December Book Picks!
There is a buzz of seasonal celebration in the air! Get ready to plan for read-alouds and literacy activities that will match your students' holiday excitement. With so many great stories to share, this month's booklist has something for everybody. From Hanukkah to Christmas, we'll explore a wide range of holiday traditions, old and new. Take a look and gather new resources as you click on the links and find out more about these incredible authors and illustrators. Enjoy the wonders of the season!
Miss Mahoney's December Book Picks!
Books to Inspire New Holiday Traditions
The Elf on the Shelf by Carol Aebersold and Chanda Bell
How will Santa know if your students have been naughty or nice? Tell them the Elf on the Shelf is watching! Start up a new tradition by adopting an elf into your classroom. Have your students come up with the perfect name for your elf and then do some persuasive writing. Visit the virtual schoolhouse for lesson plans across grade levels, and cook up some kid-friendly dishes from a virtual cookbook available for FREE on the Elf on the Shelf Web site!
I recently read this book for the first time and found myself reaching for a box of tissues. Patricia Polacco is an incredible writer who shares a family tradition with her readers as she tells the story of Frankie, a thoughtful young boy who anxiously awaits his father's arrival on Christmas Day. The family's efforts to "give back" to Frankie at the end of the story will have you running out to buy oranges to share with your own students.
If you haven't seen Amy Krouse Rosenthal's short films 17 Things I Made and The Beckoning of Lovely, take a few minutes to observe the creative and thoughtful work of this special author. When you're finished, cue up Amy's TEDx conference "7 Notes on Life." You might be inspired to follow some of Amy's advice. In Christmas Cookies, she helps young readers understand words like anticipation, tradition, appreciative, prosperity, perseverance, lonely, and charitable, all through the context of baking. The delicious cookie recipe may inspire your students to bake up a batch and start sharing!
Don't put away the pots and pans just yet. Get inspired to cook up some latkes with your students! Learn about Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, as Rebecca and Ezra take on two stray animals who are hungry and left out in the cold. Although the family hardly has enough food for themselves, they take in the animals and hope for a miracle. Read the story to find out how the family finds more than enough food to celebrate the holidays.
Compare and contrast this African American festival with other holiday traditions. Be sure to check out Scholastic's Seven Candles for Kwanzaa discussion guide to help you introduce your students to the seven principles that are the heart of all Kwanzaa celebrations.
National Geographic is famous for the incredible photography featured in their magazines. The beautiful photos in this book capture the uniqueness of holiday traditions around the world. Did you know that in Hawaii Santa arrives on a boat!? (Makes sense, right?) Flip through the pages, and you'll learn how to make a memory book with your students.
While your students are busy writing out their holiday wish lists, inspire them to think about the presents they can give to others that can't be bought in a fancy toy store. Follow the example set by Mooch as he searches for the perfect gift for his best friend, Earl. What's a better gift to receive than the gift of friendship? Link this book to Patrick McDonnell's Mutts comic strip to inspire your writers to create a comic strip of their own.
Christmas Makes Me Think by Tony Medina
New Yorker Tony Medina writes about his experiences getting involved in his community as a young boy. Before reading the book, activate prior knowledge by asking your students what they think of when they hear the word Christmas. Then, read the book and have students come up with plans of action that involve giving back to the community in their own special way. Lee & Low Books offers lesson plans to get you started.
Everyone is sick, and Madeline is doing her best to take care of her eleven friends as well as Miss Clavel. Start off the holidays with some character work as your students use specific character traits and evidence from the text to describe Madeline.
Olivia Helps With Christmas by Ian Falconer
This book is full of the type of mischief and adventure you can expect from Olivia the pig. As you read it to your students, you might find yourself chuckling right along with them, as it is quite funny! It might be interesting to use this book as a mentor writing text this month, as Ian Falconer switches up font styles and sizes, inserts fold-out pages, uses lots of dialogue and ellipses. . . as well as long and short sentences. Have students combine real photographs with drawings in their student illustrations for the full effect!
A Charlie Brown Christmas by Charles M. Schulz
Teach your students how to examine character interactions as you read this classic story during Reading Workshop. The text is loaded with descriptive language and adjectives that can be lifted out of the book and into your students' writing. You can certainly use this book as a springboard for conversations on bullying and treating people with respect.
If you teach kindergarten, 1st, or 2nd grade, you might already be familiar with good ol’ Mrs. Wishy-Washy. Your students will be reading along with you as the animals try to convince her NOT to give them baths on such a snowy day. Packed with lots of great verbs, your students can act out the various ways the animals sneak into the house to take a bath in the warm tub, instead.
Giggle Your Way Through the Holidays!
Here's a fun read-aloud that will have your students laughing out loud. (You will enjoy it, too.) Witness what happens when Olive the dog misunderstands Santa's special announcement asking "Olive, the Other Reindeer," to report to the North Pole for duty. After you read it to your students, have them sit back, relax, and watch the movie version of the book. (Drew Barrymore does a fantastic job as the voice of Olive.)
There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bell! by Lucille Colandro
OH, yes, the Old Lady is back again, and this time you won't believe what she attempts to swallow! Your students will have lots of fun trying to remember the sequence of events as the Old Lady helps get Santa ready for his Christmas deliveries!
Combine Alan Katz's silly lyrics with David Catrow's hysterical illustrations and you've got one funny songbook. As you sing these silly songs to the tunes of your old favorites, you’ll have students begging you to perform an encore! You're sure to get a kick out of “Something in My Brother’s Underpants,” sung to the tune of “Winter WOnderland.”
Don't take my word for it! Here's the first verse . . . give it a try!
Gee, who is it?
The mood is so swell
But what is that smell?
Something in my brother’s underpants.
Celebrate Winter Holidays!
Do you need clip art, printables, or lesson plan ideas for the special holiday activities taking shape in your classroom? Explore Scholastic.com's Celebrate Winter Holidays collection of amazing resources for all of your winter holiday needs. The article "December Celebrations" offers up additional titles and activities for you to share with your students.
Still on the lookout for December books? Visit Scholastic.com's "Holiday Picture Books for Preschoolers," well as THE AMAZING Beth Newingham's December top ten list. Be sure to read #3 on her list for exciting activities you can work on while reading The Polar Express!
With so many great books to read this month, I couldn't possibly list them all. What are some of your seasonal favorites?