I have to admit, I am one of the crazy teachers who love teaching during the holidays. Yes, students are high strung, but to me that’s part of the fun! One thing I like to do during the holidays (and mostly throughout the year) is teach thematically. There are so many venues you could use during this time of year. I read these stories after our Morning Meeting, which allows for a great transition into our Literacy block.
Week 1: Gingerbread Stories
I like to start off the holiday season with something fun, and better way than to use the Gingerbread Man! This week, we will read the following books:
The Gingerbread Man by Jim Aylesworth, Gingerbread Girl by Lisa Campbell Ernst, Gingerbread Friends by Jan Brett, Gingerbread Boy by Richard Egilski, and Gingerbread Cowboy by Janet Squires. I always start with the Gingerbread Man, since most students are familiar with this story. Then every day after that, I read a different Gingerbread story. At the beginning of the week, I make an anchor chart of a tree map and we add to the map after reading each story. For example, after reading the Gingerbread Girl, we will add the characters, setting, and the main event in the story to our chart.
In our writing time each day we do an activity with the story that we read during Morning Meeting. For example, we will use a double bubble map to compare and contrast the Gingerbread Man and the Gingerbread Girl. It is important to build connections with the text so that students see how concepts are related to one another.
Week 2: Christmas Around the World
All of my students celebrate Christmas in some way. I use the book Christmas Around the World by Mary Lankford to teach students about Christmas in other countries. I like this book because it includes several countries within one source. This year, I am focusing on the traditions in Australia, Germany, Mexico, and Sweden. During our Morning Meeting, I will read the text for the country we are discussing and create a circle map to describe that country’s tradition. Then, during writing we will write an informational piece about that country. I keep these together in a book so that students can share other traditions with their family. At the end of the week, I will read The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg and discuss Christmas traditions in the United States. Students usually have some background knowledge about the book from watching the movie, but it’s rewarding to let the children experience the story in a new atmosphere.
Week 3: Winter Holidays
I use this festive time to teach about other winter holidays that people may celebrate. I have several Hispanic students in my classroom, so I always try to incorporate their traditions as a part of my teaching. Two traditions that are celebrated in the Hispanic community are Las Posadas and Tres Reyes. I used the story The Night of Las Posadas by Tomie de Paola to tell students about a family trying to find a place for the birth of their son. (Although this is a religious celebration, I do not portray this in my lessons.) We also discuss the Tres Reyes, which is commonly called Three Kings Day. (Again, this is a religious holiday, but I focus more on the concept of giving to those in need.) I share the story Celebrate Christmas and Tres Reyes with Pablo and Carlitos by Alma Ada and Isabel Campoy with students. I also talk about a couple of other holidays: Kwanzaa and Hanukkah. I share the story Together for Kwanzaa by Juwanda G. Ford to discuss Kwanzaa and Light The Lights by Margaret Moorman to discuss Hanukkah.
Week 4: Snowy Days
During this week, I will focus on a winter theme by reading Frosty the Snowman by Mary Man-Kong. We will have discussions about winter, snow, and outdoor activities associated with winter. This is a short week for my district (only 3 days), so this just scratches the surface for our discussions once students return from Winter Break.
What are your favorite read alouds for December? Do you incorporate other cultures in your read alouds?