Thanksgiving Day Parade Books, Lessons, Videos and Activities

Friday, November 11, 2016

One of my most treasured traditions happens on Thanksgiving morning.  I pop the turkey in the oven, brew a cup of hot apple cider or cocoa, then cuddle up on the couch and watch the Thanksgiving Day Parade.  It's full of fabulous performances, spectacular balloons, and is the advent for the joy and cheer of the upcoming season. I love to share the cultural tradition of the parade with my students right before Thanksgiving . There are so many great ways to incorporate the parade into your reading, math, science, or social studies lessons!  Below are some great ideas for teaching the tradition of the Thanksgiving Day Parade!

Activities for Little Kids

You may have a few students who have never seen a parade or even heard of one before.  Build their background by showing them a few videos.  YouTube has hundreds of clips and videos of prior parades! There are so many opportunities for great discussion topics during and after watching each video. In my room, we talk about why some videos are black and white, what people used to wear, what the balloons looked like, and how many there were.  Here are two options to share with your class: the first video is of the parade in 1935, and the next is the full video of the parade in 2015.  *Note* Please preview all YouTube clips for suitability prior to showing them to your class! 





For young students, I really like Thanksgiving Parade, which is a rhyming book that tells the story of the parade from a child's point of view.

You can't go wrong with Clifford! In this easy reader, Clifford gets to watch the parade with all his friends. 


The Little Engine that Could is a great book for students who are reading independently! You can discuss problem, solution, and working together during and after reading this book.


Don't forget to check YouTube again!  There are some great Parade read-alouds that you can add to a listening center or technology center. This one is Huggly's Thanksgiving Parade, by Ted Arnold.


For math integration, students can use the Macy's Parade website to count, tally, and graph the number of floats, performers, bands, and balloons.  Compare this year's number of balloons to last year's, or even to the number in 1930! 



You can share the process of inflating the balloons and have students write an expository piece or have them sequence the events using first, next, then, and finally. 




Activities for Older Kids

One of my favorites to share with my students is Balloons over Broadway, by Melissa Sweet.  It tells the story of the first balloon puppeteers and is SO interesting! Below is a YouTube video of the read-aloud that you can add to a center or even use during your whole group lesson.


The history of the parade is so cool! I love to open my lesson by showing this video: 


I follow that video with an informational text article called Diary of a Balloon.  It centers around the story of the three oldest balloons in the Macy's parade, and covers topics like balloon design, balloon history, and balloon safety.  It's a great cross-curricular resource! My students love the writing activities and the chance to design their own balloons.  It's great to send home for a light and fun Thanksgiving homework assignment as well.



After reading about the history of the balloons, I get my kids excited for this year's parade. Have students take a look around the amazing website that Macy's has created.  Students can practice cardinal directions while they read about where to watch.  You can have them use Google Earth to virtually navigate the parade route, while taking in some of the sights of New York City. 



Engage students in the wonders of science by showing them the design process for the giant parade balloons.  Here's a great video all about how it's done! After watching, have students answer questions about how the scientific method and engineering process were used to create the balloons.



There are so many ways to share the tradition of the Thanksgiving Day Parade with your students! How do you teach about the parade? Share your ideas in the comments!


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