Thanksgiving: a conversation lesson

Many of the lessons I post on the blog are things I come across during the previous week, reacting to things that are happening in the world or to things I read or watch. This one, however, had been waiting in the wings for a while.

Although Thanksgiving is not celebrated in Brazil, most people who study English know about it, because of how often it is depicted in American films and TV series. I thought this text, which focuses on family, would be an ideal way to talk about it.

This lesson is aimed at adult students who are B1 and above. I haven’t tried using it with adolescents, but if you do, make sure you change the questions in the last slide.


The steps below are based on a PowerPoint presentation you can download from Dropbox or from Google Drive.

[Slide 1]

Show students the picture and ask them to brainstorm ideas in pairs. After 30 seconds board their ideas and save them to be used later on. If the word ‘thanksgiving’ doesn’t come up, mention it and ask students if they know when it’s celebrated.

Note: American Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. Other countries celebrate it on different days.

[Slide 2]

In pairs, students discuss the question. Elicit ideas after a few minutes and ask students to justify their choices.

[Slide 3]

Tell students they are going to watch a short video about the Obamas. Show the picture and give a minute for students to read the questions.

Play video up to 1:35

Give students a chance to compare answers and then correct it with the whole group.

[Slide 4]

Get students into new pairs/trios and show follow-up question. Give them a few minutes to discuss it and then get feedback from the whole group.

[Slide 5]

Tell students they are going to read a text about Thanksgiving from The New York Times. Show only the header at this point.

Tell students to read the text quickly and check if any of the words they came up with at the beginning of the lesson appear in the text.

The original article can be found here and my adapted version is below.


After checking answers with the whole group, show them the specific information questions and let students read the text again.

Give them a chance to compare answers and then check with the whole group.

[Slide 6]

Put students in trios and show follow-up questions. Give them a few minutes for discussion and then elicit answers from the whole group.

Note: depending on how much you think your students may be willing to share, you can also ask them to say what they are thankful for. If you want to do that, play the video in slide 3 up to 2:14 and add an extra question ‘What is Obama thankful for?’ to set up this activity.

[Slide 7]

Go over the pronunciation of the words in bold. For instance, you can focus on the catenation in ‘hallmark of’ and ‘cram in’.

Get students to match the words in bold to the definitions. After a few minutes, elicit their ideas and ask CCQs to double check if students know what expressions mean.

[Slide 8]

In pairs, students answer conversation questions. Feel free to change the questions so that they are more suitable for your students. These were made with adult students in mind, but if you use it with adolescents, the focus needs to be different.

Thanks for reading.


10 thoughts on “Thanksgiving: a conversation lesson

  1. I worked the video in a different way. I played it up to 2:51. First time students watch they had to tell what questions the Obamas were asked. Of course, they had to listen a second time and tell me what the answers were. It worked like a charm!


  2. Pingback: So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish | ricardo barros elt

  3. Hi Ricardo! I taught a nice lesson today with your help! Thanks for sharing dear! This is a rich idea and can be adapted to different purposes and levels!


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