Nailed It: Thanksgiving Turkey Lesson Plan on Following Directions

Have you ever seen Pinterest fails? You know, like the super cute cupcake decorating ideas that look easy enough, but end up looking positively nightmarish?

Image shows comparison between Pinterestst cookie monster cupcakes and failed version

Well, there’s a lesson for that! This Thanksgiving-themed lesson on following directions can work for pretty much any grade level — you just might have to modify the directions a little bit depending on your age group. It’s a great lesson on listening closely, following directions, and even perspective or considering the audience. Ultimately, and perhaps most importantly, it’s a great lesson in learning to laugh at ourselves, as you’ll likely end up with a whole classful of Pinterest fails. (Newsflash: Did you know that Every Teacher Every Day is on Pinterest? No fails here!)


Just to forewarn you: this one gets messy, and it does involve a good bit of sugar. You might want to save it for the end of your day or before a break such as recess or P.E. Ask parents for supply donations ahead of time so that you don’t have to use your own hard-earned cash. Or, if you don’t feel up to the mess/ensuing sugar rush, you could really modify any Thanksgiving-themed craft for this activity, like the paper turkey picture below. You’ll just have to change up the directions to achieve the goal.

paper turkey craft on blue background

You’ll start by giving each student just enough materials for what they’ll need. Plus, they each need a privacy shield so that nobody else can see what they are doing. Then, you’ll read the directions, repeating each step only once and never going back. Tell students to do the best they can and to just have fun with it. 


The kicker is that you will NOT be telling them what they are creating; don’t let on to what the final outcome should be, or they will anticipate the steps. (Here’s where the lesson on perspective comes into play; as a few students may figure out what it’s supposed to be, their final product may end up looking more recognizable than others.) So the main rule is that students should work without talking unless they need clarity from you (i.e. What is a malted milk ball?). No guessing out loud, no comparing what they’ve done with their peers. They are welcome, of course, to giggle at the mess that starts building on their plates.


In the end, what they should create is a cute, edible little Thanksgiving turkey, like this:

Turkeys made from candy

What they usually end up with is, well, some kind of unrecognizable conglomeration of sticky goodness. Still edible, of course.


Materials (per student):

1 plate, 1 paper towel (and maybe some hand wipes)

1 plastic spoon

2 Double Stuffed chocolate & cream cookies

5 pieces of candy corn

1 miniature peanut butter cup*

1 malted milk ball

1 heaping spoonful of chocolate frosting

1 privacy shield 

*For your peanut-free students (or if you have a peanut-free classroom), a caramel & chocolate candy or some other similarly-shaped candy would work well as a replacement.


Directions (modified from this recipe to be purposely vaguer and to remove wording that would give it away):

  1. Don’t eat any of your supplies or you won’t have enough to complete your masterpiece!
  2. Place one chocolate cookie flat on your plate. Put a small dab of chocolate frosting on top.
  3. Place the peanut butter cup on its side so that the top and bottom are perpendicular to the base — and stuck in the frosting. Place a dab of chocolate frosting on the top of the peanut butter cup.
  4. With the second cookie, stick four pieces of candy corn into the chocolate cookie “stuff” along one edge, pointy side down, going about halfway around. If you have trouble doing this, you can help them stick with some frosting.
  5. Put a dab of frosting on the back of the peanut butter cup. Place your second chocolate cookie on its edge so that it’s sticking to the peanut butter cup. 
  6. Place a dab of chocolate frosting on top of the peanut butter cup. Place the malted milk ball on top.
  7. Pinch off the small pointy top of your last piece of candy corn and dip it into the brown frosting. Place it on the front of the malted milk ball.
  8. Break the remnants of your last piece of candy corn into two equal parts lengthwise. Dip the tip of each into frosting and “glue” them side by side at the base of the peanut butter cup.

Did you give this a try? We’d love to see the result! Share your pictures of the fun on Twitter (@KidsInNeed) or Instagram (@EveryTeacherEveryDay)!

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