Celebrate Hanukkah in Israel!
Children learn the history of the holiday, then create a dreidel and play the game.
- Grades: PreK–K
- Unit Plan:
Hanukkah is celebrated by Jewish people living all over the world. Important features of the "Festival of Lights" are the menorah, the game of dreidel, and food, such as latkes and jelly doughnuts. In this lesson, children will learn about the celebration, make a dreidel, and play the game. This lesson helps children understand how different people might celebrate the holidays during the same time as they do, but in a different way.
- Develop an understanding of how Jewish people all over the world celebrate.
- Identify Israel on a world map.
- Identify 4 Hebrew symbols and their meaning.
- Listen to the story of Hanukkah.
- Make a dreidel.
- Learn the rules to the game of dreidel.
- Learn the song "I Have A Little Dreidel."
- Identify a cube.
- Count using pennies.
- World map
- Menorah or picture of a menorah
- Dreidel or a picture of a dreidel
- Blue paint
- Paintbrush for each student
- Painting smocks
- Small milk or juice cartons or square boxes
- Newspapers to cover tables
- Hanukkah Dreidel (PDF)
- Hanukkah Dreidel Game & Song Dreidel (PDF)
- Dreidel Symbols Chart
- Dreidel Song Chart
Set Up and Prepare
- Prepare a teacher-made dreidel using the Hanukkah Dreidel Symbols printable.
- Make a chart of dreidel symbols.
- Copy the Hanukkah Dreidel Symbols strip for each student (You will find multiple strips on the printable).
- Print one copy of the Hanukkah Dreidel Game & Song printable. Make a chart of the dreidel song from the printable. If you wish to have each student take home a copy of the Dreidel game instructions and song, make a copy for each as well.
- Paintbrushes and cups with blue paint for each child.
- Prior to Day 3, punch holes in the milk cartons/boxes with a nail (smaller than the pencil circumference) in the top and bottom of the box, in the center of the square panels after they are painted.
- Gather enough pennies for students to play Dreidel (15 per player).
- Cover tables with newspaper prior to painting.
Step 1: Gather the children together and show them the world map. Point out the country of Israel. Ask for volunteers to recall how people in Mexico celebrate Christmas. Tell the students that today they will learn how another group of people celebrate the holidays. Share that a long time ago, over two thousand years, the Jewish people there fought against an army to take back their Temple, or house of worship. They cleaned and fixed the Temple and polished the lamp of the Eternal Light. The flame had been put out by the army. Only enough olive oil could be found to light the lamp for one day. A miracle happened and the lamp stayed lit for eight days!
Step 2: Show the children a menorah or a picture of a menorah. Today Jewish people all over the world celebrate the miracle as Hanukkah, the "Festival of Lights." They do not celebrate for just one night! They celebrate for eight nights. On each night, they light a candle in a special lamp of eight candles, called a menorah, to remember the miracle.
Step 3: Show the children a dreidel or a picture of a dreidel. Ask them to notice the letters. Are they the same letters we use? Share with the students that during Hanukkah, friends and family gather and eat traditional foods such as latkes, applesauce, or jelly-filled doughnuts. Latkes are fried potato pancakes. Children sometimes exchange gifts and receive "Hanukkah gelt," or coins. They also play a game called "dreidel," a spinning top with four flat sides.
Step 1: Lay out newspaper to protect the tables. Distribute the boxes, paint and brushes to children. Tell them that blue is a traditional color used in Hanukkah decorations. Ask children to identify the shape of the box (cube). Have them count the sides. Have children paint their boxes.
Step 1: Distribute the pre-punched (in the top and bottom) painted boxes, scissors, and the Dreidel Symbols printable. Tell the children that the letters on the paper are from another language, Hebrew. They represent Hebrew words that tell us what to do when we play the game, Dreidel. Have children cut out the symbols and glue a symbol onto the four sides of the box that do not have a hole.
Step 2: Teach the children the song, "I Have A Little Dreidel" using the words on the pre-made chart from the Dreidel Game & Song printable. The tune is available on several searchable websites.
Step 1: Show the children the chart of dreidel symbols you have pre-made from the printable. Demonstrate how to play the game with three children, plus yourself (four players in all).
- Give each player 15 pennies.
- Each player puts two of her objects into the center "pot".
- Give each player a turn to spin the dreidel (like a top). The letter that is facing up when the dreidel stops tells what the player must do:
Nun: do nothing
Gimel: take all objects from the pot
Hay: take half the pot
Shin: put one object in the pot
- Throughout the game, count how many pennies you have.
Step 2: Demonstrate how to push the pencil through the hole at the top of the box so that approximately one inch is sticking out the bottom hole. Show the students how to spin the dreidel like a top by holding the top of the pencil and spinning it on a flat surface. The tip of the pencil will make contact with the flat surface.
Step 3: Divide children into groups of four. Distribute the boxes and a pencil to the children. You may want to have paper underneath to protect the table tops. Allow children to play.
Supporting All Learners
Some children may need assistance with following the rules of the game and counting pennies.
Tell the children that on Hanukkah, Jewish people eat latkes (potato pancakes) or jelly doughnuts because they are fried and remind them of the miracle of the oil lasting eight days. Make latkes with the class and serve them with apple sauce or serve jelly-filled doughnuts.
Ask children to play the game with their parents. Be sure to send home a copy of the rules.
- Make a dreidel.
- Play the dreidel game.
- Were the children able to paint independently?
- Did the children understand and follow the rules of the game?
- Did the children play cooperatively in their groups?
- Were the children engaged and on task the entire time?
- How might I do this lesson differently next time?
Observe how children follow the rules of the game and count.