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  • Writer's pictureMegan Mariano

Thanksgiving Activity: Using YouTube and Google Search in English Language Arts

Updated: Nov 17, 2019

Every year, what do most teachers do for Thanksgiving? Students write about what they are thankful for in a cute and colorful way. I have nothing against this, as it's always important to reflect on for what we are grateful, however, I thought I'd change it up this school year.

Kids, tweens, and teens are OBSESSED with YouTube. ***Old fart alert*** I miss when kids used to watch television shows. At least there's plot, character development, and so much more to analyze. ***End old fart alert*** Despite how I may feel about YouTube, when used properly, it CAN be beneficial. This puts a lot of responsibility on us adults. We cannot expect kids to know how to use YouTube appropriately, we have to show them and guide them instead of completely avoiding it. I can't stand when districts ban YouTube. I understand why they do, but I think that's on the teachers. If the students are abusing it, the teachers need to figure out what they can do to avoid that.

Thanksgiving Activity Using YouTube

Admittedly, this is a product in my TpT store, but it gives you an idea of what you CAN do in other areas, too, especially non-fiction.

I am consistently trying to teach my 6th graders responsibility and empathy. When thinking about Thanksgiving activities, I also thought about how not all of my students celebrate the typical Thanksgiving as I have a diverse population. So, I came up with the idea where THEY plan their Thanksgiving meal. Not every kid eats turkey and mashed potatoes. This would create empathy in the sense that they have to see what their parents or relatives have to go through to prepare such a wonderful meal that brings families together.

First, they brainstorm what they normally have for their Thanksgiving meals with their families. They think back to all they've had in the past. From there, they choose two (2) to focus on (you can certainly do more if you have more time).

Once they decide on the two types of food they want to research, that's when YouTube comes in. They have to go on YouTube and find a recipe for that item. Their goal is to find a short video and to watch it in it's entirety. They have to interpret the most important points of the video and also list the steps the video told the audience to follow. This is "close reading" in the sense that students are determining importance. Isn't this something we constantly want them to do with their non-fiction reading?

Students follow up with Googling a recipe for the same food item. Kids LOVE Googling. I am constantly closing tabs because of this (only if they are Googling irrelevant things...I let it slide if it pertains to their work). This also encourages them to sift through nonsense and find useful articles. From there, they have to screenshot important aspects of the recipe to further show their understanding.

Once they are done researching, students are given higher-order thinking questions that force them to think about how the recipe and video work together. They have to compare how the information was presented. They also have to consider how the "authors" used images, illustrations, etc. (text features!) to teach the recipe. This is definitely close reading in action!

Lastly, for fun, they Google images to put on a dinner table. They copy the images into the Google Slides presentation to make a digital image of what their Thanksgiving meal looks like!

That's it! Overall, this will certainly keep students engaged and using what they LOVE to use in meaningful ways.

Bottom Line

This is really only one way to use YouTube and Google search in your ELA classroom. I've used them a LOT in my Research Unit (blog post soon!). Again, you can't avoid what students like if you don't agree with it...try to embrace it!


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