Yes, It Can Be the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

It’s the Sunday after Thanksgiving and while it’s cold outside, the sun is shining brightly, and my spirits are lifted. It’s been a busy, yet somehow restful, five-day break. I’m thankful for the time I had to visit with friends, feast with my family, decorate for Christmas, and even do a little on-line shopping. However, the reality of tomorrow morning is already settling in…Seventeen days of school until Christmas vacation….

Seventeen days of combating overexcited kids, sugar rushes, 24-hour holiday radio, and the general hustle and bustle of the season. Don’t get me wrong. I love the holidays. I love the magic. What I don’t love is trying to keep up a normal routine in my classroom.

As teachers we have two choices…to fight something that has been advertised since the day after Halloween, or to let it happen (because you know it will) and turn the holidays into teachable moments.

Teachers of younger students can turn to the tried and true holiday activities with picture books, songs, and thematic lessons of The Polar Express, The Mitten, and The Twelve Days of Christmas. Writing lessons can revolve around letters to Santa, holiday greeting cards, and multi-cultural lessons on holiday traditions. The following links offer 30 ideas for holiday lessons ranging from fine arts to the core content areas for three major holidays: Christmas, Kwanzaa, and Hanukkah

If you would rather not promote one specific holiday, or you’d rather focus on the non-commercial aspects of the season, try touching on the true spirit of the holidays – peace, goodwill, charity, and compassion – as suggested on the Teaching Tolerance website in the 1987 article, Problems with Christmas Curriculum. Although the article is over 20 years old, the debate of Christmas’s place in the classroom can still be heard. Considering there are probably more people in need than there have ever been, this is a wonderful opportunity to show students how it is possible to touch the lives of others.

Many schools participate in Toys for Tots, Share-A-Christmas, or Salvation Army drives during this time of year. While it’s sometimes “tradition” for schools to participate in such charity drives, students may be desensitized to such activities. To find a charity that matches the personality and interests of your classroom, try the search tool at www.universalgiving.org. Or think locally and provide assistance to a local animal shelter, homeless shelter, or nursing home. Ask your students how they would like to give to others in need.

As you write your lesson plans for these final weeks of 2010, challenge your students to experience the gift of giving, allow yourself to enjoy the magic of the holidays with your students, and most of all, have fun. After all, it is “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”

By Melanie Krause, Dover Education Association

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