As we approach the Thanksgiving season, bring meaningful lessons to your elementary classroom with these poems about gratitude.
CommonLit’s digital literacy program is full of high-interest texts that tackle important themes. Students will love reading these powerful poems on being grateful while improving their reading comprehension skills and understanding of Thanksgiving values.
“Each Scar” by Baptiste Paul (3rd Grade)
This short piece follows the unique form of a tricube poem, with three stanzas, each with three lines that are three syllables long. In this tricube poem, the speaker shares a valuable lesson they learned from their mom about being thankful for scars, even though it can feel hard to work through the pain.
Dig into this gratitude poem by starting a class discussion using Discussion Question 2, “What is something in your life that you can be thankful for that might seem bad in the moment, but that you can learn from later?” For a creative extension, teachers can then “have students write a tricube poem about something they are thankful for, following the directions for this type of poem in the student introduction.”
“I’m Thankful for My Puppy” by Margarita Engle (3rd Grade)
This poem on being grateful is written in the form of a décima, or mirror poem, in which the rhyming pattern of the second half of the poem mirrors the rhyming pattern of the first half. In the poem, the speaker describes all of the reasons why she is grateful for her puppy. This short but descriptive poem is a great resource for building a study of figurative language into any ELA curriculum.
Teachers can assign this poem along with “Thank You, Sleep!” from the Paired Texts tab, to engage students in a discussion about how these poems express thankfulness. Ask students, “How do both the puppy in ‘I’m Thankful for My Puppy’ and sleep in ‘Thank You, Sleep!;’ help the speakers feel happy? Why do you think the poets choose to use these poems to say thank you?”
“The Race of Friends” by Jane Yolen (3rd Grade)
This short poem about gratitude describes a child running a relay race. The relay race represents helping others in need, teaching the important theme of being grateful and sharing resources.
CommonLit’s assessment questions are designed to prepare students for reading assessments, while also inspiring rigorous analysis of every text. Check for students’ understanding of important vocabulary in the poem by assigning Assessment Question 3, “What is the meaning of the word ‘grateful’ as it is used in line 2?”
“Giving Thanks” by Joseph Bruchac (4th Grade)
This gratitude poem about Thanksgiving is written as a didactic, a poem with a clear lesson for the reader. In the poem, the speaker shares an important lesson about giving thanks that he learned from Chief Jake Swamp, a leader of the Mohawk Nation.
Teach a multimedia lesson on Thanksgiving stories by showing students the video “Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message by Chief Jake Swamp Read Aloud.” This video features a reading of a book by Chief Jake Swamp, the leader to whom Bruchac dedicated “Giving Thanks”. After showing the video, ask students, “What is the central message of the picture book Giving Thanks? How does Joseph Bruchac try to honor Chief Jake Swamp in his poem?”
“Thanksgiving at the Lake” by Megan Hoyt (4th Grade)
In this poem about gratitude for students, the speaker shares about a Thanksgiving spent watching ducks at the lake. Throughout the Shakespearian sonnet, the speaker reflects on the role of fathers, creating a tone of thankfulness towards all fathers do for their children.
Engage students in discussion around this Thanksgiving story by asking Discussion Question 1, “Based on the poem, what do you think the speaker is thankful for? How do you know? Who is a person in your life you are thankful for? Why are you thankful for this person?”
“Dear Sky” by Naomi Shihab Nye (5th Grade)
This poem about thankfulness is an epistle, meaning it is written as a letter. The speaker in this poem writes to the sky, sharing their thanks for the sky’s presence and beauty.
To engage students in a discussion that allows them to form opinions and text-to-self connections, use Discussion Question 2 “The speaker tells the sky ‘thank you.’ In your opinion, is it important to say thank you to non-human things, like animals, nature, or objects? Why or why not?” Giving students the opportunity to talk about what they’ve read is a great way to build reading comprehension skills!
“Joint Custody” by Ada Limón (5th Grade)
In this thankfulness poem by the US Poet Laureate, the speaker reflects on their experience as a child of divorced parents who share joint custody. The speaker describes how they are grateful for all of the different things they experienced as a child, reflecting from a more grown up perspective.
Provide engaging background information by playing an excerpt from the podcast “Episode 747: Our Holiday Special with Von Diaz, Vallery Lomas, and Ada Limón” in the Related Media tab. After students listen to the poet discuss her poem, “Ask students to share what they learned about Ada’s reasons for writing the poem. Then, ask students how hearing the poem read aloud changes their understanding or feelings about the poem.”
Looking for more engaging texts with meaningful themes for your elementary classroom? Check out our Theme Sets for more powerful stories, poems and informational texts grouped by theme, or come to one of our upcoming webinars!
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