Using Digital Images to Engage Students about Thanksgiving

Using Digital Images to Engage Students about Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving hasn’t changed much over the years, but the way we can teach it has changed—thanks to technology. If you are looking to try something new in class this month, visit an online resource to find Thanksgiving photos and build some activities around them. Students will develop visual literacy skills while learning how to evaluate online resources along the way.

Using Images As Beginnings

Get the conversation about a subject started with an image activity—it’s a good way to assess what students already know, what they are thinking, and how accurate is it. Or, build on what you’ve been teaching in class by using images as a review—do my students understand the topic, or do we need to talk some more about this?

These activities below work well with any age or audience, since students can respond orally or in writing.

  1. The “Attention Getter.” Looking for a way to get everyone’s attention, hear what they know about a subject, and have some fun? Find a silly picture to get class started, like this one of lemurs having Thanksgiving at the San Francisco Zoo.
  2. Fill-in-the-Blank. Show an image and ask, “What do you know about ____________________?” (Thanksgiving, Pilgrims, Indians, harvest, etc.)
  3. Writing Prompts or Story Starters.
  • Fiction writing prompt: Write a story about a Thanksgiving image.  
  • Fiction writing prompt: Write a story about an image using facts that you know about Thanksgiving.
  • Nonfiction writing prompt: What is the significance of Thanksgiving?
  • Nonfiction writing prompt: Distribute photos of the many difference aspects of Thanksgiving—from family and travel to history and geography—and have the students explain what is happening.
Students’ choice

The above activities used images selected by the teacher, but you can also start an activity by letting the students search and choose their own images so they can work on developing research skills and thinking strategically about images. With ImageQuest, students have a safe, curated, and educationally relevant site to search on their own.

  • Choose an image that describes the feelings of the Pilgrims or the Indians at the first Thanksgiving.
  • Choose three images that describe what you will do over Thanksgiving break.
  • Choose an image that represents one important thing you learned have learned about Thanksgiving and then describe what you learned in writing.
  • Select one image that best describes Thanksgiving for you.

For a more in-depth look at using digital images in the classroom, watch this recording of our recent webinar, Picture This: Engaging Students with Online Images. Go to, our Ignite Digital Learning community, and look in the Webinar Archives section.

You can also read our recent white paper, Building Informational Text Comprehension Through Visual Literacy.

I wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving!


About The Author

Sara Torpey

Curriculum Spct.

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