My teammate and I have developed a mini-unit involving research of the various Christmas customs and celebrations of countries around the world. We provide each group with a book and folder filled with material we have gathered over the years. The students then work in groups to complete a short presentation with various "props" designed and developed by the students. Students learn about another country at the same time they are learning about where many of our Christmas traditions and customs originated.
–Lori Chastain, Marietta, GA, Third Grade
I feel it is vital to incorporate as many cultures and celebrations as possible. The children can only benefit, develop understanding, flourish, and even develop their taste buds. We have many separate and unique celebrations. We "travel around the world" with the holidays. We've celebrated Russian Christmas, Canadian Christmas, Australian Christmas and many, many more. The children do the research, the parents do the cooking, and a wonderful time is had by all. When we return from the holidays, we also discuss how we celebrated — in our own unique way. I also try to do this with other holidays during the year, such as New Year's. Again, the children love it.
We are having an international winter holiday festival. We learn about a new holiday each day of the week and do a craft associated with it. On Friday, parents are bringing in dishes for lunch that represent the different cultures and their holidays. There are five classes, so each teacher is responsible for teaching one holiday and craft.
–Beverly Wiggs, Chantilly, VA, Fourth Grade
We have a "Holidays Around the World" day in which each first-grade class rotates to a new country (classroom) every 40 minutes. Through books, songs, costumes, and pictures, the students develop an understanding of how that country celebrates their holiday. They then participate in a quick curriculum-related art or food project. A volunteer escorts the children from room to room as their teacher remains in the classroom, instructing each new group. We break for a picnic lunch and continue until dismissal. The students love it and are thrilled to share their creations and new knowledge with their families.
–Judy Bingham, Miami, FL, First Grade
In my class, read-alouds in December center around three main holidays. For Christmas, I usually read aloud The Best Christmas Pageant Ever or The House Without a Christmas Tree, and Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas. For Hanukkah, I read Latkes and Applesauce, and this year I added There's No Such Thing as a Chanukah Bush, Sandy Goldstein. I recently added Kwanzaa by reading some stories I found on the Internet (since my public library is sadly lacking and my book order hasn't arrived yet). I explain to the kids (mostly Christian kids who celebrate Christmas) that we should know what the three main holidays are all about, and then we can make wise choices for ourselves and understand others who feel differently. I am a former music teacher, and have always incorporated music from "both sides" of Christmas, and Hanukkah, when teaching in public school.
–Donna, Ramona, CA, Fifth Grade
We assign students a research paper on a winter holiday from their own heritage. They must include customs, songs, symbols, and food. Students prepare a presentation and provide some sort of audiovisual aid. Some of the research is interviewing relatives. In other cases, students tell how they actually celebrate their holiday, as we have many newly immigrated families. We have a holiday feast for which each student brings a traditional dish to pass. It is a grand celebration!
–Sharyl, MI, Fifth Grade