How to add the Magic of the Holidays with Five Merry Read Alouds
It’s the most magical time of the year! You want to get into the holiday spirit with your students but don’t want to lose weeks of instruction. As an upper elementary ELA teacher, I would see the arts, crafts, and activities that kindergarteners and first graders were working on down the hall and think, I wish I could find a way to add holiday excitement into our scope and sequence.
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Holiday Read Aloud #1: The Polar Express
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg is a beloved story of a little boy who takes a train ride to the North Pole. He receives the first gift of Christmas and all of Santa’s elves cheer! My students’ eyes are glued to this read aloud every year as we go along on his adventure to the North Pole. There are many activities that you can do with your students while reading The Polar Express.
Teaching Standards with The Polar Express
- Have your students make predictions as you read. I wonder who will get the first gift of Christmas? What do you predict that the little boy will ask for?
- Your students can infer as they read this Christmas adventure. What do you think the author meant when he said, “Though I’ve grown old, the bell still rings for me as it does for all those who truly believe.”
- Once we are finished predicting and inferring with this read aloud, I give my students each a paper train car that has an event from the book. You can also use notecards to write each event. The students then read their detail one by one and stand at the front of the classroom as they do so. The next student to read their detail sequences themselves between all the other students who are already standing at the front of the room with their event from the book.
- This read aloud is great to use for mapping out the plot diagram. Have your students draw a bell or have a template cut out ready to give them. Divide the bell into 5 parts and have the students label the exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.
Holiday Read Aloud #2: Who Stole Santa's List?
This Readers Theater will leave your students begging for more! In order for them to solve the mystery of who stole Santa’s list, they will have to look carefully to identify the motive, means, and opportunity of each character in the story. Your students will be having so much fun with acting out their part in the play that they won’t even realize they are analyzing characters, making predictions, inferring, and drawing conclusions.
Our Whole Stole the Turkey whodunnit was so popular that we had to write another one! This Readers Theater is an engaging Christmas mystery with minimal prep for you! All you’ll need to do is assign each student a part and print the sheet where they will record their notes as the mystery plays out. They will be able to write each character’s motive, means, and opportunity as they try and conclude who stole Santa’s list! The students can read their part from the slideshow that you project from your screen! Ready, set, ACTION!
Holiday Read Aloud #3: The Night before Christmas (and a Holiday Writing Prompt)
We all know those students who struggle to get their ideas on paper, but if you make the prompt one that they can relate to, their ideas will start flowing! This holiday writing prompt will get your students’ pencils dancing!
In December students have one thing on their minds, PRESENTS! First, read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas as you introduce this writing prompt. Then, have your students brainstorm gifts that they would like to receive. They can circle the presents that they feel like they have the most to write about to narrow down their wish list. Have your students pick one present that they would like to receive and explain why they want to receive it.
You will learn a lot about your students’ interests, and they should have no problem writing detailed examples to support this writing prompt! Depending on what grade you teach, you could even have them mail a copy to the North Pole.
Once my students have finished the writing process, I have them use the gift template to write their published copy. These make for some fun and purposeful class decor!
Holiday Read Aloud #4: The Chanukkah Guest
Have your students explore the magic of Hanukkah with the read aloud The Chanukkah Guest by Eric A. Kimmel. This beloved book will keep your students engaged while learning about Hanukkah. The main character, Bubba Brayna, is making latkes for the town. Old Bear wakes up from his winter’s nap and follows the delicious smell of latkes to Bubba Brayna’s house. She thinks Old Bear is the Rabbi and welcomes him in for a snack. The bear leaves with a belly full of latkes before Bubba Brayna realizes he is not the Rabbi. The Rabbi and townspeople then help Bubba Brayna make more latkes to save the day!
This read a loud is great for identifying adjectives. The descriptive words that you will read to your students with The Chanukkah Guest will be a perfect model of how to add description to their own writing prompts.
The Chanukkah Guest is a great read aloud to use for visualization. Read the story without showing your students the pictures. Stop at points during the story to have the students visualize what they heard by drawing this event on a piece of paper, in their Reader’s Notebook, or on this recording sheet that goes with the book. For example, “Old Bear roused himself from his winter’s sleep. He yawned a gigantic yawn. Finally he poked his nose outside his den. A soft blanket of deep snow covered the ground.” Students can then turn and talk to their neighbor about what they visualized and why.
Your students will forget they are busy learning when they play Dreidel just like Bubba Brayna and Old Bear did in this read aloud! This traditional Jewish game can be played with a partner or with your whole class. Here are directions to play Dreidel with your class.
If you’re a math teacher, you might like these Hanukkah themed products for multiplication and division. Click the image to check it out!
Holiday Read Aloud #5: Olive the Other Reindeer
Olive the Other Reindeer by J. Otto Seibold and Vivian Walsh is a delightful read aloud about a dog who accidentally becomes one of Santa’s reindeer! This read aloud is perfect for when you’re teaching your students about cause and effect. You can have students turn and talk at different parts in the story to discuss these cause-and-effect relationships or have them fill in a cause-and-effect graphic organizer.
Here are a couple of my favorite prompts for teaching cause and effect with this holiday read aloud.
- What caused Olive to travel to the North Pole? Olive was busy wrapping Christmas presents while she was listening to Christmas music. “All of the other reindeer…” went the song. “Olive, the other reindeer…” Olive sang along.
- What was the effect when all of the other reindeer were too busy watching Olive instead of watching where they were going? The reindeer and Santa’s sleigh ran into a tree!
- What was the cause of the gum drops and flutes falling out of Santa’s sled? When the reindeer crashed into the tree, it tore a hole in Santa’s bag!
- What was the effect of Olive being able to guide Santa’s sleigh home with her sense of smell during the fog? Santa gave Olive her very own set of reindeer antlers.
Celebrate the holidays without sacrificing learning!
As you can see, it’s easy to infuse your standards into almost any holiday read aloud or writing prompt! Your students will think you are just getting into the holiday spirit while they are actually staying on track for the year with their scope and sequence! If you want to learn more about how to incorporate Christmas and Hannukah activities, you can check out this post. I hope these ideas help you create a magical month of December for you and your students! Happy Holidays!
Want our best suggestions for Christmas and winter holiday read alouds? Check out this post.
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About the author...
Ashley has taught 4th grade English Language Arts for 13 years in Houston, Texas. She has a passion for incorporating technology into the ELA curriculum. Ashley strives to help every student find books that will challenge and interest them to grow in their love for reading. Follow along through her Twitter @Vara1Ashley.
Emily Ross says
Thanks! I’ll definitely use these ideas at my lessons!