Beyond Pumpkin Pie and Jingle Bells

Candle with a flame brighter than the Christmas tree behind

Scroll through your Instagram ads, glance into a storefront window, or sip your peppermint mocha and you’ll be quickly reminded…it’s beginning to look a lot like holiday time is right around the corner. Turkey, parades, presents and trees are on many minds right now.  Yet as we move into ‘the most wonderful time of the year’, mindfully including all students when it comes to holidays and celebrations is important, particularly when considering English Language Learners in our US classrooms.

In an effort to not exclude anyone, some schools opt to avoid holidays and celebrations altogether. This is easier said than done when considering the buzz of excitement that surrounds special holidays in the lives of young elementary school students! So why not create a space where special traditions are seen & accepted, and where girls & boys are proud to share their culture and holidays? Why not take advantage of the opportunity to take pride in one’s own culture while learning something new about others? Let’s look at a few ideas to get you started!

One way to tackle the topic is to consider focusing on holidays throughout the entire year, in addition to those that happen to fall in December. Create a yearlong classroom calendar of diverse holidays and provide an age-appropriate lesson for each one when the timing is right.

Another idea is to weave holidays together for your young students by focusing on their commonalities. Diwali, Ramadan & Eid Al-Fitr, Kwanzaa, Christmas, Hanukkah, and Imbolc all include celebrating with light or candles. Many holidays also include a tradition around a particular type of clothing, food, music and stories. Presenting the overarching theme and then getting more specific may sound something like this: ‘Class, we’ve been talking about many holidays. For each holiday we’ve learned about so far, a special kind of food is prepared and eaten. Today, we’re going to talk about those special foods.’

With the permission of administration, invite family members & others in your school community into your classroom to share a grade-level-appropriate, unique holiday tradition with the class, no matter the time of year. Remember, not every important holiday falls during the month of December.

However, as you plan to go about exploring holidays that are important to your students, remembering to present each in a respectful, positive, interested manner will make an incredible impact, all year long.

Be sure to check out our next, upcoming article to learn some very specific holiday celebration ideas shared by elementary school classroom teachers from across the US!

Want to learn more about how GrapeSEED supports English Language Learners across the globe and right here in the US? Click here!