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Building Relationships with Families by Celebrating the Holidays in Your Classroom
Judi Fenton

It seems as though there has always been debate around whether to bring holidays into the classroom. Some educators feel that acknowledging holidays distracts from their teaching. Others feel that our students are so caught up in the winter holidays that it’s too much of a struggle to not bring them into the classroom. Many schools and all school systems have policies about ensuring that holidays are not celebrated in a religious manner and are acknowledged equitably.

Regardless of which holiday a family celebrates (as well as those who do not celebrate at all), all families have traditions and food and stories they can share. And since so many families are in a festive mood, December is a great time to create opportunities to bring students’ families into the classroom. Here are some ideas:

  • Have a class celebration during which families can share their holiday traditions through stories, food, games, and more.
  • Invite each family to share a dish that they often eat for the holidays and have a class feast. If you collect all the recipes, you can create a class cookbook and all the families can receive a copy of all the recipes.
  • Send out a note inviting parents (or grandparents, or any adult relative, or family friend) to come in to class to do an activity with students. It can be an art project, storytelling, cooking, teaching a game, or sharing a family holiday tradition. I once had a parent come in to make gingerbread houses with students. It was messy, but fun!
  • Assign homework to your students to collect a “famous family story.” It can be the story of coming to this country, or the story of a wedding, a birth, or an often repeated story about Uncle Charlie spilling the mustard all over himself at a Fourth of July picnic. Anything that family members won’t mind seeing in writing (you do need to screen for appropriateness). Then, have your students revise and edit (if they are able), and make a class book.
  • If you don’t wish to do a celebration specifically for the holidays, have a publishing party. We all want to finish our long term writing units before the vacation, so having a publishing party the week before, could help ensure that it happens.

It’s rather remarkable how creating opportunities to have families in your classroom during the holidays can tie in to so many curricular areas. So, far from being “lost instructional time” in your classroom, the holidays can be a rich cultural sharing time around curricular goals, during which you also establish strong relationships with the families of your students.

Do you have a comment or question about this article? E-mail Judi.

See also:
Celebrating Multiculturalism by Linda Mandracchia

December Dilemma by Julie Dermody


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