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December 4, 2013 Get Crafty With Your Common Core Reading This Holiday Season By Genia Connell
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5

    Fact 1: The winter season is filled with rich topics that can help your students meet Common Core State Standards.

    Winter, and specifically the holiday season, just may be my favorite time of year to teach reading to my students. Seasonal topics such as holidays around the world, sled dogs and the Iditarod, reindeer, and snow are some of the most engaging to my students. Furthermore, these cross-curricular winter themes often have a wide variety of fictional and informational text available, which makes meeting the Common Core State Standards quite easy. Personally, I also love these topics because they lend themselves so well to my other favorite part of the holiday — making crafts and parents' gifts with my students!

    Fact 2: No one wants hang a Venn Diagram on a Christmas tree.

    Even with a curriculum more jam-packed than ever before, I still plan time in the month of December for my third graders to have some hands-on fun. As a parent, my most treasured holiday keepsakes are the handcrafted ornaments and decorations that my own three children brought home from school over the years. And while I can't recall a tremendous amount about my own early school years, I certainly remember the holiday projects I did in class, right down to my first-grade masterpiece, the toilet-paper-tube and cotton ball Santa. As a teacher, I want to help create those same memories for my students and their families.

    This week I'd like to share with you some easy and inexpensive crafts you can do with your class along with a few of the books and graphic organizers that go along well with them. I normally choose one or two projects from my arsenal below to make with my class each year — all taking less than 30 minutes from start to finish.


    Learn About Snow and Winter Weather 

    We study weather through our water unit in science and again when we do an informational reading research project on natural disasters. Snow and snowstorms are of particular interest to my students in December, when there is always that possiblity of the first "snow day."

    Get Crafty 

    Three-dimensional snowflakes are a crafty compliment to our classroom décor during the winter season. I like decorating with snowflakes because of their long shelf life — they last all the way through January until the Valentine decorations go up! Visit my post from last year, 10 Quick Ways to Spread Holiday Cheer, for a step-by-step tutorial on how your students can create the huge snowflake you see below. 


    The  snowmen you see below also make great gifts for parents. I made them a few years ago with my class after seeing them on Michael’s website, but I've changed them up a bit, making them easier for my third graders. They cost approximately sixty-five cents apiece, less if you already have the paint, pom poms and pipe cleaners on hand. 

    snowman craft


    I first saw these ornaments last year when first grade teacher Lauren Fragomeni made them as gifts for her students. I realized they were easy enough for my own students to create. My kids absolutely love having their hand painted white to make the hand print that becomes their snowmen with the help of some paint pens.

    Free Printable Snowy Resources

    All of the resources below come from Scholastic Printables, my very favorite place to find resource materials when I need something quick, engaging, and relevant. The resources below include simile snowflake poetry, close reading for grades one and two and a narrative writing lesson for grades three through five, stationary you can use with any writing, and a snowflake pattern perfect for working on symmetry. Click on each to download and print. 

    simile snowflake poetryclose reading for grade one



    Learn About Sledding, Sled Dogs and the Iditarod 

    My students enjoy reading about winter sports, and are especially fascinated to learn about the Iditarod and the life of sled dogs. I’ve relied on Scholastic resources to help with my planning on this topic. Top Teaching blogger Ruth Manna wrote a wonderful, multi-part series on The Powerful Pull of Sled Dogs. Additionally, in The Sled Dog Life, an interesting article to share with your class, asked experienced mushers Martin Buser, Mitch Seavey, and Gary Paulson about the lives of sled dogs. A nice accompaniment to this is the lesson plan, Taking a Stand on Sled Dogs, in which students take a stand on the treatment of sled dogs and attempt to persuade others of their point of view.

    Get Crafty

    Sledding, in general, is a favorite winter pastime of most children in our area. They can easily make a world-to-text connection between sledding down a snowy hill and the perils of dog sledding. The next craft — a wooden craft stick sled, costs under 15 cents each, takes about 25 minutes from start to finish and lasts for years and years. For a quick tutorial on my version of the sled, watch the video below. Mobile users can access the video here.

    craft stickswooden sleds craft






    Printable Resources



    Learn About LaPosada and Poinsettias

    Tomie dePaola's retelling of the folktake, The Legend of the Poinsettia, helps young readers understand the true meaning of giving. The Miracle of the First Poinsettia, by Joanne Oppenheim, is another retelling of La Posada which makes it easy for students to compare and contrast the two versions.  

    Get Crafty

    Watch the short video below as first-grade teacher Nancy Haboush shares step-by-step directions for the beautiful, eye-catching paper poinsettias her young students make each year to accompany their writing on a hallway bulletin-board display. Mobile users can access the video here. Print this poinsettia pattern template to get your students started on their own beautiful poinsettias. 

    paper poinsettia




    Last December, my students' Spanish class was cancelled when there was not a substitute teacher available. With 45 minutes of unexpected time on my hands, I had my students make the beautiful paintings shown below, all inspired by an Scholastic lesson I had seen in an e-mail earlier in the day, Painting Poinsettias: A Holiday Art Project. It also turned into a great science lesson on the leaves of the plant and how they get their color. 


    Learn About Reindeer

    If you happend to be studying animals during a life science unit this time of year, the reindeer is a fascinating animal to have your students research. Many children are surprised to learn that real reindeer do not look a thing like the animated version they are used to seeing. A KWL is a great graphic organizer to use with students before they begin reading about  reindeer. 

    Get Crafty

    After learning about real reindeer, I go right back to the adorable, red-nosed version when it comes to crafts. This year my students will be making the reindeer bell seen below as parent gifts. This project could also double as an ornament if you used a smaller, lighter, clay pot. This craft is a bit more costly because of the size pots I used, but I was lucky to find the bells at the dollar store. The cost for each reindeer bell is about 70 cents and it is the quickest of all the crafts, about 20 minutes from start to finish. For a quick tutorial, please watch the video below. Mobile users can access the video here.




    Graphic Organizers to Use With Your Reading This Month


    snowman venn diagram


    For more graphic organizers to use with your students during reading all year long, visit my posts from earlier this year: 

    Great Books for Winter Reading


    Blizzardsnowthe mittenthe snowy day

    magic school bus lost in snowbear

    miracle of the first poinsettia


    I hope I’ve given you a few ideas for some easy, inexpensive projects you can do with your class this holiday season. I would truly love to hear from you in the comment section about any crafts or winter projects you do with your students.
    For even more ideas, you can follow me on Pinterest and Twitter, and subscribe to my weekly posts. 
    Thanks for reading,










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