English Language Learners / Dual Language Learners / Multicultural Education Support – Language Lizard Blog


teaching thankfulness bilingual classroom

What a perfect time of year to focus on gratitude, appreciation and thankfulness! Having family and friends to share our lives with, food on the table, clean water to drink and a roof over our heads is something that adults and children alike can take time to reflect on during this holiday season.

In bilingual classrooms, the topic of thankfulness can involve language learning as well as cultural sharing. Not only do we say “thank you” with different words, the way we show our appreciation differs from culture to culture as well. What a wonderful opportunity for students to learn more about cultures around the world this week!

Here 5 activities to help your students focus on thankfulness during this holiday season:

  • Thankfulness Landscape: Roll out a long piece of paper on the floor, scatter pens along it and let your students go to it! Tell your students that this landscape will be a place to draw the people, places and things that they are thankful for. Have students sign their name somewhere on the landscape and then display it along the wall in your classroom. When the landscape is up, have students look at it and discuss what they see and how it makes them feel.
  • Thanksgiving Traditions: Many cultures around the world have traditional events that focus on giving thanks. Ask students what celebrations take place in their families that have to do with being thankful. Ask them what foods are involved, what kinds of clothing are worn and whether or not there are specific rituals that are performed. Find out what time of year the events take place and who participates (e.g. the whole community together or each family alone). If you have students from the same linguistic or cultural backgrounds, find out if they all celebrate the traditions the same. Sometimes traditions are celebrated differently in different parts of the same country or from family to family.
  • Showing Thanks: Start off by talking with your students about how people in the United States show gratitude, appreciation and thanks. Then ask students how they show gratitude, appreciation and thanks in their cultures. For example, what gestures, facial expressions, tone and words are involved? Compare how these are expressed in the United States with how they are expressed in other cultures. Talk about how misunderstandings might arise between cultures due to our cultural expectations of how gratitude, appreciation and thanks should be expressed.
  • Saying Thank You: Learning how to say “thank you” in different languages is a wonderful way to expose children to new languages! Do a little research to find out how to say “thank you” in a variety of different languages and, if possible, how to write it out in each.  Then, when students are in class, have them share how to say “thank you” in their language(s) and have them write it on the board if they know how. Talk about the different sounds and how many words are included. Also ask the students if the words mean something specific (for example, “much appreciation” or “gratitude to you”). When the students are done, share with them additional ways to say “thank you” in the different languages that you researched.
  • Thankfulness Quilt: This activity comes from Maria’s 100 Days of Bilingualism posts. In week 10 she shares a wonderful activity that involves making a thankfulness quilt. Start off by having your students talk about what they are thankful for in their lives. Then give each student 10 squares of blank paper and ask them to draw things that they are thankful for on each square. If students get stuck, help them by talking about the endless possibilities of things to be thankful for. Once everyone is done with their squares, paste the edges together in a large grid to form a large square or rectangle (you can paste the squares onto a large poster board or paper if that is easier). Let it dry and then find a prominent place to display your students’ thankfulness quilt!

There are so many ways to use this holiday season to help your bilingual students become more aware of what they are thankful for in their lives. Remind them that often the things we take most for granted in our lives are the most important: family, friends, warmth, food, clean water and shelter.

Before your students head home for the holiday, make sure that you show them how thankful you are to have them in your class. It is such a wonderful time of year for us to share with our bilingual students how appreciative we are for what they bring to each and every classroom around the world.

Photo credit: muffintinmom

For ideas about discussing and celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday with your multicultural students, make sure to read our post Thanksgiving and Immigrant Cultures!

And make sure to visit the following link for a MULTILINGUAL THANK YOU POSTER to brighten up a multicultural classroom: www.languagelizard.com/Thank-You-Poster-Multilingual-Edition-p/frthank.htm

What are your favorite ways to focus on thankfulness with your bilingual students?


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