Thankful Writing Activity: Easy Expository Writing Lesson

Happy November! Is there a better time to write about all the things we are thankful for? This writing topic might seem may seem trite and overdone, but we can never overdo the message of showing appreciation for the people and things that make our lives rich and fulfilling.

Fortunately, this topic also makes a great 5-paragraph expository essay for upper elementary students because it’s so easy to organize and write. The final essays make a great gift for their families on Thanksgiving Day, too!

To begin the Thankful Writing activity, students brainstorm the people and things they are thankful for, and they organize their ideas into categories on a 3-part graphic organizer. Next, they use the ideas they brainstormed to write a rough draft that has an introduction, one full paragraph for each category, and a conclusion. After revising and editing their rough drafts, students write or type their final essays on decorative paper.

The “craftivity” part of the activity is what makes this project really special. Students staple their essays into a folder made from a large sheet of colored construction paper. Each student decorates a cover and glues it on to the front of his or her folder to create a special keepsake.

Thanksgiving Writing Activity

If you really want to turn this activity into a full fledged “craftivity,” provide plenty of time and lots of creative materials for students to use when decorating their Thanksgiving folders to take home. Adding a small photo and the date is a nice touch because many families will treasure this special gift and keep it for many years.

Thankful Writing Activity

This Thankful Writing activity became a yearly tradition in my classroom because it was such a terrific writing lesson, and it was so appreciated by my students’ families. Because it worked so well for me, I wrote up the complete directions to share with others. The packet includes complete directions, a graphic organizer for brainstorming, and directions for introducing students to expository writing. You can find Thankful Writing in my TpT store, but it’s also free for my email subscribers. Just sign up here and follow the links to the freebies page that you’ll find in the welcome message.

Thankful Writing is a freebie from Laura Candler that's a step-by-step writing lesson and a craftivity all in one.The final project is sent home with students to be shared with their families on Thanksgiving day, and it's sure to be a memorable keepsake!

Tips for Success

Here are a few tips that will help make Thankful Writing a success.

  • Timing – If possible, start on this activity several weeks before Thanksgiving, especially if your students have not written an essay before. You’ll be surprised at how much time it takes to brainstorm ideas, teach them the format, write the first draft, revise and edit it, and create the final draft. You should also allow plenty of time for students to decorate their covers.
  • Grading – If you are spend spend several weeks on this activity, you’ll probably need to assign some sort of grade to it. You could do a participation grade based on overall effort and quality of work. If you need to write comments on their work to justify your grade, you won’t want to write in the copy that students are going to give to their parents. What I did was to make a copy of the essay for myself so that I could write comments on it. I felt that since this was their first expository essay, it was more of a learning activity than an assessment so I tended to grade it very leniently. Most of my comments and feedback took place during the writing conference so my final grade ended up being more of a participation grade than anything else.
  • More Cover Options – I recently revised and updated this freebie, and it now includes a coloring page that you can print for students who might obsess over decorating their covers. However, I think most parents would rather see original artwork on the cover. One option might be to have the create the traditional hand-tracing turkey as the cover art. Check out this version that I found on Enchanted Learning for a slightly different approach.

The day before Thanksgiving, provide time for students to share their final writing projects with their classmates before they bring them home to present to their families. You’ll find this to be a nice way to end the day before you send them off for the holidays!