Don't Eat Me For Thanksgiving Dinner - A Writing Lesson Plan November 18 2009

"Don't Eat Me For Thanksgiving!" is a persuasive writing exercise in which students write from the point of view of a turkey or pig, depending upon their preference. The point is to persuade a family not to eat them - whether they are pretending to be a turkey or pig - for Thanksgiving dinner. This is a fun, high-interest writing exercise, and the focus is helping students construct paragraphs, organize and support reasons, and craft opening and closing sentences.

If you have younger kids, this might work better as a whole-class exercise, using sentence strips and a pocket chart. Small groups of students can come up with and write down reasons on the sentence strips, and you can model how to put those reasons together in a cohesive paragraph. Another mini-lesson idea with this format is to teach about opening and closing sentences.

But first, it will help your students to first brainstorm reasons why we should eat Turkey - or Pig - for Thanksgiving dinner.

The Reasons

Kids will automatically choose a side and proceed to debate during the part of the lesson where they share reasons for the T-Chart. List reasons on what board or chart paper, and you can use this Turkeys vs. Pigs Don't Eat Me For Thanksgiving T-Chart with your students or on the overhead. 

Depending on the age of your kids, you can decide how sophisticated you want the persuasive arguments to be. There are two basic types of arguments, regardless of turkey or pig persuasion: why not to eat me as turkey or pig, and reasons to eat the other guy for Thanksgiving dinner. As you and the students fill out the T-Chart, you can direct students in grouping these two types of arguments together.

Some reasons you might hear on the Turkey side: Pigs have more meat/fat and make a bigger meal, pigs taste better, pigs are easier to catch and turkeys can fly away, turkeys can peck, turkeys may carry disease, etc.

Some reasons you might hear on the Pig side: Pigs eat slop and lay around in mud, so why do you want to eat one?, turkey meat is healthier than pig meat, pigs are slippery and harder to catch than turkeys, pigs are intelligent and cute, etc.

The Transitions

The easiest way to organize a persuasive paragraph - or series of paragraphs - is the opening sentence, first reason, second reason, third reason, closing sentence.

In order to transition from one reason - or paragraph - to another, students are going to have to have some idea of these transitional words. Some of these transitional words are first, second, third, next, then, also, last, and finally. If you're working with younger kids and using this as a whole-group lesson with a pocket chart, you can put in the transition words using sentence strips, modeling how they work.

The Paragraph, or Sequence of Paragraphs 

Before letting kids loose with paragraph writing, I like to hear examples of opening sentences. With each person who shares, I point out what I like and use any weakness as an example. For example, one of the opening sentences in my class was, "There are many reasons not to eat me." My questions was, "For what?" Then the student decided to change the sentence to, "There are many reasons not to eat me for Thanksgiving dinner."

After sharing several opening sentences, I set up the paragraph construction:

  1. Opening Sentence
  2. First Reason - with 2 to 3 sentences for support
  3. Second Reason - with 2 to 3 sentences for support
  4. Third Reason - with 2 to 3 sentences for support
  5. Closing Sentence

Then they are free to write their arguments in rough draft form. After the rough draft, I use this piece to teach minilessons on revision, editing and writing a final draft. Then I use the finished piece for assessment, and make sure parents get to see it...they love it!

Want to have some fun singing about turkeys running away? Here are some Turkey Poems and Songs!