Teaching Literacy During the Holidays

It’s that time of year…the red and green butcher paper rolls are shrinking, the Grinch makes a school visit, and concerts have replaced athletics as the main evening events. The holidays offer opportunities for celebration as well as distractions. Kids get off of their routines or the classroom curriculum is not aligned with the seasonal activities and, as a result, our plans too often take a backseat to festivities or classroom challenges.

I won’t get into the religious aspect of celebrating the holidays, especially in public schools (check out Teaching Tolerance for more information on this topic). Instead, I thought I would share as well as request ideas for integrating promising literacy practices during the holiday season.

  • Service learning projects – This time of year can be stressful for some families living in poverty or just find this time of year hard. Teachers can develop extended lesson plans that involve students writing letters to individuals in assisted living centers and then hand delivering them, or creating original multimedia content to raise money for organizations in need.
  • Learning about our culture – Why do we celebrate some holidays and not others? How does where we live influence what holidays we choose to recognize as a community? These big questions can guide students to research their traditions in order to better understand their past. What they learn can be written as a report and then presented to peers and families using a digital tool of choice.
  • Exploring themes of the holidays – When we study a topic and look at multiple perspectives, trends and themes may present themselves. If holidays as a study are a staple in a school, it might be interesting to facilitate literary analysis and have students explore various texts to understand the larger ideas that are connected to the many known and unknown holidays. The idea of “text” can be expanded by incorporating podcasts, art, and other nonconventional mediums.

I realize this post comes at the tail end of the holiday season. Yet now might be a great time to reflect on our current practices and how they might better incorporate literacy for future instructional planning. How do you authentically integrate reading, writing, language, speaking, and listening with your teaching at this time of year? Please share in the comments.

Author: Matt Renwick

Matt Renwick is an 18-year public educator who began as a 5th and 6th-grade teacher in Rudolph, WI. He now serves as an elementary principal for the Mineral Point Unified School District (http://mineralpointschools.org/). Matt also teaches online graduate courses in curriculum design and instructional leadership for the University of Wisconsin-Superior. He tweets @ReadByExample and writes for ASCD (www.ascd.org) and Lead Literacy (www.leadliteracy.com).

4 thoughts on “Teaching Literacy During the Holidays”

    1. Great points, Ian. What is our purpose in each and every activity? If we can ask ourselves this question as we prepare instruction in December, we might find possibilities for deep learning we may not have considered. -Matt

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Tuesday before break, my students looked beat up by the end of the day. So we painted! I modeled how to paint a snowman for a card and they took off with their creativity. The next day I had ELA centers in the morning, with writing a card to mom and dad, working on the computer program Lexia, and independent reading. The room had a soft buzz as everyone did what they were supposed to do. Next, a reader’s theater reading of The Mitten, which was our read aloud the day before. Lunch was next followed by decorating cookies and drinking hot chocolate with marshmallows. It was a minimum day schedule with students leaving for break having had a nice mixture of our usual routine combined with fun. For me it was a perfect day.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for sharing your authentic literacy experiences. You have shown that it is not a stretch to find a balance between acknowledging and even teaching about the holidays and maintaining important routines and quality learning environment for students. I think we sometimes assume students want all of these seasonal activities. I’m not so sure.

      Liked by 1 person

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