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Setting the Table for Thanksgiving
by Sheila Kearney
I spend the last class before Thanksgiving talking about gratitude and focusing on God's great goodness.
I spend the last class before Thanksgiving talking about gratitude and focusing on God’s great goodness. I want to be sure that the children (third-graders) do not take for granted any of the blessings in their lives when they gather with their families for Thanksgiving.

I staple to the bulletin board several large strips of brown wrapping paper to create a square “table.” Then I give each of the children a piece of construction paper to serve as a “placemat” (I let each pick a color) and a dessert-size white paper plate. On a supply table, I put scissors, glue, crayons, markers, and stacks of old magazines and catalogues.

I have the children cut from the magazines and catalogues images that represent what they are thankful for: food items; clothing; people, especially in actions that symbolize various kinds of relationships; images of nature; even things like automobiles, household appliances, furniture, and gadgets. I have the children glue whatever items they want to the paper plates. I tell the children they also (or instead) can draw on the paper plates pictures of what they are thankful for or they can write words such as “my mom and dad,” “my cousin Kelly,” “my dog.” I tell them to fill the plate to the brim.

Then I have the children decorate their placemats. I have them draw a fork, a knife, a spoon, and a napkin at the edges of their placemats.

Then we “set the table.” We gather around the table on the bulletin board and the children tape their placemats all around the edges, creating the image of a table being set, ready for the family to sit down and eat. Then the children tape their plates of gratitude to their placemats. In the middle of the table, I have them draw large platters and bowls of food, perhaps a floral centerpiece, and anything else they want to put on their Thanksgiving table.

In closing, I say, “Lord, we are grateful for all the things you give us.” Then I call each child’s name and he or she goes to her plate and explains what’s on it.

I think this sends the children into the Thanksgiving holiday with a greater awareness of how incredibly blessed they are. They will remember this activity on Thanksgiving Day when they gather with their families and friends around a table laden with God’s goodness.

Sheila Kearney has nearly 30 years of experience teaching in Catholic schools. She currently teaches pre-K at St. Raphael’s Catholic School in Crystal, MN.

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