The hustle and bustle of the holiday season can make it feel like a race to get to winter break. With performances, parties, and in-service days all fighting for attention, you’re doing your best to make sure your students learn as much as they can before their brains check out and visions of sugar plums start dancing in their heads.
What if we told you that you can help them build background knowledge and practice literacy skills in ELA, social studies, and science while still talking about the holidays they’re counting down the days for? We’ve curated articles, experiments, literature, and videos to help you teach your students what they need to know while staying engaged in each winter holiday lesson:
Read engaging holiday stories and poetry with Newsela ELA
Help your students get in the spirit of the season with these great holiday ELA resources:
Hanukkah ELA activities
Explore the Festival of Lights with your students through literature with our ELA Resources for Hanukkah collection. Have students read “Hanukkah Helper” by Andra Abramson to understand the tradition of lighting candles in the menorah each night of Hanukkah. Discuss the significance of this ritual and how lights and candles play a role in other winter holidays that your students celebrate.
Winter Solstice ELA activities
The Winter Solstice might mark the shortest day of the year, but it’s not short on engaging literature content with our ELA Resources for the First Day of Winter/Winter Solstice collection:
Introduce students to poems about the changing of the seasons and those specific to some of the other winter holidays like:
“Stopping By Woods On Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost
“On Chanukah” by Ilene Bauer
“A Visit From St. Nicholas” by Clement Clarke Moore
“Winter Dance” by Linda Kao
“A Winter Scene” by Henry David Thoreau
Settle into snowy season with a collection of winter fiction like:
“The Little Match Girl” by Hans Christian Andersen
“Skeleton Woman: an Inuit story” by Angela McAllister
“The Sun Stands Still” by Josephine Cameron
“Lightning Quick” by Rich Wallace
“To Build A Fire” by Jack London
Christmas ELA activities
Have students explore the themes of reflection and gratitude with the fiction selections in our ELA Resources for Christmas collection:
Take a trip to Christmas past, present, and future with a novel study of “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens.
Explore the art of gift giving (and receiving) with “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry.
Discover how Christmas traditions differ across countries with “Thoko’s Gift” by Fiske Serah Nyirongo.
Kwanzaa ELA activities
Learn about the seven principles of Kwanzaa through poetry with our ELA Resources for Kwanzaa text set. Use the articles provided to build background knowledge of the holiday. Then have students write their own poem that embodies one of the values celebrated during Kwanzaa.
New Year’s ELA activities
Help students get prepared to put their best foot forward in the new year with our ELA Resources for the New Year text sets:
Read poems from different perspectives about dreams and goals in the new year, like “New Year’s Eve” by Cindy Breedlove or “In Praise of Dreams” by Gary Soto.
Get ready to embark on a new journey with fiction selections like “A Day on the Trail” by Jerry Miller or chapter one of “Around the World in Eighty Days” by Jules Verne.
Practice writing skills by creating a great goals blog post or newspaper article.
All December holiday activities
Don’t want to segment your lessons by a specific holiday? Use our ELA Resources for December Holidays collection to explore all of them at once. Introduce a research project that invites students to examine all the winter holidays:
Look at the similarities and differences among the winter holidays. Use the articles in the text set to examine the histories and traditions of each one.
Uncover how the winter holidays—and other ones celebrated throughout the year—differ across the world. Have students pick out the symbols and traditions that mark each holiday in different countries.
Get background knowledge on winter holidays with Newsela Social Studies
Learn more about the history and background of some of the most celebrated winter holidays with our social studies collections:
Teach students about the eight-day Jewish festival of Hanukkah with our Celebrating Hanukkah text set:
Discover why there are different spellings for the holiday name and have students determine whether they think it should be called Hanukkah or Chanukah.
Learn about the custom of making latkes as a Hanukkah snack and what other foods are part of traditional meals.
Explore—and bust—five myths about the history and beliefs of the holiday.
Test students’ knowledge, comprehension, and skills with the Celebrating Hanukkah Challenge on Formative.
Learn about the Christian holiday that has both religious and secular traditions with our Celebrating Christmas text set:
Find out where Christmas trees come from and what people do with them around the world after the holiday is over.
Discover why people put up Christmas lights each year and where the tradition started.
See what some of the most popular Christmas foods are from around the world.
Test students’ background knowledge or review what they learned with the Celebrating Christmas Challenge on Formative that connects to this text set!
Discover the history of the weeklong African heritage and culture festival with our Celebrating Kwanzaa text set:
Learn about the significance of celebrating Kwanzaa for Black Americans and how it helps them stay connected to their culture.
Find out facts your students might not know about the founding and celebrating of Kwanzaa in the United States.
Use the Celebrating Kwanzaa Challenge on Formative during the lesson to test skills and knowledge comprehension using these great texts as a guide.
Do holiday experiments with Newsela Science
Encourage your students to explore the hands-on side of the holidays with our science collections:
What is the Winter Solstice?
Your students probably know that the Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year. But why does it happen? Learn more about the change of the seasons with our What is the Winter Solstice? video and text set and uncover facts like:
Why we have seasons and how the Earth’s tilt makes them happen.
Why the Northern and Southern Hemispheres have flipped seasons.
How the sun affects the seasons and why we get more or less sunlight at different times of the year.
Seasonal STEAM: Holiday edition
Help bring the magic of the holidays alive with our Holiday Season Activities. Make crystal ornaments with your students to learn about mixtures, or discover the wonders of air pressure and fire by making a drinking candle.
Ring in the new year with STEAM activities specifically for that holiday with our New Year’s Eve Activities. Explain the laws of motion and energy with a confetti popper experiment or give your students permission to play with their food and create fireworks out of magic milk.
The best holiday teacher gift: Content and assessment integration
At Newsela, we love to deliver the best content and resources possible, all wrapped up in a big red bow. But this year we have a new present for you underneath the tree: real-time, low-stakes, collaborative assessments with Formative!
Read our blog post about the integration to learn how you can start making the most of it in all your classrooms today! Then, share how you made these lessons your own using Newsela + Formative by sharing your plans with us on social media using the hashtag #NewselaHolidayCheer.