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National Turkey Off
To Disneyland



Arts & Humanities
--Language Arts
--Visual Arts
Social Studies
--Current Events
----U.S. History


Grades 2-up

News Content

What happens to the National Thanksgiving Turkey after the president gives it a pardon?

Anticipation Guide

Before reading, ask students to share some of their familys special holiday traditions. Do any of the students families have Thanksgiving holiday traditions?

News Words

Next, introduce these words that appear in the News Word Box on the students printable page: pardon, retired, tradition, appeared, contact, and suggested. Discuss the meanings of any of those words that might be unfamiliar. Then ask students to use one of those words to complete each of these sentences:

  • The suspected bank robber pleaded not guilty" when he _____ before the judge. (appeared)
  • I havent had time to clean up," Maryann told her visitor, so please _____ the appearance of my home." (pardon)
  • When the electricity went out at dinnertime, Dad _____ we drive into town to see if any restaurants were open. (suggested)
  • After Sams uncle moved to China, the two had very little _____. (contact)
  • When its racing days were over, the racehorse was _____ to a farm in the country. (retired)
  • In our family, it is a _____ to open one gift the night before the holiday. (tradition)

    Read the News

    Click for a printable version of this weeks news story National Turkey Off to Disneyland.

    You might use a variety of approaches to reading the news:

    Read aloud the news story to students as they follow along.

    Students might first read the news story to themselves; then you might call on individual students to read sections of the news aloud for the class.

    Photocopy the news story onto a transparency and project it onto a screen. (Or use your classroom computer's projector to project the story.) Read the story aloud as a class, or ask students to take turns reading it.

    Arrange students into small groups. Each student in the group will read a paragraph of the story. As that student reads, others might underline important information or write notes in the margin of the story. After each student finishes reading, others in the group might say something -- a comment, a question, a clarification -- about the text.

    More Facts to Share

    Note: At the time this News for Kids teachers guide was written, it was unclear if people would be able to vote online for the names of this years National Thanksgiving Turkey and its alternate. You might check the White House Web site to see if the National Thanksgiving Turkey page has been updated to reflect news of the 2008 turkey.

    You might share these additional facts with students after they have read this weeks news story.

  • Each year, one special turkey appears at the White House with the President of the United States. It is tradition that the president pardons that lucky bird, saving him from a place on someones Thanksgiving table. The turkey is provided to the president by the National Turkey Federation and the Poultry and Egg National Board.
  • Pardoned turkeys were first whisked away to Disneyland in 2005. That year, the National Thanksgiving Turkey and its alternate -- named Marshmallow and Yam -- were pardoned by President Bush.
  • In 2007, the national bird and alternate were named May and Flower. After the White House events, the birds were whisked via United Airlines -- aboard Turkey One" -- to Disney World. Previous national turkeys were
    2006 Flyer and Fryer
    2005 Marshmallow and Yam
    2004 Biscuits and Gravy
    2003 Stars and Stripes
    2002 Katie (alternates name unknown)
    2001 Freedom and Liberty
  • When May and Flower arrived at Disney World last year, they were immediately put on a conditioning program, according to Matt Hohne, the parks animal operations director. They arrived very heavy," Hohne told the Associated Press. It's bad for a turkeys feet to constantly support extra pounds." Once their weight is down, their activity levels will be up, Hohne added.
  • Overweight turkeys are common among those bred in captivity for Thanksgiving feasts. Turkeys raised on farms for dinner tables are selectively bred to grow fast and get bigger. Turkeys in the wild do not have weight problems.
  • There seems to be some confusion about who was the first president to pardon a turkey. Some say Lincoln was; but Lincolns pardon of a turkey kept as a pet was the result of a request from his son, Tad, not an official act. Another story claims that Harry Truman pardoned the turkey given to him in 1947, but the Truman Library has been unable to find any evidence of that. The claim might have originated with the fact that Truman and his family chose not to feast on the National Thanksgiving Turkey. President George H.W. Bush was the first to grant an official pardon to the national turkey.

    Comprehension Check

    Follow up you conversation about holiday traditions (from Before You Read) by talking about the tradition that is the subject of this weeks News for Kids article.

    Ask the following questions after students have read the story.
    Recalling Detail

  • Why does the president use his powers to pardon" the National Thanksgiving Turkey? (Accept any reasoned response, for example, he wants to spare the turkey from being served as Thanksgiving dinner)
  • For how many years has pardoning the national turkey been a presidential tradition? (for the past 19 years; this year [2008] will be the 20th year)
  • Where will this years National Thanksgiving Turkey go after it is pardoned by the president? (to Disneyland)
  • Why, do you think, does the National Thanksgiving Turkey, have a standby? (Accept any reasoned response, for example, if anything was to happen to the main bird the standby would be used instead)
  • When did the tradition of pardoning the National Thanksgiving Turkey begin? (in 1989, when President George H.W. Bush [the first President Bush] was in the White House)
  • How is the National Thanksgiving Turkey treated differently from other turkeys before it is presented to the president? (It receives special care. It has lots of human contact so it is prepared to handle all the commotion it will face when it is presented to the president.)

    Think About the News
    Discuss the Think About the News question that appears on the students news page. You might use the think-pair-share strategy with students to discuss this question. If you use this strategy

  • First, arrange students into pairs to discuss and list responses to the question.
  • Then merge two pairs of students together to create groups of four students. Have them discuss and add to the ideas they generated in their pairs.
  • Next, merge two groups of four students to form groups of eight students. Have students create a new combined list of ideas.
  • Finally, bring all students together for a class discussion about the best names for this years pair of turkeys.

    Follow-Up Activities

    History timelines. Create a Turkey Timeline" on a bulletin board. Print out the photos in the Annual Pardoning of the Thanksgiving Turkey Photo Archive and have students position the photos in the correct spots on the timeline. Challenge students to identify the presidents who appear in each of the pictures. Which presidents pictures are missing from the timeline?

    Art make a turkey puppet. Follow these instructions to make a turkey puppet. Alternative art project: Hands-and-Feet Turkey.

    Language arts Readers Theater. As the holiday season approaches, Trevor Turkey makes a shocking proposal. He calls for a new law that would take turkey off the Thanksgiving menu -- and put an end to a beloved (by almost all!) national tradition. Click for this Readers Theater script, A Turkey Takes a Stand.

    More Lessons. See these additional lesson plans from the Education World archive:

  • Thanksgiving Placemats: A Community Service Project
  • Thanksgiving Feast: Read a Chart
  • Putting Turkey on a Table (or a Graph)
  • Still More Turkey Lesson Ideas


    Use the Comprehension Check (above) as an assessment. Or have students work on their own (in their journals) or in their small groups to respond to the Think About the News questions on the news story page or in the Comprehension Check section.

    Lesson Plan Source

    Education World

    National Standards

    FINE ARTS: Theatre
    GRADES K - 4
    NA-T.K-4.2 Acting By Assuming Roles and Interacting In Improvisations
    GRADES 5 - 8
    NA-T.5-8.2 Acting By Assuming Roles and Interacting In Improvisations
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NA-T.9-12.2 Acting By Assuming Roles and Interacting In Improvisations

    FINE ARTS: Visual Arts
    GRADES K - 4
    NA-VA.K-4.1 Understanding and Applying Media, Techniques, and Processes
    NA-VA.K-4.6 Making Connections Between Visual Arts and Other Disciplines
    GRADES 5 - 8
    NA-VA.5-8.1 Understanding and Applying Media, Techniques, and Processes
    NA-VA.5-8.6 Making Connections Between Visual Arts and Other Disciplines
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NA-VA.9-12.1 Understanding and Applying Media, Techniques, and Processes
    NA-VA.9-12.6 Making Connections Between Visual Arts and Other Disciplines

    LANGUAGE ARTS: English
    GRADES K - 12
    NL-ENG.K-12.2 Reading for Understanding
    NL-ENG.K-12.12 Applying Language Skills

    GRADES K - 4
    NSS-USH.K-4.3 The History of the United States: Democratic Principles and Values and the People from Many Cultures Who Contributed to Its Cultural, Economic, and Political Heritage
    GRADES 5 - 12
    NSS-USH.5-12.9 Era 9: Postwar United States (1945 to early 1970s)
    NSS-USH.5-12.10 Era 10: Contemporary United States (1968 to the Present)

    See recent news stories in Education Worlds News Story of the Week Archive.

    Article by Ellen Delisio and Gary Hopkins
    Education World®
    Copyright © 2008 Education World