Take part in the winter holiday with this collection of Christmas-themed crafts, lesson plans, and teaching ideas.
In the Celebrate Winter Holidays online activity, students will explore scrapbooks to learn the history and traditions behind three popular winter holidays: Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. In each scrapbook, students will find:
- A short background article about the holiday with audio
- An in-depth slideshow exploring one important tradition with audio
- An array of clickable objects to learn about popular holiday songs, foods, symbols, and rituals
- Postcards with quotes from kids around the world about their own holiday traditions with audio
- Free printable activities and recipes
Other resources include:
- Send a Holiday eCard: Personalized eCards for each holiday with a fun holiday fact.
- Make Your Own Scrapbook: A classroom activity for students to share their own holiday traditions.
- Thinking Questions: Printable reflection questions for each holiday.
- Clip Art and Images: A rich collection of visuals to enhance any holiday project.
Finally, students can also read about many other holidays throughout the year and around the world.
To introduce this activity, have a class discussion about holidays. Ask:
- What are some holidays we celebrate? (Make a list on the board.)
- Why do people celebrate each of these holidays?
- Which holiday is celebrated in other countries? Which ones are unique to our country?
Point out that some holidays honor religious beliefs, while others celebrate specific cultures or countries. Religious holidays are celebrated by people of that religion around the world. Cultural or national holidays are celebrated by people with that background.
Choose one holiday and have students brainstorm things that come to mind when they think of that holiday. Point out that every holiday has its own traditions, like rituals, symbols, foods, and songs.
To get started, show the home page for this online activity on a projector. Have students read and listen to the online activity's home page. Tell students that in this activity, they'll explore three big winter holidays celebrated in the United States: Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. Ask students to share which winter holidays their families celebrate.
Using the Online Activity in Your Classroom
Here are suggestions for how to use the various resources with your students.
Explore the Scrapbooks
Each scrapbook is different, but they all share common resources. Here, the Hanukkah scrapbook is used as an example that can be followed with any of the three scrapbooks.
Part 1: Introduce the holiday. Have a volunteer read the introduction. You may also click the audio button to listen along. Then scroll across the scrapbook to see the different objects.
Part 2: Learn about the holiday. Each scrapbook provides a background article, such as "What Is Hanukkah?," with the history of the holiday. Give students a few minutes to read this article. Click the audio button to listen along. Ask:
- What people or groups were important to this holiday?
- Where did these events take place? (For Kwanzaa: Which continent is honored in this holiday?) Find these places on your classroom map.
- When did these events take place? (For Kwanzaa: When did this holiday begin?)
Part 3: Listen to the greeting. Roll over the holiday greeting to hear it read aloud. Ask students if they know its meaning, then click on it to find out.
Part 4: Explore a special tradition and share your own. The first page of each scrapbook includes an in-depth slideshow exploring one important tradition. Give students time to click through the slideshow on their own or with a partner. This is a good choice for centers or lab time. On the last page, they're asked to reflect on a holiday tradition of their own and post their message on the bulletin board.
Part 5: Read postcards from kids around the world. What are some favorite holiday traditions of kids in Israel, Australia, and the United States? Click through the postcards to read quotes from kids about how they celebrate the holiday with their families or communities. Then ask students to share some of their own favorite traditions.
Part 6: Check out more holiday traditions. Let students roll over and click the many other objects on the scrapbooks. They'll learn about different symbols and rituals, hear holiday songs, and find recipes to family holiday foods. And on each scrapbook, they'll find at least one fun printable activity for home or at school.
In the Teacher section under each scrapbook, you'll find a link to Thinking Questions for that holiday. Pass out copies before students explore each scrapbook and have them record their answers as they move through independently. This can be used as an assessment or as the first step of a larger project about the holiday.
Compare and Contrast Holidays
Have students read about other holidays under "Holidays Around the World." Then print out and share copies of the Compare Two Holidays printable. Ask students to choose two holidays, including at least one holiday in the online activity, and compare important facts about them. This printable asks students to answer the following questions about each holiday:
- Why do people celebrate this holiday?
- When does this holiday take place?
- Who celebrates this holiday?
- Where is this holiday celebrated — in one country or many countries?
- How do people celebrate? Describe a popular tradition.
- What are some important symbols of this holiday?
- Share one more interesting fact about the holiday.
When they've completed the printable, have them share important differences and similarities between their holidays with a partner.
Send a Holiday eCard
Give students a chance to send a holiday greeting to friends and family. Before they complete their Holiday eCard, remind students to never share last names. This is a good activity for individual work. For each card, they can select a holiday or theme, choose a fun trivia fact, and preview the card before they send. They can also use images from the Clip Art and Images to make their own cards.
Final Activity: Make Your Own Scrapbook
As a culminating project, have students make their own holiday scrapbooks. These mini posters give students a chance to share their own holiday stories. Print the scrapbook onto 11- x 17-inch paper and give each student one copy, along with colored pencils, markers, and tape or paste.
To begin the scrapbook, students will provide important facts about the holiday, such as when and why it is celebrated. Then they'll share family traditions, personal memories, and holiday favorites. The scrapbook includes space for their own words, drawings, and photographs. They can draw their own images or print some directly from the Clip Art and Images. (For younger students, you may want to display a copy on an overhead projector and complete the poster for a different holiday like Thanksgiving or the Fourth of July.)
When students have completed their posters, let them color or decorate the border with colors or symbols of the holiday. Have students hang their scrapbooks around the classroom and invite other classes to visit your "holiday scrapbook gallery."
Keep a Holiday Journal
Have students write their own holiday journals with a first-person account of a family celebration. Let them choose whether they'd like to write about a holiday their families really celebrate, or one they've just learned about in this online activity. Encourage them to use personal experiences or facts they've learned to describe the sights, sounds, tastes, and feelings of the holiday. Allow them to sketch pictures in their journals too.
A Different View: Holiday Interviews
What was it like to celebrate Hanukkah during World War II? What is it like to fast during Ramadan? Invite your students to participate in an oral history project to get a unique first-hand look at a holiday. They could interview someone about how holidays were celebrated in the past or about a holiday from another religion or culture. They might interview a relative, a neighbor, or someone from their community, like a member of a place of worship. Once they have chosen their topic and set up the interview, they should develop a set of questions. Encourage them to think about all aspects of a holiday, from rituals and symbols to favorite foods and songs. Share these tips for their interview:
- Write down your questions beforehand. Make sure you know what you want to ask, but don't be afraid to ask follow-up questions during your interview.
- Come prepared. Research basic information about the holiday or time period before the interview. After all, this is your chance to hear about someone's personal experiences, so don't ask questions you can find in book!
- Listen carefully. Even if you record the interview, write down the most important facts.
- Say thank you! Always follow up with a thank-you note. And it's nice to share your interview with the person too.
Celebrations Around the Globe
Have students work with a partner to learn about holidays around the world, such as unique holiday traditions or holidays specific to a region or culture. For each holiday, create a colorful holiday card on an index card, including the holiday name, date of the holiday, place of the tradition or holiday, and one cool holiday fact. Then have them decorate the card with at least one symbol of the holiday. Let students hang their cards around a classroom map, using a ribbon to connect each card to the country. Here are four good places to find holidays around the world:
Celebrate Winter Holidays helps students meet the following standards sponsored by the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS):
- Culture (1): Social studies curriculum should include experiences that provide for the study of culture and cultural diversity.
- Time, Continuity, and Change (2): Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of the ways human beings view themselves in and over time.
- Individual Development and Identity (4): Social studies curriculum should include experiences that provide for the study of individual development and identity.
- Celebrate Winter Holidays helps students meet the following standards sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and the International Reading Association (IRA):
- Students read a wide range of print and non-print texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world. (1)
- Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge. (8)
- Students develop an understanding of and respect for diversity in language use, patterns, and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, geographic regions, and social roles. (9)
- Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information). (12)