How Do You Celebrate?
Students read and discuss Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa customs, then use a graphic organizer to compare and contrast them.
- Grades: 1–2, 3–5
- Unit Plan:
This lesson will introduce the customs of celebrating the Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa holidays. Students will use a graphic organizer to compare the similarities and differences within each holiday celebration. Finally, students will write an informative paragraph about one of these holidays.
- Read and recite facts about customs from the Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa holiday celebrations.
- Compare and contrast these various holiday celebrations using a graphic organizer.
- Write a five-sentence paragraph about one of these holidays.
- I use the following books to introduce various holiday customs. You can also substitute your own.
The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore
Light the Lights!: A Story about Celebrating Hanukkah and Christmas by Margaret Moorman
Seven Candles for Kwanzaa by Andrea Davis Pinkney
- Overlapping Concepts (PDF)
- Large piece of white butcher paper
- Three pieces of chart paper
- Symbols of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa
- Transparency for modeling paragraph writing
- Overhead projector
- Lined paper and pencils for each student
Set Up and Prepare
- Prepare three pieces of chart paper, each entitled with a different holiday: Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa.
- On a large piece of butcher paper, draw a representation of the Overlapping Concepts graphic organizer. Give each circle a holiday label as follows: Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa.
- If needed, research the different holidays on the Internet or from your books. Generate a list of traditional symbols, customs, and other pertinent information to use when comparing the similarities and differences between the holidays.
- Gather some real symbols used for celebrating each holiday that students can handle. Examples include:
Christmas: stocking, ornament, nutcracker, wreath, nativity scene characters
Hanukkah: candle, menorah, jelly doughnut, dreidel
Kwanzaa: black, red, green fabric, candle, mkeka (woven straw mat)
Day 1: Christmas
Step 1: In a whole group setting, introduce the lesson by telling the students that there are many ways to celebrate the winter holidays. Over the next week, they will be learning about three different holidays and the way people celebrate. Share the symbol you chose for the Christmas holiday and ask students which holiday they will be studying today. Most likely they will conclude the correct answer. Pass around the item, allowing each student to handle it. Share with them that today they will learn about the many things people do when they celebrate Christmas. Ask students: How many of you celebrate Christmas at your house? What does your family do year after year during Christmas? Generate a brief discussion.
Step 2: Prior to reading The Night Before Christmas, ask students to look for the different symbols and customs that take place during the story. After the reading, ask them to recall what they learned about Christmas from the story. What were some of the customs that take place? (Santa Claus or St. Nick, reindeer, toys for the children, etc.) Record student answers on the chart paper entitled "Christmas." Continue the discussion by asking students to add Christmas customs that they celebrate at home. Some children may want to include the religious background and the story of the nativity. Include all responses on the chart paper.
Day 2: Hanukkah
Step 1: In a whole group setting, repeat the exercise you did on Day 1, but this time for Hanukkah. Ask students: How many of you celebrate Hanukkah at your house? What does your family do year after year during Hanukkah? Generate a brief discussion.
Step 2: Repeat the process from Day 1, asking students to look for different symbols and customs before the story reading, reading the book, Light the Lights, aloud, and then asking students to recall what they learned from the story. What are some of the customs that take place? (Festival of Lights, candle lighting, eating latkes and jelly doughnuts, dreidel game, gift giving, etc.) Because this story addresses both Christmas and Hanukkah, ask the students to find the similarities between them and why some families celebrate more than one holiday. Record student answers on the "Hanukkah" chart paper. Continue the discussion by asking students to add their own family's Hanukkah customs and/or the holiday's religious background. Include all responses on the chart paper.
Day 3: Kwanzaa
Step 1: In a whole group setting, repeat the exercise from Days 1 and 2, but this time for Kwanzaa. Ask the students: How many of you celebrate Kwanzaa at your house? What does your family do during Kwanzaa? Generate a brief discussion.
Step 2: Repeat the process from Days 1 and 2, asking students to look for different symbols and customs before the story reading, reading the book, Seven Candles for Kwanzaa, aloud, and then asking students to recall what they learned from the story. What are some of the customs that take place? (Celebrating the Seven Principles, candle lighting, using the Kinara, the Kwanzaa colors, using mkekas, etc.) Record student answers on the "Kwanzaa" chart paper. Continue the discussion by asking students to add their own family's Kwanzaa customs. Include all responses on the chart paper. Post all three charts for student reference.
Day 4: Organizing the Information
Step 1: Share with students that today they will compare all the information they learned about Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa and organize the facts into a graphic organizer. Show the students the model diagram and explain that this Overlapping Concepts organizer is helpful for comparing ideas and objects. Demonstrate that each circle represents a holiday and explain the significance of each section of the diagram. Two holidays can have similarities, all three holidays can have similarities, and each holiday can have an exclusive custom not shared by the others.
Step 2: Review each holiday chart and discuss where each fact should go on the Overlapping Concepts diagram. Ask the following questions: Does another holiday use this symbol or celebrate in this way? How is it the same? How is it different? Continue until complete. See the following list for an example of how I complete the organizer with my students. The starred items have similarities with one or both of the other holidays.
|* Many religious aspects||* Many religious aspects||Not tied to religion|
|* Church attendance||* Temple attendance||* Candles|
|* Shopping for gifts||* Shopping for gifts||Seven principles|
|* Gift-giving||* Gift-giving||Occurs at the end of December|
|Tree||Festival of lights||* Gift-giving|
|Santa Claus, St. Nick||* Candles||* Lighting the Kinara every day|
|Reindeer||* Lighting the Menorah every night||* Lasts 7 days|
|Stocking||* Lasts 8 days (similar to Kwanzaa)||Mkeka (woven mats)|
|Cookies for Santa||Occurs during the winter months||Mazao (unity cup)|
|* Family gathering||* Latkes and jelly doughnuts (food)||* Black, red, and green colors|
|Gingerbread houses||Dreidel game||Kwanzaa means first fruits|
|* Home decorations||Blue, white, and silver colors||Original meaning: Celebrate family, community, and culture|
|Christmas Eve||Hanukkah means dedication|
|* School and church programs||Symbolism of miracles|
|* Movies and TV shows||Original meaning: Celebrate the victory of the Maccabees|
|* Holiday music|
|* Holiday food|
|* Red and green colors (Kwanzaa)|
|Occurs December 25|
|Original Meaning: Celebrate the birth of Christ|
Day 5: Paragraph Writing
Model each step of this paragraph writing activity using the blank transparency and overhead projector.
Step 1: Share with the students that they will be writing about one of the holidays they studied. Ask them to recall any information about the holidays you discussed and which one was the most interesting to them. Ask them to decide which holiday they would like to write about. Encourage students to choose a holiday they do not normally celebrate.
Step 2: Tell students that they will be writing five sentences to complete their paragraph. Write each sentence to form a paragraph. Discuss the criteria for paragraph writing, such as indenting. For each sentence, begin by sharing what the sentence is about or providing a prompt. Students will give oral answers, then finally write their own sentences as you model on the transparency. You may help with spelling and ideas along the way. Model the following steps, asking students to follow along on their paper.
- This is the opening or topic sentence.
This week, I learned about the Christmas holiday.
An interesting holiday I learned about this week is called Hanukkah.
Many people celebrate the Kwanzaa holiday.
- The second sentence tells when the holiday is celebrated.
Kwanzaa is celebrated from December 26-January 1.
Hanukkah is usually celebrated during December.
- The third sentence tells about a special custom of the holiday.
During Kwanzaa, people talk about the Seven Principles.
One thing people do during Hanukkah is light the Menorah.
Santa Claus brings gifts on the night before Christmas.
- The fourth sentence tells about particular symbols used during this holiday.
The colors of Kwanzaa are black, red, and green.
Many families decorate a Christmas tree with beautiful ornaments.
They also eat latkes and jelly doughnuts during Hanukkah.
- The fifth sentence is the concluding sentence and begins with a word such as finally or lastly. It could tell about the overall meaning of the holiday or the students' opinion about it.
Finally, the most important thing about Kwanzaa is celebrating family, community, and culture.
I think Christmas is wonderful because everyone is so happy.
Lastly, I like Hanukkah because I like playing the dreidel game.
Step 3: Close this lesson by discussing the similarities between the holidays and how many families celebrate in similar ways. Talk about the importance of respecting the differences as well.
Supporting All Learners
Instead of writing their paragraphs, allow students who are having difficulty to record their responses on a tape recorder. You may also want to pair them with a peer coach or work with them separately.
- Have students visit other classes within the school to share their paragraphs.
- Choose appropriate holiday stories that are rich in dialogue and create Readers Theatre scripts for each story. Perform the story for other classes and/or parents.
- Introduce other holiday stories and continue comparing, using a more complex graphic organizer.
Invite parents or community members to speak to the class, discussing how they celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa. Have them bring a special dish or symbol to share.
- Complete charting exercises and Overlapping Concept organizer with teacher assistance.
- Complete holiday paragraph.
- Were students able to respond to the literature with the charting and overlapping concepts exercises and with the paragraph writing?
- Were students able to complete their paragraph with little assistance?
- Do you need to follow up with the paragraph lesson, providing another practice opportunity?
Notice how well each student recalls information from the story during each charting exercise and his ability to compare/contrast for the Overlapping Concepts organizer. Evaluate each paragraph.