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December 20, 2011 Happy Holidays By Jeremy Brunaccioni
Grades PreK–K

    Well, it’s that time of year again. Time to deck the halls, build a snowman in the meadow, and rock the night away. It’s also time to teach our students about the diverse holidays celebrated at this time of year. With so many great holiday-themed titles available, I chose a few that I think you and your students will enjoy as they learn to celebrate and admire different customs and cultures.


    Over the River and Through the Wood

    Written by Lydia Maria Child
    Illustrated by Matt Tavares
    Candlewick Press

    Lydia Maria Child, author of the popular poem "Over the River and Through the Wood," was the nineteenth century’s version of Martha Stewart. In this latest rendition of her poem, Matt Tavares brings the story to life in picture perfect detail. He beautifully captures winter in a New England village, complete with horse-drawn sleigh.

    As a vocabulary building activity, try out my dapple gray activity sheet. It's an easy way for children to enrich their vocabulary in a meaningful and concrete way.



    Written and illustrated by Trudi Trueit

    Kwanzaa is part of Scholastic’s Rookie Read-About Holidays series. I find these little titles to be highly informative, with a combination of age-appropriate text and full-color photographs that students enjoy. In this book, students will learn about the seven principles of Kwanzaa, the unity cup, and the customs of exchanging small homemade gifts, or zawadi.


    A New Year’s Reunion

    Written by Yu Li-Qiong
    Illustrated by Zhu Cheng-Liang
    Candlewick Press

    A New Year's Reunion is a great addition to the books you may already have on Chinese New Year. (The next Chinese New Year is due to fall on Monday, January 23, 2012.) In this story, we meet Maomao, who's spending time with her dad on his return from doing migrant work. Before Maomao's dad departs, they celebrate with customs involving food, luck, and friends and family. The illustrations are rich in detail and nicely complement the text.



    Hanukkah: A Counting Book

    Written and illustrated by Emily Sper

    I love the fact that this counting book features English, Hebrew, and Yiddish, as well as numerals. Students are intrigued by the die-cut candles as they learn about gelt, latkes, dreidels, and more. The back of the book features the Hanukkah story and background information on the holiday.



    The Twelve Days of Christmas

    Written and illustrated by Jane Ray
    Candlewick Press

    Students are probably already familiar with the lyrics to this Christmas classic, but they haven’t been treated to the rich illustrations of author and illustrator Jane Ray. "Whimsical," "charming," and "detailed" are all words that capture Ms. Ray’s illustrations. Students are in for a treat as they study the pictures, which enrich the lyrics, and discover a back story.

    Since these holidays all have special foods associated with them, it's a great opportunity for children to share their general knowledge as they write about and illustrate their favorite holiday food. Try my Favorite Holiday Food writing prompt.


    Holiday Activity

    There are so many activities to do during the holidays, it’s almost impossible to pick. I like to go with card stamping because it’s easy, it promotes creativity and literacy, and it can be done for any, or all, of the holidays. All you need is some seasonal stamps, ink or paint, and folded paper. Once your students have stamped their cards, give the paper a chance to dry and have children write their messages in them. It really is that easy!

    If your students are feeling particularly creative, let them make potato stamps or add to their decorating supplies. Bits of ribbon, sequins, fabric scraps, glitter, and buttons are all great additions to holiday card making.

    How about creating a stamping center in your classroom? My Stamping Center Checklist will help you get organized.

    If you're planning on doing a lot of stamping as a whole group activity, lay out some small plastic bags, labeled with student names. Children can place their work on the bags to dry and then in the bags to take them home. Easy to organize and easy to clean up!

    Student stamping projects are drying on labeled bags.

    I hope your students have a great time making their cards, and that you enjoy a well-deserved vacation as we head into the new year.


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Susan Cheyney