Turkey Trot (& Reindeer Race!) Stations

Note: If you’re looking for the pre-winter break Reindeer Race, keep reading to see how these materials can easily be adapted for any holiday/upcoming school vacation.

Two years ago, I shared my P.E. department colleagues’ inspired use of stations on the day before we left for Thanksgiving break. Here’s the video, in case you missed it:

Today, I’m adapting their idea to bring some holiday fun to our English/Language Arts classes.

How to host a Turkey Trot Station Rotation in your classroom:

Depending on your campus, you could do this within your classroom with just your students or you could join forces with another English teacher and/or involve other staff members, such as the librarian, principal’s secretary, and custodians.

The Challenge
Students are given one class period to earn a completed turkey. They’ll visit eight stations where they will complete a series of tasks. If each task is completed to the station monitor’s satisfaction, students will earn one piece of their turkey (a marker stroke on their hand). To avoid annoying parents, use washable magic markers. Begin by having students number themselves off, 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8. To prevent clumping, that’s the station number where they begin. As the station tasks are completed, they can hop around to the other seven stations as they wish, working to avoid traffic jams. All eight tasks need to be completed by the end of the period and they’ll need to move quickly to make this happen.

Before class, you’ll need to have the materials for the eight stations prepped and ready to roll. You’ll also need a monitor for each station, a person responsible for checking students’ work and marking their hands. The monitors could include you, other staff members that you’ve made arrangements with ahead of time, student teaching assistants on loan from other teachers, parent volunteers, or student volunteers from your class who will serve as station monitors instead of participating in the race.

At the end of the class period, students’ completed turkey hands will look like this:

Materials needed:
Washable markers (to draw on students’ hands)
This set of free printable station directions/materials (click here!)
Colored printer paper
A small paper bag or manila envelope to be the haiku station’s topic “grab bag”
Eight people to serve as station monitors

I‘ve pulled together 11 possible station ideas, though you need only eight to run the activity. Choose the ones that are the best fit for your classes.

• Name every part of speech in a short sentence. (Note: These sentence slips were designed for my 9th grade students. You may need to create your own sentences if the level is too easy or too difficult for your kids.) Print several copies of sentences that need to be edited, slice them into single-sentence slips, and leave the answer key with your monitor. As a reference tool, I also post half-sheets of my parts of speech posters at the station, but your kids might not need this assistance.

• Write a sincere thank-you note to a teacher or staff member. Leave a completed thank-you note as a sample at the station and provide colored paper half-sheets. The thank-you notes will be reviewed and collected by the station monitor and, later, dropped into teachers’ mailboxes. Have a student volunteer deliver the notes to the teacher mailboxes after you or another trustworthy adult has read over the notes to check for appropriateness.

• Answer a content question. Brainstorm a list of 40 or so content questions from this semester’s work. Leave the list and answer key with the monitor. For my freshmen, the list might include questions such as: name the four parts of an intro. paragraph; name the three parts of a concluding paragraph; name two types of hooks that could launch an essay; explain the difference between tone and mood; correctly define a vocab. word I give and use it in a sentence; name the boy in “Thank You, Ma’am,” a Langston Hughes short story we just finished studying; name three works by Edgar Allan Poe; etc. If the student doesn’t answer correctly, she goes to the back of the line and waits her turn to try again.

• Answer a random trivia question. Your monitor will need access to a smartphone or tablet that’s running a free trivia app, such as Trivia To Go or Knowledge Trainer. If you can’t use an app in class, you’ll want to print a bunch of trivia questions (make sure they’re not too difficult) and answer key for your monitor.

• Answer a Thanksgiving-specific trivia question. Print a question sheet and answer key for your monitor, such as the one here or here. Please note: I haven’t verified the accuracy of these questions. Feel free to compile your own holiday-themed questions via a Google search.

• Pick up three pieces of trash and throw them in a trash can to demonstrate good citizenship; thank our custodians for their hard work to keep our campus looking good. Make sure your custodial staff is agreeable to this and give each custodian a marker of the same color. Instruct them to mark the same spot on each student’s hand who presents three items of trash and gives a sincere thanks.

• Correctly spell a vocabulary or spelling word. Print a list of your vocabulary or spelling words you’ve emphasized this semester. For this station, kids will line up and wait their turn to be given a spelling word by the monitor to correctly spell out loud. If the kid misspells the word, he has to go to the back of the line and wait his turn to try again on a different spelling word. You’ll need a list of at least 40 words.

• Write a haiku on a topic drawn from a grab bag. Supply a list of topics and leave colored paper cut into quarters for students to use as they write their poems. Students need to create a correctly formatted haiku and present it to the monitor. Later, you could turn these into a bulletin board, if you’re feeling ambitious.

• Correctly edit the three errors in a sentence. (Note: These were designed for my 9th grade students. You may need to create your own sentences if the level is too easy or too difficult for your kids. Also, the remaining stations are all marked as “Station #8” because you’ll need only eight stations for students to complete a turkey. No need to set up all 11 stations – just choose your favorite eight and get to it!) Slice up these sentences and leave red pens at the station for editing. Give the answer key to your monitor. If a student misses any of the three edits, he must choose a different slip and try again.

• Correctly complete three analogies. (Note: These were designed for my 9th grade students. You may need to create your own analogies if the level is too easy or too difficult for your kids.) Slice the analogy sheet into strips and leave a key with your monitor. If your students haven’t been introduced to analogies, you may want to present this introductory lecture ahead of time and use the accompanying worksheets for on-going practice. Depending on the level of your students, you may also want to leave a few dictionaries at the station.

• Sing the school fight song to the principal’s secretary or any other agreeable adult (teacher friend on prep? cafeteria worker?) on campus. Obviously, you’ll need to get the permission of the staff member to have a troop of students interrupt his/her work. You may also need to supply students with copies of the song’s lyrics.

Whew! That ought to keep everyone moving for a class period. (Again, all of the printable station materials above are available here.) If you have any early finishers, I’d ask them to write more thank-you notes, even quietly suggesting that they find something kind to say to some of our grouchiest…um…more reserved teachers. Everyone could benefit from a little drop of sugar during the holidays.

If your November calendar doesn’t have room for this activity, you can use most of the same materials in December and host a Reindeer Race before winter break: 

Finally, you also could skip ALL of this noisy chaos and enjoy a quiet day of Micro Fiction (two-sentence storytelling) and/or a 43-minute video-based lesson about making the world a better place. Let’s just have some fun with our kids!

Okay, teacher friends, this list is just a starting spot. What other station ideas would you add to this holiday race? Leave your idea in the “reply” box below.

UPDATE: Here’s a promo video for this post that I just uploaded to YouTube with a quick life update at the end. No new videos until Dec. 2, but I’m still here on the blog if you need anything:

Teach on, everyone.

24 thoughts on “Turkey Trot (& Reindeer Race!) Stations

  1. Jennie L Hanna says:

    I love this idea and I might have to use it next semester – maybe a flower for spring??? But, I already ensured I saved space to have our White Elephant party in December, a fan favorite that students still talk about from my previous year.

  2. I love this idea. I will so be doing this at Christmas. I’ll have to take some time to think about some other station ideas. I’m so glad I “discovered” you.

  3. Feels good to be discovered, Cards Ink. 🙂 Welcome to the party!

  4. Girls just wanna have fun.
    Walking like an Egyptian
    in the Purple Rain.

  5. Diane Bakehouse says:

    I also just checked out the white elephant idea. Wow. I’m going to do both!

  6. Nice one, Crystal! And because it’s Cyndi Lauper, I’ll allow the one-syllable treatment for “wanna.” 😀

  7. Sweet, Diane/Cards Ink! Looks like you’re now set for the pre-Winter Break week. 🙂

  8. Do I get my turkey? 🙂

  9. Well, sweetie, you get only turkey feet for Station #8, but that’s a start. Next time I see you, we can have a marker war and then some of mom’s apple crisp. (Yes, internet, the 80s-music-haiku-poet Crystal is my sister.)

  10. Laura, I love this! I always try to do something a little holiday-themed for my classes, but usually stations within my own room. This is awesome! Thanks for the idea!

  11. So glad you like ’em, Carrie, and will hopefully get some good use out of these stations. Thanks for commenting! 🙂

  12. I love your mission and this lesson is fantastic! Will you be at @NCTE17?
    I hope so!

  13. Thanks, Cindy! Alas, no NCTE for me this year, but I’ll be watching the fun via social media. 😉

  14. Whitney Jones says:

    I love this idea! The links seem to be broken for me, though. Any ideas for a fix?

  15. What is the White Elephant party?

  16. Megan Jones-Schiebel says:

    I’m prepping stations right now for my 8th graders! I’m really looking forward to this for tomorrow – I think it’s going to be great. Thank you for sharing! Have a restful break!

  17. Sarah A Anema says:

    I saw that you had mentioned putting students in place as monitors if we’re unable to find outside help. How would you recommend going about that?

  18. Hey, Sarah, you can just ask for volunteers a few days ahead of time and then meet with those kids during SSR or a quiet time to explain their role. I haven’t ever had to do this, but you could offer extra-credit as a sweetener, too. Have fun! 🙂

  19. Hi: For the stations activity who are the monitors? What is the teacher doing?

  20. Hey, Carol, great question! Each station needs a monitor, the person to run the show and mark students’ hands. You could involve other staff members, such as the librarian, principal’s secretary, and custodians, pull other English teachers into the activity by combining classes for that period, ask for parent volunteers, and/or ask for student volunteers who’d rather wield a marker than participate. I’ve also had other teachers sent their T.A.s over to my room for the period. The main teacher can also run a station, though I always preferred to be the floater/chief problem-solver for the activity. It can get as big or stay as small as you’d like. 🙂

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