Horrible Harry and the Christmas Surprise Discussion Guide
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2
About this book
About the Book
Horrible Harry, Doug, and all the kids in Room 2B are very excited about the approaching winter holidays. They have lots of fun celebrations planned, like a class play and a party with refreshments. During story time, Miss Mackle treats her students to a reading of the classic holiday story, The Night Before Christmas. But as she is reading the story, her special old reading chair collapses and she hurts her knee. Now the kids' beloved Miss Mackle is in the hospital instead of enjoying all of the fun in Room 2B. But things aren't as bad as they seem. Mr. Cardini, the principal, helps out the class by taking over Miss Mackle's role of Mother Goose in the class play! Horrible Harry creates the perfect Christmas gift for Miss Mackle. And even though the kids are too young to visit Miss Mackle in the hospital, they gather outside of her hospital window and serenade her with a special version of Jingle Bells.
Before Reading the Book
Horrible Harry and the Christmas Surprise takes place during the holiday season, when school is full of fun things to do to celebrate before vacation starts. Ask your students what they like best about this time of year, and what they like to do to celebrate. You could even use this time to make some special holiday plans with your class: a class party, an afternoon of singing carols, making cards and decorations, or maybe even trimming a small tree!
Since the story ends with a very special gift from Horrible Harry to Miss Mackle, you might discuss gift-giving. Rather than asking students what they want, you might ask them what the best gift they ever gave to someone was, or what the perfect gift to give to someone would be. You could also discuss great gifts that cost little or nothing to inspire them, like a special drawing or poem you made yourself, or a book of homemade coupons promising things like "a room cleaning session" or "being extra nice to my little brother."
'Tis the Season...
As December approaches, your students are sure to get excited about the holidays, just like Room 2B. Celebrate all three December holidays (Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa) with fun activities for your students to enjoy, and ways to learn more about the holidays they love so well.
Your students can deck the halls in your own classroom by creating all sorts of decorations. Since light is a symbol of all three holidays (the Christmas star, the Hanukkah menorah, and the Kwanzaa kinara), let your students use glitter or foil paper to create beautiful paper versions of these sparkly symbols to hang on the walls or from your ceiling. You could also create a big holiday mural on long sheets of paper to hang up in your classroom. The mural could reflect all sorts of traditional holiday images, like snow, candy canes, Santa, gifts, dreidels, decorated trees, even Santa. (And if you study holiday traditions around the world, as described below, your mural could reflect these as well).
Song Lee, a favorite classmate of Horrible Harry, shares her Korean Christmas customs with the class. There are interesting Christmas customs all over the world. Divide your students into groups, and assign each group a different country. The groups can use classroom resources, the school library, or even the internet to investigate their country's Christmas traditions. Some specific things you can ask them to look for in their country are:
- What is their name for Santa Claus? Are there any other figures who accompany him?
- What types of traditional holiday foods do they enjoy?
- On what day do they celebrate Christmas? Are there any additional days of celebrating?
- In addition to Christmas, are there any other holidays that they celebrate?
- What are their Christmas traditions or customs?
They are certain to find all sorts of interesting information. A few examples of international holiday traditions are:
- In Germany, children leave a shoe out for St. Nicolas on December 6. If they are good, it is filled with candy; if they are bad, it is filled with twigs!
- In Mexico, the main Christmas celebration is called Las Posadas, and it begins nine days before Christmas Day. People journey from house to house and enjoy many celebrations.
- In Russia, an old lady named Babouschka delivers gifts, rather than Santa.
- In Japan, trees are decorated with origami cranes, symbols of peace. Santa's name is "Santa Kurohsu," and Japanese children believe he has eyes in the back of his head (to see if you've been good or not!)
Once your students have gathered enough information, have each group give a brief report to the class. You could also ask each group to create a big drawing on poster board that illustrates the ways their country celebrates the holidays. And you may even decide to celebrate with an international holiday party, complete with traditional food from the countries they have studied (like kuchen from Germany, a yule log cake from France, and tamales from Mexico).
I'm So Sorry
When Horrible Harry gets out of control and kisses Song Lee on the cheek, Mr. Cardini has him write a letter of apology to her. First, take a look at Harry's note (on pages 33 and 34) and discuss why it is a good letter of apology (Harry understood what he did wrong and why, he apologizes for the specific behavior, and says very nice things to Song Lee). Then ask your class to brainstorm out loud and come up with some examples of situations where an apology note would be appropriate. You may even want to establish a classroom rule where certain situations require a letter of apology be written.
Miss Mackle's Room 2B is excited to perform their Mother Goose play in front of the school. Why not write your own class play based on Horrible Harry and the Christmas Suprise?! You could create a script by extracting paragraphs for a few narrators to read, and lines for individual students to read. Parts would include Miss Mackle, Mr. Cardini, Horrible Harry, Doug, Sidney, Song Lee, Mary, Ida, as well as other classmates, and several narrators. The play could contain the following scenes:
- Scene 1: Story time where Miss Mackle's chair breaks.
- Scene 2: They learn from Mr. Cardini that Miss Mackle is in the hospital, and they all feel sad.
- Scene 3: Mr. Cardini cheers them up by promising to take part in their play, and telling them that Miss Mackle would have wanted them to have their fun.
- Scene 4: They come up with an idea to serenade her with Jingle Bells but with words that Mary has made up. Harry says he is going to get her a gift.
- Scene 5: Harry tells everyone that his gift for Miss Mackle has ants and spiders on it. Mary, Ida, and Sidney plot to steal the gift.
- Scene 6: Outside the hospital. When they all learn what Harry's gift is (the new reading chair), they agree that it is a great gift. They all sing their carol to Miss Mackle outside her room.
In addition to having them play roles, you can introduce your students to as many of the major aspects of the theater as you feel comfortable explaining: set design, lighting, props, costumes, actors, musicians, and the director. They can help create sets for Miss Mackle's classroom and the snowy exterior of a hospital, help create costumes (the kids will wear normal clothes when in class but will need snow clothes for the last scene, and Mr. Cardini and Miss Mackle will need "adult" clothes), and practice their grand, musical finale, maybe with some jingle bell or piano accompaniment. Your class could perform this play as part of a holiday concert, a Parent Night, or during the school day for other classes to enjoy.