9 Activities to Teach Holidays Around the World
By Mary Montero
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Who doesn’t love the holiday season? As they say, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. When you teach holidays around the world in your classroom, you can quadruple the holiday fun. That’s why I wanted to share my go-to activities to teach holidays around the world.
During the winter season, there are so many holidays around the world to celebrate. Hanukkah. Christmas. Chinese New Year. Kwanza. The list goes on. To dive deep into each one, I implement cross-curricular learning so I don’t feel pressured to cover everything only in our literacy or social studies lesson time. This way I can really make the most of each holiday and expand my activities to teach holidays around the world over various content areas.
If it feels a bit overwhelming to plan lessons and activities for each holiday, here are my favorite activities to teach holidays around the world in each subject area!
Reading Activities to Teach Holidays Around the World
Penpals Around the World
This is a really fun reading activity to introduce students to the many winter holidays around the world. Students will read passages from their “pen pals” about different celebrations taking place. The pen pal passages have been paired together, so your students can practice various literacy skills that go with paired texts!
Bringing various read-alouds into your classroom is a super easy way to celebrate holidays around the world. You can bring these books into your morning meetings, make a special bucket or section in your classroom library, host a book tasting, or book talk the titles with your students.
There are so many books out there about various holidays, but here are a few to get you started (Amazon affiliate links):
Our Favorite Day of the Year by A. E. Ali
Feasts and Festivals Around the World by Alice B. McGinty
Joy to the World! by Kate DePalma
Let’s Celebrate!: Special Days Around the World by Kate DePalma
Compare and Contrast Christmas Around the World
When we discuss winter holidays, we spend time talking about how Christmas is celebrated in different ways all around the world. This Christmas compare and contrast task card activity makes it easy for my students to learn about the different traditions and celebrations.
After reading about the different celebrations, students then compare and contrast different countries’ celebrations. This becomes an extension of our compare and contrast unit, so it fits in really nicely!
Research and Synthesizing
Whether you want students to research on computers, or use specific materials you provide, this reading activity is a great way to practice synthesizing. Personally, I like to preselect resources to give my students, so I make sure they are looking at a variety of sources and genres.
Then I have students create a synthesis based on this information. For example, they might read a poem, information text, letter, and view an image about Chinese New Year. Then, they will create a synthesis on what Chinese New Year is about and how people celebrate.
Writing Activities to Teach Holidays Around the World
How to Wrap a Gift
This is a writing activity that you can have a ton of fun with. Have students write down the necessary steps to wrapping a present. Then, use students’ procedural texts to host a live demonstration.
Wrap the presents according to your students’ plans… and be prepared to get silly! For instance, if a student never said to place the present on the paper, then you might be wrapping air. The point is to demonstrate the need for clarity and specificity in procedural texts. Have students go back and make edits after the demo.
New Year’s Resolution
This writing activity will not only help flex your students’ writing skills, but it can offer you some insight into who they are as well. You can complete this writing assignment before the winter break or when you return.
Ask students to write down one goal they have for the new year and give details on how they plan to accomplish this goal. If students are willing, let them share their goals with the class. You can share yours as well.
Math Activities to Teach Holidays Around the World
Holidays Around the World Math Project
Imagine taking a trip around the world… We can dream, right? In this holidays around the math world project, students will “visit” several countries and learn about their local holiday traditions.
Of course, we have to bring some math in! Students will calculate elapsed time, add and subtract whole numbers, decimals operations, and powers of ten (depending on their grade level). I love this project because it does a great job of weaving together literacy and math. Now that’s cross-curricular.
Probability with Dreidel
This a fun way to talk about Hanukkah and a well-known game… dreidel! Mixed with math, you can talk about the concept of probability. First, show students a dreidel and how to play. Then, have students guess which symbol they think is more likely to win. Engage in a discussion about probability.
Finally, put it to the test! Have students play dreidel and record their findings. Then come together as a class and share. Was there a common theme? Was one side more likely to win?
All the Estimation
There are many different items and symbols associated with different holidays such as dreidels, ornaments, marshmallows, and candles. You can use these objects to have some fun with estimation.
Have students estimate the weight of an object and then test it on a scale. Have students estimate the length (bonus points for different units) and then measure it. You can even put several objects in a jar or bin and have students estimate how many are inside. All of these are great examples of spatial reasoning.
More Holidays Around the World Activities
Ready to dig deeper into holidays around the world? This post has three more ways you can teach holidays around the world in your classroom, as well as a holiday book list.
I’m so glad you are here. I’m a current gifted and talented teacher in a small town in Colorado, and I’ve been in education since 2009. My passion (other than my family and cookies) is for making teachers’ lives easier and classrooms more engaging.