Thanksgiving Theme Lesson Plans
I don’t know about many of you, but for me this year has flown by! How is it almost Thanksgiving?! I love this time of year both at home and at work. There are so many opportunities for awesome thematic therapy activities and my students love chances to talk about the holidays and their family’s traditions. Tele-therapy has brought a whole new element to holiday lesson plans this year, since I get to ask students if they have any decorations or special holiday items at their house they want to share with me during our session! It’s such a fun addition for this time of year, and I’m so excited to break down my Thanksgiving themed lesson plans for y’all!
This week’s theme: THANKSGIVING
For all grade levels, I’ll be using my Thanksgiving Theme Unit because it can target so many different goal areas.
As a warm-up, I like to start with my Vocab Mats; the Thanksgiving Verb Mats are great to use for all ages. For my younger students, I usually just have them label the verbs, or talk about what they see and expand on the 1-2 words they use to create a longer verb phrase incorporating the present progressive -ing.
With some of my older students, I like to use the Vocab Mat to target verb tenses. I have them label what they see and then give them the prompt “Today he is watching TV, yesterday he…” to target past tense verbs. This warm-up can be used for both tele-therapy and in-person, so for those with students in a hybrid model this is great because it cuts down on planning a bit!
Another warm-up activity I love is targeting following directions using the Thanksgiving Color Sheets. You can target qualitative concepts by incorporating vocabulary items, colors, other attributes, and more! For little learners, simply giving one-step directions might target their goals or if your students are a bit older or working on more complex directions you can target two-step, temporal directions, or create conditional directions too. There are tons of options because it is so open ended! I like to include movement into my two-step directions by using directions such as “Color the table orange, then jump three times!” Incorporating movement helps my sessions flow so much smoother! For those doing tele-therapy, I have my kids use the annotate feature to help color.
When I’m looking to use a more child-directed or play based approach to a session, I love to use the Story Props Scenes since it allows my students to move the pieces around and show off their imaginations! Play based therapy is so, so important for some of my younger students (Pre-K, Kinders) and I always hear the best expressive language from them when we just relax and play together! And it also gives you a great opportunity to model play, joint engagement, comments, expanded phrases, core vocabulary use, and more: basically all the amazing skills we want them to learn and start using more independently! I used to get worried about having a session that was primarily play based, but it was mostly out of fear of other people’s perceptions of my sessions. Sometimes I still have to remind myself that I am the qualified SLP here! Now if someone asks how our play based session is going, my attitude is more “You bet we’re playing! And look at all these amazing skills and goals we were able to target and track while this little one ‘just has fun!’”
Alright, officially stepping back off my soapbox and getting back to those lesson plans!
There are so many books for this time of year I have a hard time picking which ones to incorporate into therapy; there are too many great choices! Which is why all of my go-to favorites are included in my Quick Prep Book Companions.
This resource includes vocabulary items and an activity for SIX different Thanksgiving stories! You’ll find the list of books included as well as a link to a read aloud option below, but first I want to tell you how I use these in therapy. All the books come with a full size or a task box size option. I like to print and laminate the materials ahead of time so they are ready to go and can be easily cleaned in between sessions. The activities included in this resource target story retelling, sequencing, character identification, labeling, expanding utterances and more! The “Old Lady…” series are always popular with my younger students, and they love these activities since they get to feed her different items as we follow along with the story.
Scarecrow’s Hat (Skip ahead to 1:12 to start the actual book, I liked this one the best because it has the words and full pages of the book. For tele-therapy I will usually pull up the video then pause it to read the story aloud myself. That way I can pause, label pictures, comment on the story or ask questions throughout and give my students plenty of wait time to answer!)
This resource also recently received a digital makeover! The task box visuals are now included on a Google Slides presentation so that you can easily have the read aloud story PLUS the visuals right at your fingertips to display on your teletherapy platform.
I recommend using this free Chrome Extension with these read aloud stories and visuals, so that you can easily highlight and draw attention to different visuals as you answer questions, retell, target core vocabulary, etc. The Chrome Extension I absolutely love for this is called "Web Paint" and you can find it here.
Another one of my Thanksgiving Favorites is “Balloons Over Broadway” by Melissa Sweet. It’s the true story of Tony Sarg, the Puppeteer of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade! It’s such an interesting story, and I learned so much the first time I read it! My accompanying Digital Book Companion is full of different activities to target reading and listening comprehension!
This book is full of details and so much information, I love to use the “Wh” questions with my students. Each section of questions is multiple choice, and has a field of three possible answers (hot tip: you could cover the answer choices in teletherapy for your higher level students, using your annotate tool, such as the free web paint extension I mentioned!!)
I also love using the “Bonus Conversation Questions” with groups to target “wh” questions, topic maintenance, expanding phrases/sentences, grammar, spontaneous speech sound production; the list goes on and on!
With groups of my older students, I like to have one student answer a question, then have the peers within the group ask a follow-up question that is topically appropriate based on the first student’s answers. Asking questions is such an important skill and one I’ve found a lot of my students struggle with, so I love targeting that goal area wherever I can.
I also love using the Social Play Scenes. It’s a great way to target functional, pragmatically appropriate language use and can be used with little learners and older students alike! With my younger students, I like to target general expressive language, and the sentence strip of “I want the…” goes so well with expanding utterances. For older students, with more pragmatic language goals, it’s a great way to target social language use in different roles. We take turns being the cashier or the customer, and it gives me a chance to model appropriate language use during both interactions. It also helps some of my students with Autism prepare for what to expect in possibly new, unfamiliar places, and they can practice communicating their needs within that situation.
The Grocery Shopping cards are more play based tasks and are designed to have the students help grocery shop for Thanksgiving dinner! In addition to targeting receptive matching, quantitative concepts, following directions, expanding language, vocabulary and more, these are a great way to target organization, planning, memory and flexibility....I mean, HELLO EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONING! Executive functions are such important skills to target for all students regardless of age and ability level, and the Level Two cards are a perfect way for students to work on planning, memory, and flexibility. Anytime I can target language use AND executive functioning skills is a huge win!
Halloween in my mind really starts to kick off the holiday season, but by Thanksgiving things are in full swing! Especially this year; anyone else antsy to start decorating for Christmas?!
Here are some other amazing resources and activities to use in Thanksgiving Themed therapy to help make your planning and sessions a bit easier:
Thanksgiving Would You Rather A great conversational activity, and a way to bring some silliness into a session! Perfect for Elementary students of all ages and goal areas.
Thanksgiving Category Freebie Awesome for Pre-K or Kindergarten students, this category sort can be done with laminated pieces or with a Turkey coloring activity!
Dress A Turkey Open-Ended Game This open ended, dress-up activity could be paired with ANY goal area! Target following directions, articulation, “wh” questions, vocabulary, grammar, etc. You bring the targets and this Boom deck brings the silliness!
Thanksgiving Food Memory Target memory and vocabulary in this adorable Thanksgiving themed recall game!
Thanksgiving Themed Scavenger Hunt Target vocabulary, labeling, commenting, expanding phrases and more with this Thanksgiving themed scavenger hunt!
Thanksgiving Basic Conversation Deck Another good one for those with Pre-K and Kindergarten students! Talk about what you like and don’t like with this Thanksgiving themed deck.
Tic-Tac-Toe Turkeys Target VC, CV, or CVC words while you play Tic-Tac-Toe with adorable Turkeys!
A Turkey for Thanksgiving by Eve Bunting A great book for early to mid-elementary students! Target “wh” questions and vocab with this Thanksgiving classic.
Five Silly Turkeys Perfect for Pre-K and Kindergarten. Lots of opportunities for repetitive phrases!
The Turkey Who Forgot to Gobble A silly story for students Pre-K to 1st