This post originally appeared on the blog Around the Kampfire.
As the holidays draw near, it’s the perfect time to teach your students about how different cultures celebrate Christmas holidays around the world. In this post I’ll share lots of ideas, activities, and even some freebies to make teaching holidays around the world magical for both you and your students!
Magical Ways to Teach 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 10 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 Your Students Won’t Forget
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 free flight script 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.
Have Students Take A Suitcase As They Travel
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 by adding simple paper handles.
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 when they “arrive” in each country. 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 in December, just in time for report cards.
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, you will definitely want to check it out! They carry a wide array of Swedish Christmas cookies and treats, straw Yule Goat ornaments, and even Tomten (the Swedish Santa gnome) trinkets and stuffed dolls.
Serve snacks 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 during the holidays. Chocolate coins for Hanukkah, donut holes for Diwali, and fruit for Kwanzaa are all easy to find and make fun snacks to eat as students visit each county. Consider asking parent helpers to send some of these in so students can taste the tradition!
Have a Holidays Around the World Classroom Party
If you’re short on time and can’t teach an entire unit, consider having a holidays around the world classroom party. Set up a craft and a snack at stations around the room so students can rotate to several countries. This is a fun way to spend the afternoons the last 5 days before Christmas or winter break.
Get your teammates on board and have students rotate to one classroom each afternoon.
I usually do a Halloween math party in my classroom and did a variation on that for Math Around the World. I set up holiday math centers all around the room and have small groups of students rotate to each one. I made “mathports” and boarding passes so students could stamp their passports before departing each table.
Send Home Souvenirs from Countries Around the World
I’m a big fan of incorporating crafts into the learning. I like ones that are easy to add a writing element to and kids really do 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.
Share Unique Traditions with Videos
Share an up close look at customs and traditions by showing videos of holiday traditions around the world. I’ve compiled a comprehensive list of amazing videos and read alouds in this post that I know your students will love!
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 with comprehension questions for each country that are ideal for small groups and whole group close reading lessons. 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 so 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.
Would you like some FREE Welcome Posters to decorate your destinations?
Drop your email in below and I’ll send this 14-poster set your way!
I hope these ideas make teaching your students about holidays around the world an exciting experience they won’t soon forget! If you are planning a holidays unit soon click here to see the Holidays Around the World unit and teaching Power Point I use.
Be sure to save this post on Pinterest so you’ll have all the ideas and links when you plan!
I hope you’ve found some ideas you can use to take your students on a magical journey as they learn the holiday customs and christmas traditions from around the world.
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
Find out how to keep everybody engaged and still learning the last CrAzY days before break! Click here
See how the Gingerbread Man turned my readers into thinkers! Click here
Happy teaching, friends!