to cross the sea, have the students cross with you to the other side where the Indians are. Explain that they were some of the first Europeans to settle in this land. Here they worked very hard learning how to live on the land. It was very hard but they were free and could worship as they desired! If possible have students act out such behaviors as fishing, hunting, chopping wood, building houses or fires etc. Then explain that the Pilgrims felt so grateful that God had protected them that they decided to have a feast and invite their friends the Indians which had been so helpful to them. Have the students pretend they are bringing food to the feast. If possible have samples of food, such as a pumpkin etc., along with a picture of a turkey. And then this was the beginnings of Thanksgiving. Ask the students to sit down in their desks. Explain that the original Thanksgiving still has many of the same traditions. Thanksgiving is a time when families are together and when they partake of a wonderful feast in celebration of the blessings of God. This is a time of being together as a family, giving thanks, and eating food. Explain to the students some of the typical foods that we eat at Thanksgiving such as pies, turkey, yams, corn, etc. If possible have examples of these foods. Make sure that each of the particular words on the poster shown at the beginning have been explained well.


Allow the students to demonstrate their understanding of the spelling and meanings of the words by writing them in the Thanksgiving guessing game spaces. Assist them as needed. Low intermediate students should be allowed to look at the poster which has the words written on them for assistance with spelling.

When this has been completed, tell the students that they must take time to express their thanks for certain things. Place a blank poster at the front of the room on which is written the words, "I am thankful for".  Have each student take a turn to come to the front of the room and say aloud these words then turn and write whatever they are thankful for on the poster. By the end there should be a list of things on the poster from each individual student.

Allow the students an opportunity to write on paper something that they learned about the Thanksgiving holiday from the class. When all the students are finished have them take turns sharing what they have written on their paper.


Give each student the handout with the title, "Things I Am Thankful For", and assign them to have each of the blanks filled in with complete sentences by the next class period. If there is time in the next class period, allow the students to share what they have written down. Make sure that each student has the opportunity to experience Thanksgiving in an American home!

Self Evaluation:

The difficulty of presenting this lesson in ten minutes was something which I fear I was not entirely prepared for. Wow! As a result of trying to "pack it all in" I had difficulty in acting like the class was an ESL class. I had to speak to the class with language more advanced than the level of ESL students I would be presenting this lesson to and the pace of the presentation would have been very difficult for ESL students to follow. I know that had I been teaching ESL students I would have paid particular attention to cues indicating that they either understood, or did not understand what was going on. I think this an excellent lesson for teaching U.S. Culture, because it incorporates some of the foundational principles of American history. I enjoyed having the students act out the story of the Pilgrims, although it is difficult to tell right now how difficult this woud be for ESL students to do. I went back and forth between either telling them the story first, then having them act it out without my talking, or having me tell the story while they acted it out. These are adjustments that will have to be made once an accurate evaluation of the setting has been made.

I think the lesson to be well presented in the lesson plan as it incorporates all of the important elements of teaching. I also like that an incorporation of all of the communication skills: reading, writing, speaking, and listening are incorporated into the cultural experience. And I hope that along with this it would be enjoyable for the students as well.

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1997 © Dr. Lynn E. Henrichsen
Department of Linguistics
Brigham Young University
Last Updated: Friday, December 5, 1997