When you teach Kindergarten, 1st grade, or 2nd grade (or beyond!), your students likely get excited about the holidays. On St. Patrick’s Day, they’re chatting about who’s wearing green. For weeks leading up to Halloween, they’re talking about their costumes. The holidays can feel incredibly special for our students, and many kids love celebrating holidays in the classroom!!
However…sometimes the holidays can be a little distracting, too. 🤪 Students might be chatting about their plans for Christmas instead of focusing on their word sort. They might be telling April Fool’s jokes (that often make no sense) rather than reading independently.
All of this might leave you wondering, “What can I do to honor my students’ excitement but also keep us learning?” or “Is it even possible for kids to get anything out of school when they’re so excited about the holidays?!”
If your normal classroom routines are disrupted by holidays and other special events, you’re not alone. And you’re not doing anything wrong!
Of course, we still want our students to continue learning. So that’s exactly what we’re going to talk about in this blog post – how to celebrate or learn about holidays in the classroom while continuing to work on literacy skills!
Strategy #1: Work on Comprehension Strategies with Holiday Read-Alouds
You probably already grab read-alouds on holiday topics, right?
Sometimes it’s perfectly fine just to read your students a story JUST for the sake of reading a story!
But don’t forget that you can also use these read-alouds to work on comprehension strategies! You might work on any of these research-backed strategies:
- Comparing and contrasting (i.e. how different families celebrate holidays differently, how holidays are celebrated differently in different countries, different books on the same holiday, etc.)
- Identifying key details (especially in nonfiction texts about holidays)
Sometimes students better comprehend and discuss a text once they’ve heard it twice, so consider reading a few of your holiday read-alouds more than once. Your students will be excited to read about a holiday AND get to deepen their comprehension at the same time.
Strategy #2: Leverage Shared Writing Activities to Discuss Holidays and Teach Writing Skills
Shared writing is an incredible tool for teaching writing skills!
In case you’re not familiar with shared writing, in this activity, students work with you to create a text (usually a paragraph or two, or a short story, or even just a series of sentences). I usually spend 1-2 days on a shared writing activity (about 10-15 minutes per day).
I like to do shared writing activities based on some sort of experience or instruction that’s already happened. For example, if your class has a Valentine’s Day party, you could work together to write a story about what happened at the party.
Or if you read students several books about Ramadan, Kwanzaa, and Hanukkah, you might have students help you write a short paragraph about each holiday.
On a simple, Kindergarten level, your shared writing might just be a series of sentences about students in your class. For example:
Kara was a witch for Halloween.
Mark was a lion for Halloween.
Writing and thinking aloud while your students watch is always valuable. I also recommend choosing one main “teaching point” for your shared writing experience. This could be anything from adding adjectives to write with more detail to writing in complete sentences to using punctuation at the end of sentences.
Holidays + writing = fun and instructional!
Strategy #3: Choose Decodable Texts about Holidays for Students to Read in Small Group
Using decodable texts about holidays is a GREAT way to keep students engaged in small group!
My decodable text bundles on holidays and seasonal topics are the perfect resource to keep on hand for this purpose. They’re organized by season and include multiple holidays within each season!
Here are a few examples for President’s Day, Black History Month, and St. Patrick’s Day.
As of June 2023, all 4 seasons of decodable texts will be available for Kindergarten, 1st grade, 2nd grade, and in a K-2 bundle!
Remember to always check with your students’ families (perhaps at the beginning of the school year) about any preferences or restrictions involving the holidays. Some families do not celebrate any holidays and students are therefore not allowed to participate in class celebrations or discussions.
I hope these ideas were helpful to you! Happy teaching!