In language arts class, a reason to celebrate can be just what’s needed – to get things done! As middle school and upper elementary teachers know so well, education is not a priority for kids at this level; having fun with friends, on the other hand, is. So we are always on the lookout for something to spark a little interest in the day’s lesson. A special holiday is perfect, BUT . . .
. . . sometimes the big holidays can drive a teacher crazy! The kids have their minds on good things to eat, new stuff, and days off from school; it can be hard to compete with that! But the “little holidays,” on the other hand, can be very helpful in the classroom – great excuses to bring a little fun into the classroom without too much craziness! These one or two day holidays and even in-school holidays can be a great classroom help for another reason too because each one provides a ready source of topics to read about, write about, and discuss.
Whether it’s a patriotic holiday like Veterans’ Day, a science-based one like Earth Day, or a traditional one like Thanksgiving, these smaller holidays can give direction and focus to lessons that might otherwise be difficult to make interesting to middle schoolers or upper elementary kids. They are great hooks to pull kids into a language arts or reading topic that you really need to cover.
One thing I especially like about holiday lessons are the built-in themes. Each type of holiday has its own. For example:
In addition to the obvious one of patriotism, annual holidays like Memorial Day and Veterans Day naturally lead into classroom discussions of current events topics related to the world news, and with the holiday focus on a happy day for all, thoughts about respecting differing opinions fit right in. Honoring parents and grandparents is another theme that fits in here, and maybe even a discussion of the military life as a career choice.
Speaking of career choices, there’s also Labor Day. A great time for kids to read up on career areas that they might be interested in for the future, or to learn about what each other’s parents do for a living.
Martin Luther King Day
Quotes from Dr. King always have a place in the classroom, whether as inspiration on their own or as a prompt for student to write about their thoughts on equality and how to get there. Short biographies of Dr. King are readily available for classroom reading, and a look at a particular site associated with his work or an article about the Dr. King monument in Washington, DC, might make for an interesting lesson topic as well.
St. Patrick’s Day
For a change of pace, how about a fun day of reading and writing about leprechauns, myths, and limericks, or maybe a little research into the beautiful country of Ireland. And it’s a great day for games and prizes with holiday themed prizes and maybe those chocolate gold coins.
And speaking of beautiful places, how about this holiday that is all about preserving our whole big beautiful earth! Kids seem to always get into this one, with projects that they can do and plans that they can make for taking care of our planet when they become the ones in charge.
Seasonal holidays such as harvest festivals in the fall, can be counted on to be a big hit in the classroom. Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or another fall festival, or just do it all on Halloween instead, a celebration of the season has so many great tie-ins and resources, from classroom decorations, to short videos, to illustrated quotes, to classroom newsletter posts.
Actually, you don’t have to look too far to find an occasion to celebrate nearly any day of the year, but maybe that would be taking it a little bit too far! There’s something to be said for the traditional yearly holidays that the students can recognize from year to year, and every year teachers seem able to find something new and interesting that kids can do in their classrooms to make the holidays special.
I like the idea of fitting these holiday topics into a yearly plan at the beginning of the school year, so they they don’t slip past in all the hustle and bustle of assignments, goals, objectives, and grades that teachers must spend so much time on during the school year. Maybe just a holiday theme or topic or a title of a reading under the reading skill for that month, or maybe an idea for a holiday writing prompt to fit that month’s writing goals, and maybe a list of holiday-related words to use for various vocabulary lessons.
In my holiday-themed informational text resources, I’ve tried to focus on two topics – text features and text structures, as well as general reading comprehension skills that many teachers return to all year long. Here you can see the Thanksgiving page from my Informational Text – Celebrations set.
The eight holiday articles that I’ve included in this set are:
- Labor Day Community Celebration
- Pumpkin Patch Weekend
- Thanksgiving Informational Text
- Presidents Day Extra
- Martin Luther King Jr. Day
- Our Town Celebrates St. Patrick’s Day
- Celebrating Earth Day at Riverside Park
- Celebrate Our Veterans