If you have ever been in classroom near a holiday, whether it’s Halloween, Christmas, or St. Patrick’s Day, you know students have a bursting energy of excitement that is almost uncontainable. So why not lean into that excitement to celebrate holidays with your students?
I think there are good ways, not so good ways, and just wrong ways to celebrate holidays with your students. And quite honestly, it is something that I am constantly evaluating, reflecting on, and changing. I anticipate I will continue to expand my understanding throughout the years.
Here are a few of my favorite ways to celebrate holidays with your students!
1. Be inclusive when you celebrate holidays with your students
We know that all the students in our class, families in our school and our communities, and people throughout our country do not all celebrate the same holidays, in the same way, or at the same time. It is vital that we work on being inclusive for all within our schools. When the school year starts, we get to know the families of the students in our class.
Sending home a survey to caregivers provides an opportunity to learn many things about students, including what holidays are celebrated. If we are going to acknowledge some holidays, we must make space for all holidays and celebrations. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate holidays with your students.
If we look at major holidays across the globe, some of them happen in December, but many others do not. I think that idea that having a December “Holidays Around the World” focus is not nearly enough. If we only focus on winter holidays, we miss many other important holidays. The good news about this is that it is possible to celebrate holidays with your students all year long!
One of my favorite ways to acknowledge the major holidays is by including a “currently celebrating” area by my calendar. We have information about upcoming holidays posted. Students love looking at the upcoming holidays and asking questions. It can lead to great discussion and an opportunity for connection.
Including read alouds about different holidays is another great way to add different holidays into your already jam-packed lesson plans. Each month, I will send an email to my school librarian asking for books for upcoming holidays. I use this list of major holidays coming up so I make sure not to miss any.
2. Focus on academics while celebrating holidays with your students.
With the natural excitement and curiosity about different holidays, it is easy to maximize student engagement by incorporating holidays. There are so many natural connections to math and social studies when we look at holidays and holiday traditions. For example, it is easy to connect math concepts to shopping patterns or social studies when learning about the history of a holiday.
In my classroom, I work on text structure with my students throughout the year. The holidays can make text structure practice much more engaging when we read holiday passages written in different text structures. Since this is a repeated activity throughout the year, students get used to the setup and can engage more independently after a few major holidays have passed.
Sometimes even using the holidays as a “gimmick” can increase student engagement. If I am working on fractions around Valentine’s Day, finding practice with candy hearts can make fraction practice seem more fun. I also connect review games to the holidays by having students color a part of a seasonal coloring sheet for each correct answer during a review. As an important note, if you are adding these “fun” holiday connections to your classroom, make sure you review the resources picked to make sure they are culturally sensitive and appropriate.
Incorporate seasonal aspects to celebrate holidays with your students
One of the ways to add more “holiday” fun to the classroom is to focus on seasonal aspects. This helps make sure that not one holiday is overemphasized and that holidays don’t become trivialized. As mentioned above, it is important to check the resources we bring into our classroom to be sure they are culturally sensitive and appropriate. Focusing on a fall theme or winter theme makes activities more inclusive while also engaging.
For example, I love using hot cocoa themed activities to work on multiplication and division fact families. It is usually at the beginning of winter that we focus on the importance of inverse operations and having a quick relay race to fill hot cocoa mugs is something my students LOVE. We continue practicing with hot cocoa themed math worksheets. As a bonus, students can enjoy a cup of hot cocoa while they work on their worksheets.
Similarly, activities can be themed around fall, winter, or spring. I find that students are just as engaged with seasonal activities as they are for holiday activities.
So, get celebrating today! It is possible to celebrate holidays with your students all year long! You and your students will love all the celebrations. Just make sure to keep it inclusive, add academics, and try seasonal options as you lean into your students’ enthusiasm and energy for the holidays.
Make Every Teaching Moment Count,