Thanksgiving! What a great holiday…family, football and food, food, food! This holiday provides endless opportunities for teaching, with subjects such as cooking, social skills, communication and of course, social studies. I’ve compiled a list of ideas to help you make the most of this holiday for your students with significant cognitive disabilities and autism.
1) Make charts! This is a perfect time to work on counting, drawing graphs, discussing more/less, making tally marks etc. Chart ideas might include:
-favorite Thanksgiving food
-how many celebrate vs. do not celebrate this holiday
-how many will have visitor vs. no visitors
-how many will watch vs. not watch football
-how many will help cook vs. how many won’t help
2) Counting with 1:1 correspondence. Use Thanksgiving visuals of turkeys, pilgrims, Native Americans, pies, sailing ships, corn etc.*
3) Matching activities using Thanksgiving visuals*
4) Adding/subtracting using Thanksgiving visuals*
*TIP: Go to Pinterest and type in “free Thanksgiving math activities”
Check out my blog post about cooking with students with disabilities here: https://enable2learn.com/whats-cooking/ and download free cooking visuals (look for Everything Kitchen, under Photographs) here: https://enable2learn.com/tools/visuals/
Click here to download some simple recipes, including cornbread, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie and mashed potatoes.
Discuss what it means to be thankful. Explain that it is a feeling of happiness that you get because from something/someone that is good in their life. Have visuals available to help students who may have difficulty with this concept. I like this free printable I found on Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/75998312448528541/ as it has visuals and space for writing a short sentence. I “whited out” the word “Also” so that the students could use the images/words on the worksheet to help compose their sentence(s).
Have students practice saying complete sentences using structured phrases such as “I am thankful for_____ because_____.” Be sure to have assistive technology available for your non-verbal students.
The first Thanksgiving can be a difficult subject to teach students who have trouble grasping concepts such of “long ago” and the idea that people lived and dressed differently at historically different times. You might consider purchasing Let’s Learn About Timelines which provides a very simplified explanation of past, present and future as it relates to clothing, shelter, jobs and transportation. I have also written a unit called Let’s Learn About Our National Holidays which includes Thanksgiving (and also Columbus Day, President’s Day and Independence Day). Both books are 50% off, this month only, so you can get two for the price of one. Check them out here: https://enable2learn.com/curriculum/social-studies/
These complete units have a book, lesson plan, visuals, activities and an assessment (which can be used for your alternate assessment portfolios!).
There are many social skills that you might want to address leading up to the holiday. Social stories are a great way to help reinforce and teach new skills. Key skills you might consider teaching include:
-meeting new people
-handling stressful situations
Check out my blog post which gives step by step instructions on writing a successful social story. https://enable2learn.com/how-to-write-a-social-story/
Fine Motor Skills
There are so many great Thanksgiving craft projects! Here are a few that I’ve done that were especially fun and targeted fine motor skills.
1) Glue corn kernels and leaves to a corn shape (click here to download a template)
2) Collect food ads from local grocery stores. Let the students cut out pictures of what they like to eat and glue them to a paper plate.
3) Trace student’s hand. Glue wiggly eyes and feathers to create a turkey.
4) Make placemats to take home. Use stencils, printing materials, or autumn colored paints.
So here you have enough Thanksgiving-themed ideas to keep you going in the coming month. I hope they are useful and help take some of the stress out (and put some fun in!) to planning for this great holiday!