Friday, December 2, 2011

Christmas in the Classroom

christmastreepackage.jpg - holiday tree & package
Picture by N. Biddinger
Several different grade levels like to do some aspect of Christmas Around the World this time of year and let students compare and contrast American traditions with those of their counterparts elsewhere. Here are a few sites that are great for that purpose. Christmas Around the World, Why Christmas, and Santa's Net are the main ones I usually refer to. Each has it's own strengths and weaknesses but any are good for basic information about traditions in other countries.

Why Christmas also has information about various customs and why we have them, such as Boxing Day, Christmas bells, and carols. It also has information about other winter festivals besides Christmas.

earth_from_space.jpg - Earth from Space
Picture by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
It is always interesting to have students talk about their own traditions and see how many are the same and also how many are different just among the students in their own class. Then, to see how they compare with traditions elsewhere always surprises them how much is the same. I love venn diagrams!

Today, with 2nd graders, we compared Belgium and Finland with the US and they were surprised how many traditions are basically the same as what many of them do here. 
With fourth graders I am having them create a little flip chart about a country with a partner. This was a great way for them to learn about another culture in a fun way and also for them to practice skimming for information while taking notes. We used the Why Christmas website. Here are some samples of what they did.

Of course there are also ways to build more about the United States into your studies. A teacher just stopped by to talk to me about using the NC Christmas tree farms as part of an economics unit about supply and demand. How cool is that? No matter how long I do this, new ways to approach things and new ideas always come up and lead to so many other ideas as well!

christmasphotos9076.jpg - decorations on tree
Picture by Peggy McPherson

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