New Teacher Advocate — Winter 2012
Change Language:
Holidays: Hurrah Or Bah Humbug ?
Madeline Kovarik

When holidays are approaching, the atmosphere and work ethic in your classroom can get disrupted. The challenge is to limit the impact of holiday anticipation on the curriculum. Knowledgeable teachers plan so that academics will continue even during an increasing level of excitement. Blending the holiday with the curriculum is the answer.

Language Arts

If the excitement of the December holidays is driving you crazy, brainstorm with your class. The ethnic and religious composition of the students may suggest which holidays your class will include, but you can stretch students’ thinking: Christmas, Chanukah, Bodhi Day, Boxing Day, Eid-al-Adha, Hogmanay, Junkanoo, Kwanzaa, Las Posadas, St. Lucia Day, and St. Nicholas Day. To focus on skills highlighted in the Common Core State Standards, include written reports (Research to Build and Present Knowledge) or oral reports (Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas).

Select two or three holidays celebrated by students in your class or divide the class into small groups to study more holidays. With your students, generate lists of nouns, verbs, and adjectives that relate to those holidays. For example, if the selected holidays are Christmas, Chanukah, and St. Lucia Day, you might have this word list:
Students then use the words to write poems like this one.

December is when
Sparkling lights twinkle,
Shiny ornaments hang, and
Beautiful presents are given.
It’s Christmas time again!
For younger students or those needing assistance, scaffold the poem by providing a structure:

(Month’s name) __________ is when
(Adjective) _____________ (Noun)___________ (Verb) _________,
(Adjective) ______________ (Noun) _________ (Verb) _________, and,
(Adjective) ____________ (Noun) ___________ are (Verb) __________________
It’s (Holiday) _________ time again!

This poem and accompanying word lists can be modified for any holiday. Also consider other poetry formats, including acrostic poems (e.g., Christmas: C = Caroling, H = HoHoHo, R = Reindeer, etc.). Find acrostic poem formats for most of the major holidays at Poem Lesson Plans at


Have children make a list of 2-5 “dream presents” they would like to receive. Using the Internet, students can research the cost of their items. Alternately, use weekly newspaper ads; most publishers will donate newspapers for classroom use. See Newspapers in Education at or prepare a list of items with costs from which students may choose. After they make their present selections, ask students to add the costs of the items.

For a more advanced lesson, give students a spending budget so they must first estimate a total cost (Common Core State Standard: Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them). Then they total the items and subtract from the budgeted amount. Older students can calculate state sales tax or subtract discount amounts (e.g., all prices now at 15% off). For additional math instructional ideas:

• TeacherVision

• Standards-Based Math Activities

• Kidzone

Social Studies

Research holidays around the world with your students. For example, at Halloween, groups of students might research how the holiday is celebrated in Mexico (Día de los Muertos), Brazil (Dia de Finados), Boliva (Dia de los ñatitas) and Guatemala. They can compare and contrast the visiting of cemeteries or flying kites with the way it is celebrated in the United States (National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies: People, Places & Environments). Because geography is an important element of social studies, students should locate the country on a map or globe. This lesson activity works well for holidays such as:

• Independence Day celebrations

Huffington Post

Global Post

• Christmas celebrations in 75 countries

• Scholastic lesson plans for winter holidays

• Halloween and Day of the Dead

Pumpkin Patches and More’s Halloween around the world

• New Year’s for more than 60 ethnic groups



Check out these sites for some great holiday themed science projects and lesson plans:

• Chemistry on Simple projects such as making scented wrapping paper, snow, snow globes, and creating other fun holiday items. Http://

• TeacherVision Lessons on the winter solstice, observing crystals, and viewing snowflakes.


• eHow Instructions for making candy canes and gift wrap. Http://

• Hooked on Science Science experiments related to many holidays. Http://

You can’t wish away the excitement of the holidays in your classroom, but you can make the excitement work for you and your curriculum goals. When the season nears, think “How can this holiday to fit my curriculum goals?” Then check your school or district guidelines and plan accordingly. With this in mind, you’re certain to be successful no matter the time of year!

More Resources for Holiday Fun

• Scholastic Suggestions for holiday books to read, on-line activities, printables, and holiday clip-art. Http://

• Education World Ideas for the well-known holidays as well as some lesser known events and holidays such as Dental Health month, Groundhog Day, Memorial Day, and Constitution Day.


• HotChalk Lesson Plans Page Tried-and-true holiday lesson ideas from teachers, listed by approximate grade levels. Http://

• Teaching Heart Ideas for holidays and seasons, especially for the primary grades. Http://

• Teachers First

Mostly Christmas resources plus links to other web pages with ideas by grade levels. Http://

Dr. Kovarik’s educational career includes being an elementary teacher, guidance counselor, primary specialist, and school administrator. She currently serves on KDP’s Communications Committee and is a frequent contributor to KDP publications.