The Christmas holiday can make your classroom a bit chaotic at some points. Ok, a lot chaotic! But I get it! Kids are excited! Not only for the upcoming holidays, but also from a long needed break from school. And don’t try to hide the fact that you aren’t excited too 😉 One of the best ways to make sure the weeks before break are as sane as they can be is to keep your students engaged! My favorite strategy: using picture books! I’ve gathered a list of my favorite picture books that I use to teach reading skills during the holidays! Let’s take a look!
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Picture Book #1: The Carpenter’s Gift
The Carpenter’s Gift is probably my favorite holiday book of all time. The book is about a young boy during the depression and his life and how he and his father create the first Rockefeller Christmas tree. It’s just the most beautiful story about hope, wishing, and compassion. You won’t regretting reading this one to your students!
If you want to use this book to teach reading, I would use it to teach making inferences! The story lends itself to a lot of situations where students will need to infer what’s going on or why something is happening to deeply understand the story. Before reading the book to the class, I go through and find the appropriate inferences I want my students to make. I create an anchor chart and together, we will it out as we read the story. Making these inferences lead to deep conversations about the plot and the characters in the story. Together, the book and the lesson helps bring the story to life!
Picture Book #2: Holly & Ivy
The Story of Holly & Ivy is an adorable book about toys at Christmas, their wish to be loved, and a young orphan named Ivy. Now, this is a long story, but it reads fast and student love the how the story goes back and forth between the two perspectives of the toys and of Ivy. In the story, a Christmas doll, Holly, longs to be loved and eventually finds herself in the arms of Ivy, who has been recently adopted. It’s such a touching story and the author did an amazing job descriptively writing the text.
Using this book, I would definitely teach creating visualizations. The words int he text are so descriptive, the story comes to life in your mind with every page turn. When I use this book, I will go through and find specific moments of text that I know my students will want/need to visualize. When we get to those moments, I reread that section of text for my students and have them illustrate what they are seeing in their minds. Then we discuss how each person’s illustration is similar but different based on text evidence and what we bring from our schema.
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Picture Book #3: The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree
The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree is about young family set back in time of ‘the great war’. The family has the privilege of picking out the Christmas tree for the town church. In the summer, father and daughter venture out and find the best balsam Christmas tree they can. But after, Father gets called away to war and Christmas is getting close and closer. The church is worried there won’t be a Christmas tree. So Mother and Daughter go out at night to cut down the tree and surprise the towns people with the best Christmas tree.
This book is beautiful, but it definitely has language and phrasing that is unique to the time period that the book is written in. This might make it more difficult for younger grades to comprehend. When I read this book, I pair it with the strategy of Asking Questions! I will find sections of the text that I know might be confusing for students and we will focus on asking clarifying questions about that section. We write our questions on an anchor chart and answer them as we go if we can!
Picture Book #4: The Broken Ornament
The Broken Ornament is a fun and lively story about a young boy who accidentally breaks his mother’s favorite Christmas ornament. Inside, he finds a magic Christmas fairy who helps make his biggest wish come true… at least he thought it was his wish. After his wish comes true, he finds that he is still sad and upset about breaking the ornament. He changes his wish and has the best Christmas ever.
This story is so touching and relatable to students! I’m sure many of them have broken something accidentally before or have thought they wanted one thing but turned around and wanted something different instead. This lends this book to be perfect for Making Connections! I love having ‘connection races’ with my students to see which type of connection wins. We make three columns and record our connections as we read and see which gets the most!
Picture Book #5: The Christmas Miracle of Jonathon Toomey
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathon Toomey is an adorable story about an older man and his transformation from a grumpy old man to a man who smiles and enjoys life, all because of a young boy and his Christmas wish. This story is set in the past and again, is a bit long, but reads easy!
When I read this book, I love to pair it with making predictions! In the story, you’ll find there is an important and specific event that repeats throughout. This event is what students will identify as one of the reasons Mr. Toomey changes. And because it’s repeated, students can make strong predictions about what they believe will happen event after event. Making a simple flow chart to record the students’ predictions is an easy to make the lesson interactive.
Having strong and engaging picture books can really help students become engaged during the holiday season, saving their sanity and yours! But of course, using picture books works all year long, too!
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