I really love this time of year. Ordinary things take on a festive tone. Anticipation, excitement and cheer fill many of our classrooms. I like to tap into that energy with literacy ideas that may excite and invite our readers and writers to engage with books and stories. Here are a few you might want to try…
ELF on a SHELF
That little pixie is ubiquitous! My own children just missed this phase but I have plenty of friends who report out the adventures of “Shyla” or “Freddie” or “Buddy” the Elf, and the responses of their excited kiddos each morning. Try bringing a little of that magic into your classroom. If you have access to an Elf on the Shelf, you could have him show up with notes/letters each morning for a different student, or for the class. Children could write back to “Buddy” and eagerly await responses. Your students could write about the adventures of “Shyla” at night when the school is locked up. Create a class book- Mrs.’ Collection of Shyla Adventures.
If you’ve had enough with the Elf, you might try what 1st grade teacher Maureen Cooper does with her students. She reads Santa Mouse by Michael Brown and lets the students know that Santa Mouse will visit her classroom to leave a little present in each of the stockings (the students make their own stocking to hang) before the winter break. The students then have to write a letter to Santa Mouse telling him about themselves and let him know they can’t wait for him to come. Her students are excited to come to school and eager to see what Santa Mouse brings. Her students’ parents help with the stocking stuffers and she finds this to be a great ‘team’ effort-involving parents with the classroom.
Instead of opening a door to pull out a candy treat, create an advent calendar that is loaded with story starters. These could be ideas the teacher creates or finds, or you can invite students to create them and randomly assign them to a calendar date. To keep the fun and enthusiasm for the month, don’t require lengthy full-length stories. Make them quick writes that students have 10 minutes to write to and then some time to share. Discuss how different or alike the stories are. Create a collection of short stories from the best or those willing to take their piece to publication.
Letters to Santa are often requests for gifts and goodies. How about encouraging students to try their persuasive writing skills on an ‘authentic’ task? Write a letter to persuade Santa why they should be on his NICE list and not his NAUGHTY list. They should incorporate any elements of persuasive writing you have taught them, but a slant toward humor, rather than logic will probably prevail! Some fun website to check out are Santa’s Nice-o-Meter or Naughty or Nice
THE GIFT OF READING
One tradition I started with my own children when they were very young, that continues to this day is our Book-a-Day Christmas Gift. Before December, I wrap up 25 Christmas/holiday books, some are new, and some are old favorites (one for each day leading up to Christmas). Each night my kids get to choose one book to unwrap and have as a read aloud bedtime story. This idea could work in the classroom as well. Kids get excited trying to guess what the book might be and when it will be their turn to choose the book.
In the new year, a way to keep that excitement alive is to wrap up a book from a favorite author or illustrator for his/her birthday. The class can celebrate that author by unwrapping and reading his/her book. Click here for a list of children’s book author birthdays.
NO LONGER WORDLESS
3rd/4th grade teacher Moe Heikkila invites her students to create the text for wordless picture books. Though she doesn’t limit it to just the holidays, some great books for this might include The Snowman by Raymond Briggs, Carl’s Christmas by Alexandra Day, or A Wish for Elves by Mark Gonyea
WACKY CHRISTMAS CAROLS
If you are as musical as I am, you survived singing in the classroom by clinging to 4 simple words… “To the tune of____” I relied on familiar tunes to help me quite a bit. Why not rewrite some favorite Christmas tunes with a modern or humorist twist? Kids already have a mentor text in their classic variation on Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer!! Another great mentor text might be Deck The Walls by Erin Dealey. Perhaps with a little practice you could take your classroom’s show on the road!
What’s on my Book Radar!
Well, aside from some of the books referenced above, I love revisiting my favorite holiday books. Christmas is like a time capsule, we pull out recipes, ornaments and books that have marked special holiday moments with family. Rereading some of these books brings back a flood of memories of my children growing up. I look forward to crawling back inside these books and reliving those memories.
Some newer titles that I have come across are sure to become favorites for many of our students or their parents. Some are humorous, some sentimental…kind of like me! Click on the covers below to enjoy a book trailer to help get you into the spirit of things.