As December draws near, it’s the perfect time to teach your students about how different cultures celebrate holidays around the world.
Reading and writing opportunities abound for your class to compare customs, do research, read informational texts, and watch videos of unique traditions they have never before seen in faraway countries. Here are ten ways to excite your students and take them on a magical journey as they learn about the unique traditions and customs of holidays around the world.
Create An Experience
By adding a few simple touches, you can create an unforgettable experience for your students-right in your own classroom! Begin by welcoming your students to the airport! Play a video of planes taking off and landing, complete with sound effects, in the background as you break the news that they’ll soon be traveling around the world!
Delight your class by acting out what a flight crew would say and do, complete with all of the lingo and hand motions pointing to the exits. Be sure to point out all of the safety features on the flight and of course, their suitcases should be stowed and their passports at the ready.
Use this fun (and FREE) flight script as a place to start to really take it over the top!
Click here to download the FREE Holidays Around the World flight script.
Experience Holidays In Each Country
Upon arrival in each country, show a PowerPoint or use actual pictures taken in that country. Give your students a window into the different gift-givers, holiday decorations, celebrations, and special foods that families around the world enjoy during the holidays.
Be Sure to Take A Suitcase
Make a suitcase folder for each student to collect their “learning souvenirs” as they travel.
We made ours with construction paper but any type of paper folder, or even a grocery bag, works great.
This keeps students organized and becomes a learning portfolio at the end of your unit.
Don’t Forget Your Passport!
Take a photo of each child (or use the left over tiny ones from picture day) to make passports that students can stamp upon arrival at each destination. Bring in your real passport if you have one, and invite your students to do the same. Explain to your class the purpose of a passport and how important they are when you travel.
Assess with Exit Tickets Before They Depart
Continue the theme by assessing students with Exit Tickets before they depart each country.
Consider using your exit tickets as an anticipation guide before you begin teaching about each country. These are a great way to take meaningful, end of quarter grades-and just in time for report cards, too!
Serve In-Flight Snacks
Look for treats from the countries you are teaching or something similar to serve as a snack! Trader Joe’s carries German Stollen, Italian Panettone, and German Pfeffernusse cookies during the holidays.
If there is an IKEA in your area, be sure to check there! They carry a wide array of Swedish Christmas cookies and treats, straw Yule Goat ornaments, and even Tomten (the Swedish Santa gnome) trinkets.
Serve a snack in each country your class visits! Little Debbie Swiss Rolls look just like traditional French Buche de Noel cake, and gingerbread cookies (Germany) are usually easily found at this time of year. Chocolate coins for Hanukkah, donut holes for Diwali, and fruit for Kwanzaa are all easily found and make fun snacks to eat as students visit these countries. Consider asking parent helpers to send some of these in so students can taste the tradition!
Send Home Souvenirs from Holidays Around the World
I’m a big fan of incorporating crafts into the classroom. I like ones that are easy to add a writing element to and kids really enjoy them. These simple, souvenir post card crafts provide an opportunity for functional writing as students “write home” about what they are learning in each country they visit.
Compare Holiday Customs
After visiting a few different countries, have your students compare their customs, gift-givers, holiday foods, and traditions. This is a wonderful time for students to share their own culture and traditions. Invite them to share the traditions in their families and the holidays they celebrate.
Experience Unique Traditions
National Geographic Kids has several short, and beautifully done videos that feature holiday traditions in lots of different countries. I look for additional videos that not only show the country’s customs, but focus on a unique tradition in the country we are visiting.
Have you ever heard of maple taffy? It’s a Canadian tradition often made at winter festivals where taffy is made on snow! A hot maple syrup mixture is poured into trays of clean, packed snow. As it hardens into taffy, it is rolled onto a popsicle stick. This video shows how to make maple taffy and is a fun one to show your class.
Read Around the World In Your Small Groups
Sadly, I know how hard it can be to squeeze out time in your schedule for social studies. Many times I embed mine into my reading block. My Holidays Around the World unit has reading passages for each country are ideal for that. The comprehension questions that follow give second and third graders practice with answering text dependent questions.
Team Teach So Students Can Travel
As you plan your holidays around the world activities, buddy up with other teachers in your grade level to team teach your unit.. Each teacher can pick a country and have your classes rotate to a new classroom and country each day. We usually do this the last 45 or 50 minutes of the day. It’s a great way to get kids up and moving and it keeps everybody engaged and still learning the last week or two before break!
Decorate Each Destination
It is so much fun for kids to enter a room that has been transformed. Even if you only make a few small changes, they notice! Cover your tables or groups of desks with butcher paper in the color of the country’s flag. Decorate your door with flag colored crepe paper and make a welcome sign for the country you are teaching.
I hope these ideas make teaching your students about holidays around the world an exciting and engaging experience they won’t soon forget! Grab your suitcase and passport
Would you like to see more of my Holidays Around the World unit? Click here
Would you like some FREE Welcome Posters to help decorate your destinations?
Drop your email in below and I’ll send this 14-poster set your way!
Let me help you through the holidays!
Need help managing the last CrAzY week before Christmas break? Click here
How about some easy parent gift ideas? Click here
Check out how I keep everybody engaged and still learning the last 5 days before break! Click here
See how the Gingerbread Man turned my readers into thinkers! Click here
Happy teaching friends!