Maybe you’ve managed to keep the momentum of learning and engagement up to this point. You may have even survived Halloween— perhaps with some timely creepy stories. But now, it’s November. And there are breaks around the corner, tempting students with distraction.
Depending on your school schedule, Thanksgiving Break may present an additional challenge. All the schools I have attended and worked at had a partial week the week of Thanksgiving. Classes were held Monday and Tuesday, sometimes Wednesday as well, before the long weekend. While engagement may be tentatively possible, concentration remains an issue. (Throw in any holiday parties, and you might be down to just Monday for attempted instruction!)
Of course, we want to make the mots of our instructional time. But sometimes, I think, it’s good to pull a few tricks from the bag.
Here are 5 ways to Survive the days before Thanksgiving Break (and still engage in learning.)
1 . Show a movie and treat it as another text to practice and reinforce literary analysis. Students can examine literary elements as used in the movie, including symbolism, mood, foreshadowing, and character development. They can even write a literary analysis essay about the movie, same as they would a novel, short story, or poem. Remind them to focus on the literary elements. A scene from a movie can work, as can a short film, such as any of the Pixar shorts or others like “The Present“.
2. Show a movie or part of a movie adaptation of a story read in class to compare movie vs. book. Students can watch and record difference between the two. Conclude with higher-level thinking, by having students evaluate which version was better. Have students focus on the events or include medium in the discussion.
3. Since Thanksgiving often includes travel of some distance to visit family, have students work on real-world writing by Planning an Exciting Trip. Students research and plan a trip (tourist visit), either in their town or another location. Make it Thanksgiving themed, by having students plan a trip related to their family’s travel, or leave the project open ended. They can research locations and prices, plus make a real itinerary. Real-world writing can help with engagement, even in challenging times.
4. Put students to work writing about Thanksgiving with a fun, creative writing activity. Students write Thanksgiving Rap or Rhyme which can include personal writing about what Thanksgiving means to the student and/ or it can be done as a more general, expository writing. But in rap or rhyme format (I use both terms, because many of my students would work on a rap, but balk at “rhyming.” Marketing is a thing….) It’s a change of pace, but also requires a lot of thought to present their ideas in a rhyme. Also can include discussion of different rhymes, along with end-rhymes. In addition, students can present to their rap or rhyme to the class, like an open mic or poetry slam. Presentations work well around holiday parties and other food.
5. Practice thanksgiving themed demand writing. Push students to focus for a short chunk of time– consider a challenge like a 30 minute prompt to push them through. This works well for a single day activity. Students generally can focus their attention– even just before break– on a short burst of activity, like a demand writing. Remaining class time can be used for students to review their essay to reflect out loud or in writing on how to improve their timed prompt. Or take the time to discuss the topics they wrote about in groups or class. Provide topics for the students, brainstorm ideas together, or let students loose with the theme of Thanksgiving (which may include gratitude, Black Friday, family visits, and more.)
Of course, once you get through Thanksgiving Break, it’s time to deal with Christmas/ Winter Break looming over the horizon! Remember, holiday-themed materials can work well at the secondary level, too.