Tis the Season: Using the Holiday to Teach Students
December 4, 2020
It’s December, and I don’t know about you all, but I have been in desperate need of some holiday cheer. Given everything that’s happened in 2020, it’s nice to have an excuse to hang up lights, brew some cocoa, and engage in festive pastimes. Whether its playing board games with family or streaming your favorite holiday film, all of us deserve to end the year with a little rest and refreshment. Of course, that’s not going to be the reality for everyone.
For teachers, this December feels like the final lap in an excruciatingly long marathon. We’ve spent 2020 adapting to distance learning, navigating social controversy, and trying to foster healthy SEL in our virtual classrooms. Things have been rough for our students as well. Many lost their family vacations, saw an end to their extracurricular activities, and are trying to adjust to the ever-changing landscape alongside us. It’s a difficult situation to say the least, but there may be a way to make it a little easier.
Holiday traditions have always helped brighten an otherwise gloomy season. Why not use them to spark a little cheer in your classroom? Here a just a few ways you can use the holiday season to teach your students.
- Holiday Read Aloud: For K–5 educators, there are plenty of wonderful holiday books that your students are sure to enjoy. Classics like How the Grinch Stole Christmas or The Polar Express never fail to capture the imagination of young readers. Consider performing a virtual read aloud for your students using some of your favorite holiday books. Not only will this be a welcome reprieve, but it will also help them develop their language and vocabulary skills.
- Solstice Science: What do your students know about the reason for the seasons? Do any of them even know what the Winter Solstice is or why it takes place? Use this timely lesson to teach your class about Earth’s axis, the effect direct sunlight can have on our climate, and much more! Your students are sure to flip when they discover it’s summer in Australia during our winter season!
- Build Elf Catchers: If you have time and lots of random items to share, encourage your students to make “elf catchers”. It doesn’t take much to engage students with curiosity and creativity when they’re given ample time and supplies. This unstructured, imaginative activity will get them thinking like engineers as they develop traps and contraptions for snagging elves. You can even have students go further by introducing coding or mechanical components to the equation.
- Wonderful World: The world is a big place, and not everyone celebrates the winter season the same way. For a social studies activity, have your students research some of the different traditions people have created for commemorating the season. You can branch off from the Reason for the Seasons activity by examining Christmas traditions in countries like France, Brazil, or the Philippines. You could even introduce students to other notable holidays like Kwanzaa and Hanukkah. It turns out there are many reasons to celebrate the season!
As we near the end of 2020, it’s important that we don’t allow ourselves to succumb to our inner Grinch. Yes, this year has been hard, and that’s not going to change the minute the clock strikes midnight on January 1st 2021. Still, right here and now, we have the chance to share a little holiday magic with our students. So, give yourselves and your students permission to have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday. By using the holiday to teach students, we can invigorate their minds and renew their spirits for the new year.