Sunday, November 13, 2016

How to Handle the Holidays in a Public School Classroom

Teachers often struggle to decide how to handle the winter holidays in public schools. This blog post will help you plan for a holiday season in your classroom that is both inclusive and educational.

Teachers often struggle to decide how to handle the winter holidays in public schools. This blog post will help you plan a Holidays Around the World Unit.

You know your students learn best when they are engaged and motivated. You also know that many children are excited by the holidays season. Their energy finds a way of presenting itself in the classroom so you want to capitalize on using it in a positive way. But, due to time constraints or directives from administration to avoid controversial topics and religious holidays, you may find yourself struggling to figure out how to offer seasonal, academic, and meaningful learning opportunities in a public school setting.

During my first few years of teaching, December was always a crazy month in my classroom. As a new teacher I had not yet perfected my classroom management strategies. As a result I saw an increase in student behavior issues. Frequent changes to our schedule because of parent conferences, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving break, assemblies and special programs that occured annually at that time weakened the procedures and routines we did have in place. I also found I was often needing to unexpectedly leave sub plans because germ season had arrived and as a new teacher I caught everything. All of the above pretty much guaranteed December was going to be a mess.

I knew I needed to have a better plan and am proud to say I did manage to find a way to successfully and enjoyably honor the holiday season in my classroom. I was able to provide my students with educational experiences that kept them focused and used their time in a way that was valuable. The solution to the problems I had each year was to implement a Holidays Around the World Unit in my classroom.  

The Benefits of Holidays Around the World

  • I was able to channel their energy into engaged learning experiences.
  • It provide an overarching theme that offered consistency and commonality when our schedule became fragmented. 
  • Teaching about the commonalities in holiday stories reinforces cultural understanding. 
  • The shared values of different holidays and seasonal celebrations instills a strong sense of community and tolerance.
  • It fell within my district's guidelines for approved teaching topics. Gingerbread and reindeer research were also OK, but Santa, elves and the North Pole were not. You'll need to know exactly what your admins allow.

Tips for Getting the Most out of Holidays Around the World

There are many different holidays, traditions and celebrations to choose from.  Below are 6 ideas to help you plan a successful Holidays Around the World unit no matter which holidays you select. 
  • Consider collaborating with other teachers. You can lighten your heavy workload by each taking responsibility for one country and having the students rotate through the various classrooms. This means less planning and easier prep for each teachers and a whole lot of fun for the students. I’ve done this across different grade levels with great success. I have also done it where we mixed our classes up for traveling “around the world.” The students loved spending time with other teachers and working with different peers.
  • Access your local library to bring in collections of books for the students to peruse. Their interest in the subject motivates them to read and explore all the different titles.
  • Show videos that help them to understand the different cultures and places. I curated a collection of videos from EPCOT’s Holidays Around the World festivities which would be great to stream in class or ask the students to watch at home.

  • Make it a truly integrated learning opportunity by balancing social studies topics, reading and writing skills and creative arts. Team up with your music, art and physical education teachers to plan lessons that involve artistic projects, cultural music and a variety of games or dances related to the holidays you are studying.
  • Involve families by asking them to come in and share their traditions or prepare cultural foods to sample. Most recently I asked parent volunteers to prepare the materials for each country and  plan a related craft. The students rotated through stations to make each craft and then came together for a multicultural buffet which was a really great alternative to the traditional holiday party on the day before the winter break.
To simplify your hectic holiday season, all of the resources I have created and used have been bundled into one easy-to-use download. To save yourself time and provide your students with an engaging, educational and highly motivating holiday learning experience I encourage you to give it a try.

Also, if you haven’t already read it, I welcome you to grab my FREE ebook to help make your holiday season stress-free and enjoyable.




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