Holiday Integration: Learning That Blends With the Season
- Grades: 3–5, 6–8
Despite the crazy pace that comes with the season, the show must go on! Right? If you find yourself struggling to keep a focus on academics in your class, I think I have a solution for you. It's a modified twist on the saying, "if you can't beat them, join them." In this case, I would like to share some truly engaging and challenging activities that take advantage of this time of year. So join in the fun and read on!
Following up on my last post, I want to stress again how teaching is more fun when you are not tied to textbooks and worksheets all week. We have been having a blast while going above and beyond the typical curriculum. From density testing using both the formula (D= mass/volume) and water, decorating geo-ornaments, completing "branches" of government, Chistmas factor trees, and creating and taping a cooking show, I look forward to going to school each day. Here are a few of my favorite things this time of year.
Make an Educational Movie!
I have worked in enough school districts to know this problem is yours, too: December is filled with "extras" that make staying on schedule nearly impossible. That is why I just go ahead and plan movie making as one of the extras that I throw into the mix. I start with the two days before Thanksgiving break. We use a green screen program along with a program called CrazyTalk that allows you to animate anything you'd like using your students' voices.
Here is our latest video, which was very educational and a lot of fun.
Our next video will be on winter holidays around the world.
Make a Christmas Factor Tree
When we started up a lesson on how to simplify a fraction, a student came up with the idea of making a factor tree with a holiday twist. I just loved it, and added two more steps to the idea: prime number bulbs and composite number bulbs. Students selected larger two and three digit numbers and made a fun "factor tree" for our hallway display. Too much fun.
Make Holiday "Branches" of Government
I did this last year, so I was quick to ask our local Christmas tree farm for some pine branches this year. They directed me to a large box of free branches and even wrapped it up to go. Following our government unit, we made nice, smelly 'branches" of government. Here are pictures from this year and the year prior.
Create Christmas Geo-Ornaments
I attended a fantastic workshop last summer that addressed teaching geometry through origami. Below is a photo of one of the pieces I made during that workshop. Tomorrow, one of our math group rotations will include making geo-ornaments for our tree. We will start with cardstock nets of basic shapes to help students review edges and faces. With future rotations, we will make some more elaborate "ornaments" like the one below. This is a great indoor recess activity, as well, because who doesn't want to make a cantellated tetrahedron?
Here is a site that has printable geometric nets.
Apply Measuring Skills by Creating a Life-Sized Abominable Snowman
At the same great conference (Confratute in CT), Kathy Gavin showcased a fabulous unit on measuring that starts with a trip to the Himalayan Mountains where you find a large, unidentified footstep in the snow. Only having an unsharpened pencil on you, you measure the length as two pencils long. Could it be the famous Yeti? For the assignment, students are broken up into small groups to use this simple piece of data to create ideas on how to piece together different portions of the body. For example, my group was in charge of providing the right arm, along with an explanation of how we came to our conclusion. So much fun! I can't wait to try this out with my class next week. In our session, we had seven groups (head and neck; left arm; right arm, body/torso; right leg; left leg, feet).
Photo: I was blown away by how accurate our groups were with their math work.
Measuring Put to Use With Reindeer Food
I tried this out last year, and the students really seemed to enjoy it.
Reindeer Food: We used measuring cups to create reindeer food. The ingredients included 1/2 c. oatmeal, 1/4 c. sugar, and 2 tbs. of food sprinkles. A special poem was included in the mix.
We got this idea from the site DLTK's Growing Together.
Teach Series and Parallel Lighting With Christmas Lights
This one was by accident last year. Look at the tree closely: some of the tree lights worked and some didn't. It was a good lesson. By accident. You can find the labels on the boxes, pull them out, and demonstrate the two types of lighting available. You can hypothesize which type of lighting is cheaper, too.
Surprise Your Class With a Hot Cocoa Treat
Photo: Because I lived in Vaxjo, Sweden for 6 months, Christmas can not pass without us learning about Saint Lucia.
For the past two years I have surprised my class with a warm cup of hot cocoa with candy cane stirrers on their desk in the morning. I purchased two coffee pots a few years ago. It has been a huge hit in the past, but it works best if you wait for a cold morning. That will be happening for us tomorrow morning. I can't wait.
And finally, just enjoy the season with the little things. For example, I found some 3-D glasses that show "Santa" in Christmas lights. I brought those in and said students could only see him if they believed. I found out that I had a class of believers.