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December 11, 2014 Classic Holiday Books and Activities for Home and School By Genia Connell
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5

    My classroom library is loaded with books that have been collected over many years. I have books that I bring out for special reasons — the back to school book that help children feel at ease, stories about magic school buses that illustrate a science concept — but my most favorite collection of all may be the books I pull out in December: my holiday book collection. The holiday books, more than any other in my library, bring back special memories of reading to my own children, cuddled under a blanket all those chilly December days reading, and making crafts or ornaments to go with our favorite books.

    This week I am happy to share with you some of my favorite holiday classics — great stories that stand the test of time. To accompany each book, I’ve included ideas for activities you could try at home and at school. You can click on the links below to go directly to any of the books or activities.

    The Night Before Christmas Book

    The Night Before Christmas Activities

    Gingerbread Books

    Gingerbread Activities

    Snowman Books

    Snowman Activities

    Grinch Book and Activity

    The Polar Express Book

    The Polar Express Activities

    Hanukkah Book

    Hanukkah Activities

    Las Posadas Book

    Las Posadas Activities


    As you read through this post, be sure to click on each book cover to get purchase information. Book summaries are adapted from Teacher Book Wizard

    The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clark Moore


    Jan Brett's beautifully illustrated version of the classic poem by Clement Clark Moore is the same one my own children have carted down the stairs for over a decade now, to be read to them by their dad on Christmas Eve. The Scholastic Store has a version of the The Night Before Christmas that includes a CD that is perfect for teachers to include in their listening centers and for parents to pop in the CD player while their children read along. 

    This retelling of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" will keep children busy as they look through 12 elegant and fascinating compositions to search for dozens of intriguing hidden objects. For example, the first photograph, "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," features a gingerbread house, Christmas cookies, candles, bulbs, and more. "Visions of Sugarplums" is an abstract composition of Christmas confections, and "Such a Clatter!" is a dynamic explosion of objects. In "It Must Be Saint Nick," Santa is shown in shadow, and in "A Bundle of Toys," the presents in Santa's sack are revealed as a magnificent jumble.

    Activities to Go With The Night Before Christmas

    Everyone knows that Santa comes down the chimney on Christmas Eve. Create a little chimney with your class and fill it with many different educational items such as story elements, spelling or vocabulary word work, or even a mini book report. All you need to get started is a washed out milk carton, construction paper, scissors, glue and tissue paper. 

    Trim the construction paper so it is even with the top of the milk carton.  Draw lines on the paper to resemble bricks. Cut the paper for the fireplace opening. Wrap the paper around the carton and glue in place. Use tissue paper or construction paper to create a little fire that is glued into the bottom of the carton. 



    Create Your Own Can You See What I See Jar

    Let students look for items in this plastic container filled with rice, birdseed, or even recycled packing peanuts from holiday deliveries. Add a number of different items, add a tightly-fitted lid, and then challenge students to find as many as they can. When I have done this at school, I have actually glued the lid on to keep rice from ending up all over my floor. You might want to even keep a list of what is in the jar taped to it so children know exactly what they are looking for. This activity also works very well with I Spy Christmas: A Book of Picture Riddles, and Can You See What I See Christmas, both of which are also written by Walter Wick. 




    Books about Runaway Gingerbread




    The classic tale with a little twist at the end, a young boy named Matti and his mother bake a gingerbread baby and leads a raucus chase through town that will leave your children wanting their very own gingerbread baby AND gingerbread house. 

    The retelling of this classic tale is the perfect holiday story to use for retelling and sequencing skills. At home it is the perfect book to read right before baking a pan of delicious gingerbread cookies. 

    Activities to Go With Gingerbread Books



    Math Connection: Gingerbread House on a Budget

    The following activity is fun to do at home, but add in the budgeting component and a sweet little gingerbread house becomes a whole math lesson where students have to "buy" their building materials.


    Your children will immediately connect with this well-known story. Famous for his cheerful character, whimsical appeal, and, of course, his button nose and two eyes made out of coal, Frosty is always the most popular snowman in school and at home. 

    Books About Snowmen

    It's Christmas Eve and people are snug in their beds, but something is stirring outside. The snowmen aren’t asleep! They’re preparing to celebrate! Under the glow of moonlight, all the snow families are slipping away to gather in the town square for a night of caroling, dancing, and an exciting visit from the snowman Santa Claus.

    Your children will immediately connect with this well-known story. Famous for his cheerful character, whimsical appeal, and, of course, his button nose and two eyes made out of coal, Frosty is always the most popular snowman in school and at home.

    The mayor of Mouseville has announced a contest for the biggest snowman. Clayton and Desmond race against the clock to compete for the prize, but soon realize that they can only build so high! With a lot of snow and a super-strong friendship, the two mice discover that by working together they can build a monumental snowman. The audio CD that comes with the book in the Scholastic Store is a favorite with young students.

    In a family of big people, little Nell thinks she's too small to do anything. But with the help of her friends Reindeer, Hare, and Bear Cub, she builds a great BIG snowman, the best snowman that ever was.

    Activities to Go with Books About Snowmen

    Snowmen at Christmas

    • Have students imagine that they have a snowman that comes to life when no one is looking. Using the writing process, have them write a short narrative describing what their snowman does. Publish the stories on this snowman paper.

    • For a classroom brain break, have all your students stand like a snowman out on the lawn — as still as can be. Tell the students when you turn out the lights they can come to life and move about the room. When the lights go back on though, they have to freeze in whatever position they are in. Repeat several times as an activity to get the kids out of their seats. 

    • Click on the image below for a Snowmen at Night activity by bloggers Jennifer Solis and Jennifer Boatwright.   

    Compare and contrast different snowman stories using the Venn diagram below, or introduce snow as a science topic with this KWL. 

    Snowman Crafts to Try at Home or School

    Click on each image to get full directions to create the craft.


    How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss

    Everyone loves this tale of a Grinch whose heart grows three sizes one day. Go no further than blogger Rhonda Stewart's masterful post, "Close Reading Using How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" for an instant classic activity you will want to use year after year. 

    The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

    The classic, Caldecott-winning book about a boy who boards a train for the North Pole late one Christmas Eve, captures the magic of the holiday spirit, and will leave your children listening for the sound of bells. 

    Activities to Go With The Polar Express

    If you plan on reading The Polar Express at school this year, be sure to check out fellow blogger Erin Klein's post "The Polar Express and Christmas Fun!" She has created a week's worth of writing activities to accompany The Polar Express, which you can download by clicking on the image below. 

    Keep small hands busy with this craft for home or school — have children create their own magical set of sleigh bells with just a few items from the dollar store. 

    You will need ribbons, bells, and some inexpensive plastic bracelets. Wrap the ribbon around the bracelet, then tie two or three strands of ribbon in a knot around the bracelet. Attach bells to the end of the ribbon strands. It's easier to thread the ribbon through the top of the bell if you use a paperclip to pull it through. 


    Every December, Emma and her family celebrate two special holidays. First comes Hanukkah, with dreidel games and lighting the menorah. Then comes Christmas, with carols, bright lights on the tree, and presents for everyone!


    Hanukkah Books

    Hershel is a traveler who arrives in a village on the first night of Hanukkah, looking forward to friendship and latkes. He quickly discovers, however, that the villagers have been forbidden from celebrating Hanukkah by goblins that haunt the old synagogue at the top of the hill. Hershel manages to outwit the goblins to save Hanukkah using only some eggs, a dreidl and a menorah in this beautifully illustrated Caldecott Honor Book.


    Every December, Emma and her family celebrate two special holidays. First comes Hanukkah, with dreidel games and lighting the menorah. Then comes Christmas, with carols, bright lights on the tree, and presents for everyone!

    Hanukkah Book Activities


    Hanukkah Crafts From Scholastic Printables

    Click on each image to print.



    Las Posadas

    The annual celebration of Las Posadas in Santa Fe, New Mexico is delayed when the lead characters are stranded in the snow. Who will play the parts now?


    Las Posadas Activities

    Click the images below to create these beautiful poinsettias. I admire these larger-than-life blooms outside our first grade classrooms each year. 


    These poinsettias are a beautiful way to combine the study of Christmas around the world and Las Posadas with art and science. My students study the leaf structure of the plant, then draw and paint it. Click here to get the full directions. 


    Thank you so much for reading, and I hope you have the happiest of holidays, at home and at school. 

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    Books you may like from  The Teacher Store.


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