Saturday, December 10, 2011

hanukkah, kwanzaa & baby Jesus.

Every year before we have our big Christmas Around the World day we teach Christmas, Hanukkah & Kwanzaa first, figuring those are holidays the kids will have experience with in their real lives.

Let me preface this by saying that even though I love the Lord and fully believe we celebrate Christmas to remember the birth of Jesus, I start my classroom unit on holidays and celebrations by discussing how there are a lot of cultures and beliefs out there.  It's important for kids to recognize similarities and differences between themselves and others to build friendships and a sense of community so discussing various beliefs and allowing the children to share their family traditions doesn't phase them.  I tell them that we're going to learn about a lot of different holidays happening this month and how children in other countries celebrate the same holidays we have in America but that it's up to them to decide for themselves {down deep in their hearts} what they choose to believe.  In an era where teachers can lose their jobs for the smallest mention or thought of anything religious, I just figured I better put that out there.  {end CYA paragraph here}

To learn about Christmas we do read the real Christmas story.  A few books in my collection are:
We talk about how Mary and Joseph had to take their donkey a long way because there were no cars.  I relate an inn to a hotel and ask the students if they would sleep in a barn with animals if all of the hotel rooms were full.  I explain that the manger isn't actually what old cribs looked like but that it's a place where the animals ate their food.  {the "ick" reactions even from the kids I know regularly attend Sunday School make me laugh}  We talk about how some people believe the reason we give presents at Christmas is because the wise men first brought presents to Jesus to when he was born.  Then we make candy canes {like a shepherd's hook or J for Jesus depending how you look at it} using tissue paper.  I don't get into the symbolism of the red and white colors because explaining Jesus' crucifixion takes it to a whole 'nother level for public school!  {And yes, I realized that my candy canes face the wrong way to make Js.  I fixed it for next year.}  ;)
While we read about a zillion Christmas books about snowmen, Santa, reindeer and the North Pole I also have a collection of books that celebrate other cultures in on my library shelf.  A couple I like for Hanukkah are:
On the 1st day of Chanukah is my favorite because it's a quick read full of good pictures and basic vocab.  The book introduces \gelt, dreidels, Jewish people, yamakas, menorahs, latkes and the star of David.  I ordered a bunch of wooden dreidels online one year and let the kids play with chocolate coins.  We also make menorahs to represent the 8 days of Hanukkah with fingerprint candles.

And here are some of the Kwanzaa books in my library right now:
I always start with reading K is for Kwanzaa aloud because it has the most vocab.  But don't worry...there are pronunciations!!!  :)  We talk about the harvest, the significance of the candle colors, how kids often make gifts to give, the clothes and African American people.  Then we make kinaras to represent the seven days of Kwanzaa.  Sometimes we also weave red, green and black mats but we didn't have the time this year.
All throughout the unit we discuss how the cultures and holidays are the same and different.  We compare the number of days celebrated, the colors of each holiday, the symbols that often represent them, who celebrates each, which foods they eat, etc.  As we go I display all of their symbols on the wall to represent each major holiday in the month.
Merry Christmas to you and well as whatever other holiday you will celebrate this season!

1 comment:

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