It’s time to get out the lesson plan book and plan for December. Below are ideas for math, reading, writing, and social studies.
Ideally, December lessons follow four criteria. They…
- fit curriculum standards,
- make students smile,
- take very little prep time to pull together, and
- require very little marking.
You can do holiday activities that address standards such as the Common Core or the Australian National Standards.
So what kinds of activities are holiday-like and fun and academic?
Graphing, Probability, Statistics: Younger students can have fun graphing fun Christmas foods. Older students can use the same items to investigate sample sizes or play with probability.
3D Shapes: Make these ornaments and refer to them during class while naming them, finding surface area, etc.
Problem-Solving: You’ve probably sung The 12 Days of Christmas. One partridge was given on the first day. On the second day, there were 2 turtle doves and a partridge – making a total of 3 gifts. If this pattern continues, how many total gifts would be given on the 12th day? How many total over the full 12 days?
Build the excitement with a picture book based on the song – or the song might be in you iTunes playlist. My favorite version:
Stories: So what would life be like for the person who received all 12 days of gifts? Discuss. If inspired, write the story. Create a character who gives and one who receives. Put them in a setting. What is the motivation for the gifts? What are the daily consequences?
Poetry: In Ralph Fletcher’s book Poetry Matters, he shares that there was a year he wrote poems as gifts for each member of his family. Poems were written based on interests and hobbies of the person who would receive the poem. Poems can be decorated or framed – something that is good to do the final hours of the final day.
Persuasive Writing: Jen from Runde’s Room suggests students write letters to Santa from the point of view of a literary villain. She posts some examples that students can use as mentor texts.
Vocabulary, Grammar, and Word Study: Students guess the identities of obfuscated Christmas carols. Younger students can go to Visuwords for help. My favorites:
- The Slight Percussionist Lad (Little Drummer Boy)
- Quiescent Nocturnal Period (O Holy Night)
Christmas Mad Libs can help students review parts of speech.
The Resourceful Teacher has a great elementary writing activity using holiday stamps.
Those in Christian religious schools can delve into all the metaphors used to describe the coming Messiah. What does it mean that Jesus would be the Lion of Judah? Prince of Peace? What about other metaphorical references to Jesus as the Good Shepherd? The Door? Others?
For an ESL reading/writing connection, students can talk through various pages from Peter Spier’s Christmas, a wordless picture book. Pick pages to talk through each day and label items like mistletoe with post-its. Students can later either write out words for the page or they can compare Peter Spier’s Christmas to Christmas in their country of heritage.
The Polar Express website includes an interactive calendar of short writing activities – one activity for each day in December. The North Pole has additional activities.
Summarizing/Retelling: Review story mapping using Chris Van Allsburg’s The Polar Express.
Fluency: If you have students who are still struggling with reading fluency, plays are available online. Just glancing through the first page of playscripts, I found Babushka, The Gingerbread Boy, The Three Trees, A Christmas Carol, and The Nativity. A list of Christmas plays can also be found on Little Fun, LIttle Learning (be sure to look at the links in the comments section too!) and Dramatrix. Spread plays over a number of days and adding a tech twist where students practice lines on Garage Band or other recording tool.
Analyzing/Inferring: If your library has a good stock of Christmas picture books (or Hanakkuh), bring some back to the classroom. Have pairs of students read a book and come to consensus on the most important line in each book. The pairs write the most important line on a sheet of butcher. Rotate the books so that each pair gets a different story for each of the 3-5 days. Do the ‘most important lines’ agree? if not, can groups come to consensus? Wrap it up by asking students what they believe the author believes is the meaning of Christmas. Do students agree or disagree? Defend. Ruth Morgan has put together books on Hanukkah.
Those who do not have a large stock of Christmas books can listen to stories on Storynory or The North Pole. Again, have students create story mountains, summarize, or find the message behind a story or two.
History: Many students play soccer (football, for my Commonwealth friends) at recess. They might be interested to know that soldiers in WWI played soccer during periods of truce. In fact, both German and English soldiers played on Christmas.
The story is told to music by John McCutcheon. Commonwealth friends may want to preview and decide if the line “He’s singing bloody well, you know!” is appropriate for your age/classroom/school. The lyrics are online, if you care to print and distribute.
Religious Studies: Those of you that work in religious institutions, can label the prophesies on a timeline and compare them to the birth of Jesus. Simple and short, but powerful.
Research/History/Geography: Students pick a country that celebrates Christmas and research the celebrations in that country. Have students look for references to a Santa-like figure, other saints, and references to the Magi (if the Magi bring gifts in that particular country). Students can place references on Google maps using the same process as was described in the post about Haikus on Google maps. The research and presentation could last at least a week.
Move from the North Pole to the South pole and explore Antarctica street view. The landscapes are stunning.
Quizzes/Trivia/Research:Turn these pre-made Christmas quizzes into a bit of research fun.
Character Development: The story of Rudolph can be turned into an anti-bullying lesson.
Still haven’t planned for all of December? Over 2,500 Christmas activities are shared by teaching professionals on BetterLesson.com and ShareMyLesson.com. Check out some of Ian Byrd’s ideas or Shelly Terrell’s ideas – they’re great.
Have a wonderful time planning for Christmas lessons. Please add any of your favorite activities in the comments box. Any ideas for science?
If you find this post valuable, please consider doing one or more of the things in the storyboard below…
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photo credit: LinksmanJD via photopin cc