Holiday Integration: Learning That Blends With the Season

By Angela Bunyi on December 3, 2009


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Despite the crazy pace that comes with the season, the show must go on! Right? If you find yourself struggling to keep a focus on academics in your class, I think I have a solution for you. It's a modified twist on the saying, "if you can't beat them, join them." In this case, I would like to share some truly engaging and challenging activities that take advantage of this time of year. So join in the fun and read on!




Holiday Fun

Following up on my last post, I want to stress again how teaching is more fun when you are not tied to textbooks and worksheets all week. We have been having a blast while going above and beyond the typical curriculum. From density testing using both the formula (D= mass/volume) and water, decorating geo-ornaments, completing "branches" of government, Chistmas factor trees, and creating and taping a cooking show, I look forward to going to school each day. Here are a few of my favorite things this time of year.


Make an Educational Movie!

I have worked in enough school districts to know this problem is yours, too: December is filled with "extras" that make staying on schedule nearly impossible. That is why I just go ahead and plan movie making as one of the extras that I throw into the mix. I start with the two days before Thanksgiving break. We use a green screen program along with a program called CrazyTalk that allows you to animate anything you'd like using your students' voices.

Here is our latest video, which was very educational and a lot of fun.

Fraction_movie

Our next video will be on winter holidays around the world.

To learn how you can make a video of your own, see two posts I wrote last year: "Easy Movie Making With a Green Screen" and "Animated Cell Interview: CrazyTalk Program."

Make a Christmas Factor Tree

When we started up a lesson on how to simplify a fraction, a student came up with the idea of making a factor tree with a holiday twist. I just loved it, and added two more steps to the idea: prime number bulbs and composite number bulbs. Students selected larger two and three digit numbers and made a fun "factor tree" for our hallway display. Too much fun.

Factor_tree

Make Holiday "Branches" of Government

I did this last year, so I was quick to ask our local Christmas tree farm for some pine branches this year. They directed me to a large box of free branches and even wrapped it up to go. Following our government unit, we made nice, smelly 'branches" of government. Here are pictures from this year and the year prior.

Branches_bar Payton_tree

Create Christmas Geo-Ornaments

I attended a fantastic workshop last summer that addressed teaching geometry through origami. Below is a photo of one of the pieces I made during that workshop. Tomorrow, one of our math group rotations will include making geo-ornaments for our tree. We will start with cardstock nets of basic shapes to help students review edges and faces. With future rotations, we will make some more elaborate "ornaments" like the one below. This is a great indoor recess activity, as well, because who doesn't want to make a cantellated tetrahedron?

Here is a site that has printable geometric nets.

Poly 

Apply Measuring Skills by Creating a Life-Sized Abominable Snowman

At the same great conference (Confratute in CT), Kathy Gavin showcased a fabulous unit on measuring that starts with a trip to the Himalayan Mountains where you find a large, unidentified footstep in the snow. Only having an unsharpened pencil on you, you measure the length as two pencils long. Could it be the famous Yeti? For the assignment, students are broken up into small groups to use this simple piece of data to create ideas on how to piece together different portions of the body. For example, my group was in charge of providing the right arm, along with an explanation of how we came to our conclusion. So much fun! I can't wait to try this out with my class next week. In our session, we had seven groups (head and neck; left arm; right arm, body/torso; right leg; left leg, feet).

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Photo: I was blown away by how accurate our groups were with their math work.

Measuring Put to Use With Reindeer Food

I tried this out last year, and the students really seemed to enjoy it.

Reindeer Food: We used measuring cups to create reindeer food. The ingredients included 1/2 c. oatmeal, 1/4 c. sugar, and 2 tbs. of food sprinkles. A special poem was included in the mix.

We got this idea from the site DLTK's Growing Together.

Reindeerfood2

Teach Series and Parallel Lighting With Christmas Lights

This one was by accident last year. Look at the tree closely: some of the tree lights worked and some didn't. It was a good lesson. By accident. You can find the labels on the boxes, pull them out, and demonstrate the two types of lighting available. You can hypothesize which type of lighting is cheaper, too.

Green_screen_tree

Surprise Your Class With a Hot Cocoa Treat


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Photo: Because I lived in Vaxjo, Sweden for 6 months, Christmas can not pass without us learning about Saint Lucia. 
 

For the past two years I have surprised my class with a warm cup of hot cocoa with candy cane stirrers on their desk in the morning. I purchased two coffee pots a few years ago. It has been a huge hit in the past, but it works best if you wait for a cold morning. That will be happening for us tomorrow morning. I can't wait.

And finally, just enjoy the season with the little things. For example, I found some 3-D glasses that show "Santa" in Christmas lights. I brought those in and said students could only see him if they believed. I found out that I had a class of believers.

At the time of posting, our video seemed to have some problems. I am posting it at the bottom, just in case, but it can be accessed here, too.




 

 

Comments

Hey Amanda!

Fantastic ideas. :) I also incorporated Mt. Everest into our guided reading that week (one group), and they enjoyed being the experts on all things related. I found one through Reading A-Z, if you are interested.

And because I work with gifted and high achieving students, I had several students who started the research process of determing the origin of the Yeti by checking out books on cryptology. They had read that the second successful climber had seen a mysterious, large footprint. After sharing many theories, I agree that when climbers have stated observing large footprints in the snow it is due to a human/animal foot that has expanded/melted in the sun.

Anyway, that was a fun component to our plans as well. It sounds like you are your students are going to have a blast with this activity!

Best,

Angela

Angela,

Thanks for telling me about the panoramic view from Mt. Everest! It's stunning, and I am certain the kids will thoroughly enjoy seeing it projected on our screen! I love making lessons feel as real as possible. Google Earth is practically my BFF. We're pretty tight!

Anyway, as I was looking at your website, I had an A-ha moment! How cool would it be if you made a salt-dough cast of the Yeti's foot to show the kids?! I mean, think about what scientists really do! Assuming that there would be a great deal of ice in the Himalayas, one could assume that they would create a cast of the creature's foot as "proof" to bring back to their labs and investigate in-depth. It would be something tangible to bring back to combat naysayers. I was also thinking about showing pictures of alleged Yeti footprints next to human feet and ice-picks to make it more real and less mythical.

Of course, in this case, you would have to change the scenario. You would have to say they were armed with a camera, an ice pick, and plaster. Ha! Still, I thought it might pique the interests of my little scientists if they got to mimic what real scientists do... especially my little archeologist. She would eat it up with a spoon!

Once again, thanks for sharing such a fun idea!

Hey Amanda,

Well, that's great to hear! I have added our Yeti photo for you now. There is no question about it. They did better at this activity than the group of teachers I worked with at a gifted conference. Ha!

And you can find a link on my page with more information on the Yeti, if you are interested. This includes a really in-depth virtual tour of Mt. Everest.

Best,

Angela

Thanks for sharing this! I am looking forward to making Christmas Factor Trees and the Yeti with my students! How fun! I'm adding it to my Christmas Activity Arsenal! As always, I learned something new from you! :) Happy Holidays!

Victoria,

That's great to hear! I am tempted to try another hot coco morning with my class. It's such a simple thing, but seems so special to them.

Happy Sunday,

Angela

Teresa,

I have created a link with my favorite books listed for you. You can find it on my main page- www.mrsbunyi.com.

Good luck with student teaching and your future in education!

Angela

The prisms for ornaments and hot cocoa with stirrers is what I will be using in my classroom from you this holiday season! We also do plenty of cooking.

Hello!

I'm sorry this doesn't completely relate to this posting, but I still had a question I wanted to ask you! I am currently doing my student teaching and have a long winter break before my spring semester starts up again. I was wondering if you could recommend some great teaching books that I could put on my Christmas wish list that will really help me to learn great ways to be an effective teacher. Related to any topic, classroom management, reading, technology etc! Any ideas would be greatly appreciated thank you! I enjoy reading your blog and learning a lot from it!

Hello Mrs. Gagnon!

Thanks, as always. I started a page on our abominable snowman plans. I am very excited!

And video number 2 will be on its way next week. Winter Holidays Around the World.

Best,

Mrs. Bunyi P.S. I was excited to enter Dave Ramsey's raffle today. 3,000 dollars! Thanks for sharing. :)

Thank you, Mrs. Bunyi, for making learning so fun with all of your creative ideas and activities! Ryan is especially excited about the hot cocoa and geo ornaments! Your teaching with video is truly amazing and creates such memories and wonderful experiences for the students.

I'm always eager to see what you'll do next!

Thanks again ~

Lindsey

Gayla,

I can see by your address that you are a RCS teacher. I formally taught at Barfield. :) Sorry my presentation had some snags, but I hope you enjoyed the conference presentation anyway.

Again, here is a link for a higher quality video post that works:

http://video.scholastic.com/services/link/bcpid4121372001/bctid5337124001

Smiles,

Angela P.S. Only 80 more comments or so before I have Beth's numbers. Right Gayla? Ha.

Elizabeth,

Why does your name sound familar to me? And, anyway, thank you for posting here. I was mildly happy to see that the next session I attended had some internet connecting issues as well.

Anyway, here is a higher quality green screen/animated graphics video link for you. And it works!

http://video.scholastic.com/services/link/bcpid4121372001/bctid5337124001

Best,

Angela

Great ideas for a hectic holiday session! Also, thanks for the green screen information. I was ready to purchase the program for animation shown at TETC but was disappointed to find it was Windows Vista compatible.

Keep the ideas coming!

GREAT workshop today! I'm so glad I was there. You are doing amazing things with your students and I'm really looking forward to trying out green screen. :)

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