How to Teach Thanksgiving Using Flashcards

How to Teach Thanksgiving Using Flashcards

Claudia Pesce
by Claudia Pesce 49,957 views

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday to share with your ESL students.


Most of them may not understand what it's about, but whether they'll be joining the festivities or not, this is a great opportunity to teach them the real meaning behind the holiday: giving thanks for the blessings we’ve received this year. But first things first. You'll have to cover the basics and teach your students some essential Thanksgiving vocabulary.

Here’s how you do it with the use of flashcards:

How To Proceed

  1. 1

    1. Choose or make your own flashcards

    The first thing you’ll need to do is get your set of Thanksgiving flashcards ready. If you haven't already got one, there are some wonderful flashcards you can download and print for free at or You may also choose to make your own with Thanksgiving clipart. Print 2 copies of the same set of cards.

  2. 2

    Introduce Thanksgiving Vocabulary

    As always, it's recommended that you introduce new vocabulary in context. Tell your students about the very first Thanksgiving; make sure you tailor the story to your students' level; you don't want to make it too easy or too hard to understand. As you tell the story “flash” each flashcard to illustrate a new word. The story should go something like this:

    The Pilgrims (show flashcard of Pilgrims) left Europe due to religious persecution, and they arrived to the New World on a ship called the Mayflower (show flashcard of Mayflower) in 1620. Their first winter in the New World was very harsh and many of them died. But the native Indians (show flashcard of Indian) helped them and taught them how to plant crops like corn (show flashcard of corn). The fall harvest (show flashcard of Fall harvest) was very successful, and the Pilgrims had enough food for the coming winter. They decided to celebrate with a day of thanksgiving with a feast, and they invited their Indian friends to join them.

    Show more flashcards with the typical foods and ingredients used to prepare a Thanksgiving meal today.

  3. 3

    Review Thanksgiving Vocabulary

    Show your students each flashcard once more and have them repeat the new words; correct pronunciation if necessary. After all of the new vocabulary has been reviewed, randomly pick a card and ask a student to either use it in a sentence or ask a question with the word.

  4. 4

    Practice Thanksgiving Vocabulary
    Use the story of the first Thanksgiving and give students worksheets to help them practice the new words they've learned. Depending on your student's level, these may be a simple gap-filling exercise or more complex reading comprehension questions.

  5. 5

    Have Fun with Thanksgiving Flashcards

    Now’s the time to play games with your flashcards! If you have two sets of cards, turn them over for a fun memory game where students have to find the pairs. Or try this for a great version of Go Fish:

    For a small group of students, shuffle the cards and give each of your students 4 - 5 cards (the number depends on the total number of cards and number of students in the class; for a large class you may want to divide them into smaller groups and have extra sets of cards). Put the rest of the cards in a draw pile. Students take turns asking questions using the new words: “Have you got a turkey?” If the student asked has the matching card, he or she must hand it over. If there is no match the student who asked takes a card from the draw pile. The goal is to make as many pairs as possible.

    And don’t forget the classic game of Bingo! Ask your students to make their own Bingo cards by choosing some of the new words and writing them down on their cards. Then, simply draw the flashcards out of a bag and call them out (or better yet, ask your students to tell you what they are!)

  6. 6

    Have Students Produce Something Using Thanksgiving Vocabulary

    Give your students an assignment in which they can use the new words they’ve learned. Little ones may simply draw a picture of the first Thanksgiving or color these wonderful Thanksgiving coloring sheets. Older students may be asked to write about the first Thanksgiving from a Pilgrim’s point of view, while others write from the Indians’ point of view.

Finish up by asking them what they are thankful for. And don't forget to count your blessings, too! After all, you have the most wonderful, rewarding job!

See all of BusyTeacher’s free Thanksgiving worksheets and activities here! 

Also see these Thanksgiving borders.


If you have any other tips, ideas, or suggestions for using Thanksgiving flashcards, feel free to share them below!

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