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Christmas Makes Me Think . . . Celebrate Community!

By Danielle Mahoney on December 14, 2010
  • Grades: 1–2

Get inspired to celebrate your community with the help of author Tony Medina!

When a read-aloud encourages children to wonder, ask questions, make connections, think about the world around them, and create plans that will have a huge impact on others, you know you've picked the right book to share with your students. And when you hear the excitement in their voices as they make plans that go beyond the walls of your classroom, you know in your heart that you're doing important work. Cue up the holiday music and teach your students how to connect to their community with the support of these lesson ideas and downloadable resources!


Christmastonymedina This is more than a read-aloud. That's what goes through my head as I read Christmas Makes Me Think by Tony Medina. I immediately know that awareness is being raised and that my students are being exposed to a different perspective on what Christmas is all about. I had to include it in my "December Book Picks!" post because it's more than just a holiday themed book. It is a springboard for activities that will allow your students to connect with the community around them. I decided to use this book as I worked with an amazing group of 2nd grade students this month. Take a look at these activities to see how we were inspired to get involved with our community. We hope you'll do the same!


Pre-Reading Activity

Show your students the cover of Christmas Makes Me Think, and ask them to take a moment to think about what they imagine when they hear the word "Christmas." I like to use graphic organizers as tools to help students collect ideas around a theme or topic. Use this web to model some of your thinking to get them started. Depending on the ability and needs of your group, you may want to allow children to use a combination of quick sketches, words, and phrases to complete their webs. 

You may also want to give them a minimum number of words or phrases you'd like to see on their papers. Setting expectations along the way is very important. My students knew that they needed to have at least ten things on their web in order for it to be complete. We spoke for a bit about what "at least" means, and then off they went to write.




 Here is a sample of some of the webs that the students created. 






Ready for the Read-Aloud?

Gather children back into your meeting area for the read-aloud. Plan ahead, looking for places where you'll want to offer clarification or where students might be able to make connections. 

  • Have children describe some of the ways that Tony was a caring, thoughtful character. Encourage them to use evidence from the text to support their thinking. 
  • How did he give back to the people in his community? Why do you think he decided to help others?
  • Ask your students to think about ways they might be able to give back to their community. 
  • How do these new ideas change the way we think about Christmas?


NOW What Does Christmas Make You Think? Create a Plan to Make a Difference!

Here's a downloadable template that will provide a place for your students to get their ideas on paper. Be sure to model the type of writing you want your students to produce before you send them off to independent writing. For example, this particular group of students just started working on paragraphing. So, in my example, I modeled how I would start with a topic sentence, add a few details, and end with a closing sentence. My simple paragraph looked something like this:
Christmas makes me think about giving to others. I have baskets and baskets of books in my office. I want to give some of my books away to kids that don't have any. I would love to read a few of my favorite books to children who are staying in hospitals because they are too sick to go to school. Maybe I can bring along a few extra books for them to read on their own! Now you know what Christmas makes me think.
Then, send your writers on their way!
Create a small checklist to remind your writers of what they will need in their finished product. Be sure to model what you expect for the picture box as well. Leave your example up on the board to allow students to refer back to it while they finish up their writing and illustrating.
Here are some samples of student work. 





Reach Out to Your Community!

InviteinsideRead the author’s note on the last page of the book and talk to your students about the suggested activities. (It's funny, with Project Give under all of our belts, many of us can check off a few of Tony Medina's suggestions already!)

For example, as my class of 2nd graders got about halfway through the list, we read about the possibility of inviting a community service worker to speak to the class. The conversation shifted and we began to talk about how our crossing guard spends a lot of time outside in the cold weather, helping hundreds of children get to school safely, with very little appreciation. And then, it happened. The students decided they wanted to invite our crossing guard into our school to warm up with a delicious cup of hot chocolate with us! 

The students were excited to get started on the invitation.They each wrote a short message, asking our crossing guard to take the time to come in and visit with us. Sadly we realized that although she has been an important part of our community for a few years now, none of us knew her name. It's very easy to be disconnected from your own community. But, we were about to change that!

Later that afternoon, I left the building and walked toward the busy street corner where our crossing guard stands tall, ready to help. I told her about our plans as I handed her the invitation. She was completely overwhelmed and almost cried when she read it. I said I was sorry that we couldn't address the card to her personally, as none of us knew her name. She looked up at me, smiled, and said, "Mary. My name is Mary."

I love how the act of giving actually gives back to everyone involved. The smile on Mary's face told me that we had come up with the perfect community project. The students LOVED the idea of having Mary come in to visit with us, while she was deeply touched by our invitation. The big day is approaching and as you can imagine, we are all brimming with excitement. We're ready to celebrate our community with our special guest.

And of course, we are all looking forward to the hot chocolate, marshmallows, whipped cream, and cookies!


I'd love to hear about the ways that Tony Medina's book invites YOUR students to celebrate your community! Please share what Christmas makes YOU think!!


Comments (10)

Hi Carin! (It was such a nice surprise to see you stop by and comment! Thank you!) I am VERY lucky to work in a school where I am encouraged to teach my students the skills and strategies they need in my own creative way, rather than from the next page of a text book.

Thank you for trusting me to do great work with this wonderful group of second graders! ;) Danielle

People like you make the world a better place. You bring out the best in all of us.

Thank you, Adriana! The kids had so much fun actually meeting her. We prepared a few questions for a mini interview and learned a lot about what it takes to be a crossing guard. It was 22 degrees here in New York on Wednesday, so the hot chocolate was perfect. I'm pretty sure by the smile on her face, Mary enjoyed the visit, too.

Enjoy your holiday!! =) Danielle

What a great job !!!

Hey Christina, I'm happy to hear that you tried it out with her class. I'm ready to hear all about what Christmas makes them think NOW that they've done this activity with you. I'll be sure to go in for a visit!

=) Danielle

Thank you for the suggestion!! I was able to do this with Susannah's class today!! I needed a read aloud and it was perfect. I loved how each of their ideas changed from the beginning to the time to the end of the time. The class wants to share what they did with you! :)

Hi Ms. Nicholas! Oh, the material items are hard to escape! =) Naturally, children are always going to hope for a pile of presents to tear open on Christmas morning. However, it is amazing how much they want to give to others as well. We just have to ask them to do it, right!? I feel fortunate to have so many great picture books in my bag of tricks to help me teach students important life lessons. (Big hugs to author, Tony Medina for getting me through this one.) Thanks for the comment! Happy holidays to you! =) Danielle

Irene, I'm so glad that you picked Camila to be a part of this group. She's really doing an amazing job. As far as printing the posts - hahah! You are funny! I'm glad that you find them helpful. Having a class with so many English Language Learners, you really have to take it all in and then modify everything. Not an easy task for you! I hope that you are able to do that with some of these lesson ideas without too much difficulty. If you need help - I'm here. Thanks for the great feedback!

=) Danielle

What a great way to get children thinking about Christmas and giving back to the community instead of focusing on material items.

You are doing such amazing work with them. Love your posts. Printing them and putting them into a folder...thank you for all your hard work.

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