Options to Celebrate Winter Holidays in ANY School

Holidays can be tricky in schools, especially public schools. Some schools even have restrictions for teachers on how they can address the holidays in their classrooms. I share several ideas for you to celebrate winter holidays in this post, including if you can't acknowledge any particular holidays, if you want to include all holidays, and if you want to focus on just one.

Here's a fair dilemma: how do you celebrate the holidays in English class, especially if you teach in a public (or highly diverse) school?

All teachers want to be inclusive and promote safe classroom environments for every student's beliefs... but that can be tough to do when student attention spans are short (and holiday celebrations would increase buy-in.) Plus, you probably don't have a lot of TIME to promote the holidays, right? Your curriculum might be tight, or perhaps you need any activities to be REALLY justified to stakeholders.

Here are some ideas for lessons with different degrees of holiday integration. Feel free to pick and choose what is most appropriate for your building, students, and curriculum!

No matter what your situation, steal one of these low-stress ideas and teach while "laughing all the way" to winter break!

Situation #1: No holidays at all
No winter holidays? No problem! There's more than one way to still make a connection.
  • Focus on common themes, like Kindness. I've successfully done different variations of my Random Acts of Kindness project for each of the past three years, depending on how much time I had. Incorporate whichever parts you have time for, and see what discussions emerge! 
  • Focus on New Year's. Whether you take a goal-setting angle or just want students to briefly reflect on what's old and what's possible, everyone can relate to the "fresh start" that's ahead. Use this FREE countdown activity full of prompts to help your class count down to midnight (or use it in the new year).
  • Hang white lights, paper chains, and/or snowflakes. Focus on a winter theme and keep your room as cozy and bright in the dreary darkness as possible!
Holidays can be tricky in schools, especially public schools. Some schools even have restrictions for teachers on how they can address the holidays in their classrooms. I share several ideas for you to celebrate winter holidays in this post, including if you can't acknowledge any particular holidays, if you want to include all holidays, and if you want to focus on just one.

Situation #2: Equal inclusion of all holidays
Have the green light to celebrate Christmas, as long as it's equally combined with other faiths or traditions? You have some really cool possibilities!
  • Bring in research, debate, or nonfiction. After picking their own holiday, students can acquire research skills "in disguise" of a holiday celebration. Seize the opportunity to teach something more "dry", such as primary/secondary sources, MLA citations, credible sources, etc. It might also be the perfect time for a Socratic Seminar, debate, four corners, gallery walk (of their research findings), or other type of talking. 
  • Read "The Gift of the Magi". Even though it's kind of about Christmas, it has universal themes (giving, poverty, love, selflessess) that the world REALLY needs, as well as some serious bang for your literary buck (difficult text, situational irony, and symbolism galore). Plus, you could follow it up with creative writing; what would a modern-day version of this story look like? What would this story look like in another culture or faith?

Situation #3: Little/No Limits on Christmas
Maybe you're in a Christian/Catholic school, maybe everyone in your room is celebrating Christmas, or you just don't have any restriction on it.
  • Read A Christmas Carol! I have SO much love for this novella, and I teach it every November/December to eighth graders. 
  • Go cross-curricular. See if the history teacher wants to team up on a lesson or project (the history of a culture or element of Christmas?), if the math teacher wants to talk about charitable giving, or if the science teacher wants to do a STEM project with you about the science of baking.  

Thanks for reading! 

5 comments

  1. I've only had time to fit in A Christmas Carol once during my teaching career, but it was everything I had hoped for and more. There are so many great life lessons in that story and my students really loved reading the classic that inspired so many movies they have seen.

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  2. I love both The Gift of the Magi and A Christmas Carol although apparently at my school, I have to be teaching 7th grade to use the latter. That's ok, there's still so many other fun things to do! :)

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  3. Hi Sara!
    I love these ideas for addressing different situations in the classroom for the holidays! Thanks for joining us!
    ~Julie

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  4. Agreed! I always try to be cognizant of a variety of holidays in December. I would hate to exclude a student in my own classroom! Thanks for the ideas!!

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  5. I love both "The Gift of the Magi" and A Christmas Carol." I also like the idea of having implementing the Random Acts of Kindness, especially during this time of year. Thanks so much for sharing!

    Lyndsey
    Lit with Lyns

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