The #1 Curriculum and Assessment Partner for Educators

[Free Classroom Resources] Celebrate Winter Holidays with Edmentum!

[Free Classroom Resources] Celebrate Winter Holidays with Edmentum!

When it comes to getting into the holiday spirit, no one does it better than a class full of elementary students. No matter what holidays students might observe, many teachers find their classes grow giddy with excitement during the winter holiday season. As the days draw nearer and nearer to winter break, now is the perfect time to turn your students’ holiday excitement into a teachable moment!  

During the winter, different holidays are celebrated all around the world, with warm family gatherings, festive decorations, special songs and foods, and different cultural traditions. In Edmentum’s Winter Holidays resource packet, you’ll find festive critical thinking questions, fact sheets, activities, and posters that discuss and explore many different winter holidays from around the world and the cultures that celebrate them. Your students will love discovering traditions and festivities that take place during these winter holidays, and they might even learn something new about a holiday they already celebrate!

The holidays are a very special time of year when people come together to celebrate community, family, and tradition. They also mark a special time of year when it may be a little harder than usual to hold your students’ attention while they’re abuzz with holiday excitement. Rather than try to fight the holiday bug in your classroom, embrace it by incorporating some holiday-themed writing activities into your lesson plan. Check out these four fun ELA activities that turn learning about the holidays into a teachable moment for your class:

1. Make reading time more festive

One of the best things about the holiday season is that there are so many wonderful books out there that celebrate different holiday traditions around the world. If you read aloud to you class regularly, consider selecting a book about a cultural holiday (check out this list from Scholastic for ideas!) or a traditional holiday folktale from another country.

If your class is more focused on independent reading, take a trip to the library and ask your students to look for a holiday-themed book they have never read before or one that covers a holiday they don’t celebrate. After your students have had a chance to read their books, you can break them up into groups to discuss what they have learned or have them write a reflection or journal on their favorite thing about the story.

2. Celebrate similarities and differences

At first glance, many holiday traditions from around the world look very different. But, if you take a closer look, you might find they have a lot in common. As a fun writing exercise, have your students pick one holiday they are already familiar with and another they are interested in from a different culture. Before they do any research, have your students write a journal about their holiday experience, and have them predict if their holiday will be similar or different to what they will be researching. Then, have students research their chosen holidays. As they research the meaning and traditions associated with each holiday, have them fill in a Venn diagram to organize the similarities and differences between each holiday.

After your students have filled out their Venn diagram, you can have them write up a quick response or journal entry that discusses their findings. Was their prediction correct? What were they most surprised to learn?

For younger students, you can amend this exercise by preselecting the holidays and filling in a Venn diagram as a class. Then, engage your students in a discussion about your findings.

3. Keep holiday journals

Keeping holiday journals is another wonderful way to channel the excitement of the season into a fun writing exercise for your students. Set aside a few minutes each day for students to write a first-person account of what the holidays are like in their households.

You might have them write about what goes on at their home day to day as they prepare for the holiday, or provide them with prompts such as: What is the process of decorating the house? What special foods are made and eaten during the holidays? What it is like on the morning of that holiday versus during the day or at night? Encourage your students to practice their use of adjectives to describe the smells, sights, sounds, and feelings of the holiday.

4. Get poetic with light

One thing that many holiday celebrations and traditions have in common is that they include some symbolism or special meaning related to light. Ask your students to think about the role that lights plays in holiday celebrations. They might consider a holiday they celebrate at home, one they have just learned about, or even nondenominational ways that light is used during the holiday season.

For example, they might consider the significance of lighting candles in a menorah or Advent wreath or the way that colored lights are used to decorate houses and public places during the holiday season. If you want, you could even hold a class discussion on ways that light plays a role in different holidays. Then, have your students write a poem or journal about what light means to them during the holidays, how it makes them feel, or what significance they believe it has.

For younger students, you could have them write an acrostic using the word “LIGHT” or draw a picture to accompany their poem to illustrate how they see light used during the holidays.

Follow us on social media @edmentum to stay in the loop on giveaways, best practices, free resources, and more! And be sure to browse Edmentum’s Free Resources page for fun, interactive toolkits, downloadables and more.

This blog post was originally published on December 7, 2018, and has been updated.