The weeks between Thanksgiving and Winter Break can be torturous, and it can be really tempting to do some slacking when it comes to instruction…especially when it comes to writing. It can be really tough to fit quality writing instruction into those busy weeks. However, holiday writing doesn't have to be fluff, and it doesn't have to be just letters to Santa either. Today I want to share a fun way to connect reading, writing, and social studies into just a few short weeks of instruction.
Start changing your thinking about holiday writing.
Would you believe me if I told you my students spent a huge chunk of their time doing reading, writing, and research during the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas? Despite all the special events that come up in December, building a fun holiday research project into the curriculum can keep students engaged until the last bell rings.
Here's the secret: POETRY! Creating our final products in the form poems gives a ton of flexibility and makes it simple to work on this project even on those days when the schedule is completely wonky. Plus, I get to build in the social studies standards about comparing cultures and communities, which is a huge time saver. In the end, the kids learn about a variety of different winter holidays and create a super cute (and informative) tab book like the one below.
So how does it work?
Well, the project takes the entire three weeks to complete. We begin with researching several different winter holidays. The kids complete a note sheet during their research, and I use videos, websites, books from our school library. Sometimes we even have guest speakers (depending on the availability of the parents) that talk to our class about their holiday traditions. I take the opportunity to teach note taking skills that are so essential for research during this time.
As for which holidays we study, I tend to vary the options a bit from year to year depending on my class. I like to include Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali, Three Kings' Day, Kwanzaa, and Chinese New Year. This incorporates the majority of the holidays the students in my class celebrate, and it adds one or two extra holidays that the kids might not be familiar with, too. I love having such a diverse class because the students have a chance to share details about how their family celebrates the winter holidays, and it really builds that piece that allows students to feel like an expert.
After you research –
After we finish the research portion, I like to give the students the opportunity to synthesize what they learned in preparation for writing our holiday poetry. They brainstorm about nouns, verbs, and adjectives that are associated with the holiday. These are a HUGE help in making the poetry flow a little faster.
After the students brainstorm and get some of the pre-writing out of the way, we spend some time learning the different types of poetry. I give them graphic organizers to write each poem because the scaffolding is really helpful for my struggling writers and is great for my advanced writers, too. We pair each poem type with a winter holiday and use our notes to create a poem that really gives someone who doesn't know much about the holiday a picture of what the holiday is like. I love that I get the opportunity to build in sensory language, types of poetry, and revising and editing all into this writing time.
Creating the final product
Finally, the students are ready to start creating their final drafts. This portion is where I get creative. Sometimes my students make mini-books, sometimes we create a paper poem quilt, other times we make poetry pockets…there are so many options, which is part of what I love. To be honest, my favorite tends to be the tab book because it is so easy to organize and is great for sharing during our winter poetry tea (which comes right before our winter party…because the last day before break is rough.)
There you have it! A fun easy way to incorporate all the holiday excitement into the weeks between breaks. I've bundled the resources I use for this project together along with the links to the videos, websites, and other digital links I use to make this a low prep option for those of you who are also busy with the holiday season.
Want more great holiday writing ideas? Be sure to check in over at Focused on Fifth for some great holiday writing ideas!