An ESL Thanksgiving

For the past three years, my teammate and I have thrown a Thanksgiving dinner for our students.  It has become a cherished and memorable tradition for students, faculty, and staff. (Especially the staff who sneak in to eat with us!) We round up all the ESL kids from their homerooms and bring them to the library, where we feast on every classic American Thanksgiving food you can think of.   This year we were so fortunate to have a lot of our food donated by the Student Council.  If you want to read about last year's feast, click here.  Otherwise, relax (hopefully in your comfy yoga pants!) and come along for a photo-heavy re-cap!

We took over the library and set up the tables family style.  Last year we found fabulous write-on tablecloths at Boscov's (a NJ/PA store) and we stockpiled them for this year.  While the kids were waiting for the food to heat up, they doodled and played tic-tac-toe.

We had 5 crock-pots going, as well as a big baking dish and a few cold items.  We had: 
mashed potatoes
sweet potato casserole
cranberry sauce
dinner rolls
apple pie
pumpkin pie

As my grandfather would say, "Abbondanza!"

We always put plastic tablecloths down under our crock-pots in case of spills.  This year my teammate decided to spruce up our food table with some autumn garland- isn't it cute?

Before we served the food, we went around the table and each child had to say 1 thing they were thankful for.  Most said food, family, smartie said he was thankful for his wonderful teacher.  A plus!

We were lucky to have Student Council help serve the food- that made it easy for my teammate and I to take pictures and sneak bites of food.  We got them to try almost everything, which is not easy- for some kids, this was the first time they'd ever seen stuffing or cranberry sauce!

Finally, they ate.  And there was silence.  Total, complete, could hear a pin drop silence.  Some kids went for seconds, some kids went for thirds, but no matter what, they all left the library with food in their bellies and a story to tell.  We sent loads of food home with the kids, so hopefully they'll eat well the next two days.  I am so thankful for the opportunity to make a difference in my students' lives.  Teaching refugees can be challenging and often sad, but seeing their happy faces and listening to them talk and giggle with friends around the table is so rewarding. 

Do you have any classroom or school traditions? Share in the comments!  
Happy Thanksgiving!


  1. This sounds wonderful! You are such an amazing teacher to your students. I am sure this is something that they will remember for years to come!

    Eclectic Educating

  2. Wow! What an inspiring post! What a lovely idea that obviously meant a great deal to the students and all involved. Love it! And the kid who said he was thankful for his teacher? Smart kid! Hope you slipped him an extra slice of pie. :)

    We are struggling to find ways to give our ESL students some experiences that they have not yet had: going to a movie, library, baking etc. We are brainstorming ideas but really need to act upon the needs now. Thanks for the inspiration.



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