One of my favorite Christmas/Winter books is My Penguin Osbert by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel. It's a cute story and who doesn't love penguins?! I like to start off my holiday unit with this book because it gets us thinking about winter and the season. While the story is about a boy who gets a penguin for Christmas, it's really not a story about Christmas. I like to use this story with a graphic organizer because I think it lends itself really easily to a discussion about plot. After reading the story we filled out a snowman graphic organizer together and went through the character, setting, problem, and solution. The students then filled out the remaining two parts on their own since those were more personal opinion responses. I haven't included it because I have to tell you, it's nothing fancy! I drew it myself oh... 7 years ago and I am still using it! We also did a snow globe art activity which you can find here from What the Teacher Wants. They turned out so cute! Although as you'll see from my picture we didn't quite get to the part where you write yet. We'll do that when we come back.
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Snow Globe Example
For our Christmas themed day, I read Corduroy's Christmas Surprise by Don Freeman and did a sweet reader's response activity which you can find here from The First Grade Parade. I used that activity last year as well and it was one of my favorites. In her post, Cara references a book that I wasn't able to find so I used the Corduroy book and thought it worked really well since in the end, Corduroy realizes that the best Christmas gift of all was the company and happiness of his friends. Just for fun, I also read Snowmen at Christmas by Caralyn Buehner.
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For Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Las Posadas I did activities that I've been using for years. Some I've gotten from other teachers, some from books and some I kind of made up. I don't have any pictures because I still don't have a camera so I only get pictures if I remember to get out my iPhone and take them while we're working. Some examples of activities I used this year or in past years are making dreidels, eating latkes, making candles or a menorah, making a mkeka (a Kwanzaa mat), making luminarias, making a poinsettia, etc. These are some of my favorite books for these holidays:
Next up was our Polar Express Day. I've been doing this with my team(s) for about 5 years now and it has to be one of my students' favorite days. I love that sweet story. We start off by sending a letter home the week before letting parents know that their child can wear pajamas and bring a favorite mug to school on that day. You could also ask for donations of hot chocolate, but I didn't because I usually find it at Target for about $1.00/box of 10. On the big day, we read the story, watch the movie while drinking hot chocolate and I pass out bells on red ribbon. We also talk about things that were different in the movie and why. It gets the students thinking about the extra details that were part of the movie, but not part of the book, and how they didn't change the meaning of the story, but made it longer and more interesting as a movie. I get goosebumps every time I read the last page of that book and this year was no different!
And finally... GINGERBREAD DAY! I saved this day for Thursday because that happened to be our staff dress up day as well. We were supposed to dress up as our favorite holiday character.
This is me last year with one of the Kindergarten teachers. We were Dancer and Dasher.
And here we are THIS year! Gingerbread girls! Yes, we made our costumes.
There are SO many adorable versions of the classic gingerbread tale... gingerbread cowboy, gingerbread girl, gingerboy pirates, etc. Since most of the kids already know the basic story (and mine had heard it in the library that week), I like to read Gingerbread Baby and Gingerbread Friends both by Jan Brett. Side note: I love Jan Brett and she has so many great winter books! I love the twist on the gingerbread tale in Gingerbread Baby and then I like to talk about what a sequel is and brainstorm examples before we read Gingerbread Friends. Last year I drew two giant gingerbread houses and we created anchor charts about the texts together. This year we had library and an assembly though so we didn't quite have time for all of that. We did however have time for a fun little craft extension and made our own "gingerbread friends". As I do this, I make sure to bring in how I'm using math and science because I think it's super important for my kiddos to see on a daily basis all the ways people use math and science in the real world. (And I teach at a math and science magnet!) The recipe for gingerbread friends is simple: mix equal parts applesause and cinnamon. That's it. After the dough is mixed (if it's too wet, you can add cinnamon, if it's too dry, add applesauce), I roll it out on wax paper and have the students use gingerbread man cookie cutters to cut out shapes. We then use a straw to make a hole for a ribbon once it's dry. Depending on how thick your cut outs are, you may need a couple of days to dry them. I've also heard that you can also throw them in the oven on a low temp and bake on each side to finish drying. When we make our gingerbread men, I start with 3 cups of each (applesauce and cinnamon) because I like to have PLENTY. I have 21 kids and not only did we make enough for each kiddo to have a gingerbread friend, but after school there was so much left that I cut out stars to attach to their end of the year gifts too. And I still had some dough left over. If you haven't made cinnamon ornaments before, you are missing out. The smell is AMAZING and lasts for a good long time. When your gingerbreads (or whatever shape you're using) are dry, run a ribbon through the hole you punched with a straw, and voila! Gingerbread friends!
And the very last share I have before I wrap up this very detailed post: my gift for my students. Instead of buying them more pencils and erasers and dollar store toys that break immediately, I went for a tried and true crowd-pleaser: Playdoh! I bought a 24 pack of Playdoh for $15 at Target and put one in each treat sack with 3 soft peppermints, 3 Hershey's Kisses, and tied it with a ribbon (and in theory a cinnamon dough star but I ended up just passing those out).
I will leave a picture of one of my treat sacks and the adorable melting snowman cookies that my room mom made with my firsties during our class party:
I hope you all have a wonderful, restful and HAPPY holiday! See you in 2012!