It is that time of year, when the kids are so excited you can barely keep them focused and you are probably counting down the days until winter break with more bliss then they are! This past Friday, Metz just had a lovely “Winter Holidays Around the World” program with songs being sung about Kwanzaa, Hanukah, Christmas, New Years Eve and more. It was a great learning experience and made me realize I probably should have posted some of these holiday learning ideas last week! I suppose it is better late then never! Maybe you will be able to find one or two to try this week and you can save some other favorite ideas for next year.
In my class, we learn about the many special celebrations that occur this time of the year, because understanding and celebrating diversity is such an important part of any successful curriculum. That being said, most of the ideas I have to share in this post will focus on the Christmas holiday. This is the holiday my students celebrate in their own homes, so many of our activities correlate with this event.
My apologies, but in the craziness of Friday, I left my camera at school, so I will have to download some example photos tomorrow (12-15-08), BUT I wanted to post these ideas incase you are writing lesson plans today and need something fun to do!
• To promote family involvement in school projects, trace Christmas trees on large pieces of poster board and send them home with these instructions: “Use your imagination and any materials you may have around your home to decorate this Christmas tree. Please return to school by (date) so we may discuss and display the trees.” Once returned the trees can be displayed with a small present cutout underneath each tree which says “Made by the _______ family”
• “1st Grade Philosophy”. List the student’s names and their responses to sweet questions like...”How do reindeer fly?” “How does Santa get into your house Christmas night?” “What would you like for Christmas?” “How do you get to the North Pole?” “What is Santa’s favorite dessert?” “If you could give your mom and dad anything for Christmas, what would it be?” This is very easy to do if you are typing answers at the computer as each student shares. Completing one question a day and giving the students some prior think time helps it to run even more smoothly. The answers you get are usually so funny and sweet. You can make copies of each page and compile them into a little book to send home. Choose a holiday cover page for students to color or have the students illustrate their own cover.
• Make a tape of your students singing favorite class and holiday songs. Tape an introduction for your parents and name each student. Then tape the collection of songs. Send a copy home to each family.
Class Made Books
• Write and illustrate the “ABC’s of Christmas”. While I am supplying you with a list of words you can use for ideas. I always list A-Z on chart paper and have the students give me ideas for as many as they can, then I refer to my list for the ones we are stumped on.
• Write and illustrate a class "12 Days of Christmas" book. Even though there are only 12 days, many of the last days with 7-12 items need two illustrators!
• Santa and tell him if you have been bad or good.
• Santa a list of things you have done to be good.
• Santa a list of questions you might have for him.
• To explain what your family has been doing to get ready for the holidays.
• A list of what you would like to get for Christmas.
Some of my favorite art activities are completed with just construction paper and crayon. They can be “framed” (glued on a poster board) and treasured forever. Students can also add a narrative story, poem or description to any of these art ideas.
• Use black construction paper and a white crayon for students to illustrate “Snow at Night”. I like to play an old jazz tune “Snowfall” or “The Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies” from the Nutcracker in the background while students work. After the page is complete, you can paint some parts with thinned out glue and sprinkle a little salt or white glitter over it.
Gray construction paper makes a great background for these next two ideas. Also playing holiday music really inspires the students creations.
• Have students illustrate a house lit up with holiday lights. The colors and white snow look quite ethereal on the gray paper. Display with the title “Silent Night”.
• Have students illustrate a picture of Santa Claus' home at the North Pole. The red and white stripes, which seem to end up in many of the drawings, look great on the gray paper.
To add snow to any illustration, you can use bubble wrap dipped in white paint, salt or glitter sprinkled on thinned out glue, cotton balls stretched out across the page or glue down pasta wheels or Honeycomb cereal pieces!
• Holiday cookies are such beautiful treats! You could have each student bring in a sample of cookies for the class, pass one out to each student on a plate, and have them illustrate each cookie on white paper and then add a few ideas of their own while they snack on the cookies they just drew. Leftovers can be sent home in a plastic baggie!
• This classic idea, which was around when I was in first grade in the mid 70’s is to make Christmas trees with pinecones by painting them (green or white) and/or stuffing their crevices with small cotton balls and finally gluing beads on several petals as ornaments, finally topping it off with a star. I am happy to report I still have mine from when I was a little girl!
• For a fun art center, have gingerbread men cutouts available along with a variety of buttons, fabric bows, yarn, wiggly eyes and "icing" (a squirt bottle filled with a mixture of white glue and white paint). Students use the materials to decorate their own gingerbread man. As a final touch, the teacher can spray it with cinnamon smelling spray.
• Make an ornament by wrapping string, dipped in diluted glue around a small blown up balloon. Before the glue is dry, students can add glitter. After everything has completely dried, pop the balloon to reveal a delicate piece of art. Finally attach an ornament hook for hanging.
• Make an ornament by dipping colored pieces of yarn in thinned out glue and arranging them in a desired design on a sheet of wax paper. While still wet sprinkle them with glitter. After they completely dry peel off the wax paper and add an ornament hook.
Share some holiday jokes with your students. They can write and illustrate each joke and sort the words for each joke in a pocket chart.
• What do elves learn in school? The elf-abet
• Why does Santa have three gardens? So he can hoe-hoe-hoe
• What do snowmen eat for breakfast? Frosted Flakes
• What does a cat on the beach have in common with Christmas? Sandy Claws
Fill the Stocking: Split students into two teams, sitting across from one another at a long table. Give each team a large stocking and 5 small items. The 1st player on each team fills the stocking and passes it on; the 2nd unpacks it and passes it to the next player to refill. The first team to move their stocking to the end of the line wins.
Ho, Ho, Ho: One student is “it” and sits with his back to the rest of the group. Another student is secretly chosen to be “Santa” and has to say in a deep voice “Ho, Ho, Ho Merry Christmas”. The Ss who is “it”, tries to guess who said it. If he is correct he gets to continue being it, if he is incorrect the student who was pretending to be Santa now becomes it and tries to guess the next secretly chosen Santa.
Santa & the Elves: One student is “it” and sits with his back to the rest of the group. The teacher chooses one “elf” to hide. Santa turns around and tries to guess which elf is missing.
"The Reindeer Dance": Sung to Hokey Pokey "You put your hooves in, you take your hooves out, you put your hooves in and you shake them all about, you do the reindeer dance and you turn yourself around that’s what it’s all about!" (antler, tail, red nose...)
“Christmas, children, is not a date. It is a state of mind.” ~Mary Ellen Chase
“We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color.” ~Maya Angelou