Keep students engaged before the Holiday Break

With all the pre-break excitement abounding in your class, you may be looking for ways to keep your students engaged. Let Newsela help by using our articles and activity ideas to create meaningful discussions and projects.

Learn about multicultural holidays

Using the holidays Text Set, students can explore the different ways people celebrate.

Activity 1: Discussing holidays using the jigsaw method

Have students read and explore different holidays celebrated at this time of year. Split your students into groups and assign each group an article from the Happy Holidays! Text Set. Within each group, assign each student a number. This will be the student's jigsaw group. Here are some suggestions for articles and discussion questions:

Group 1:

Possible article: The History of New Year’s Eve

Discussion questions:

  • Pick out two to three events that show the history of New Year’s Eve. What are they and what is their significance?
  • What are some of the different ways that countries around the world celebrate New Year’s Eve?
  • How does the way you celebrate New Year’s Eve compare, and contrast, to the examples mentioned in the article.

Group 2:

Possible article: 5 things you may not know about Kwanzaa

Discussion questions:

  • Why do you think this article is titled “5 things you may not know about          Kwanzaa”?
  • How can you practice the principles of Kwanzaa in your everyday life?
  • How is Kwanzaa similar to, and different from, the other holidays celebrated around this time of year?

Group 3:

Possible article: The History of Hanukkah

Discussion questions:

  • What kind of role do symbols play in the celebration of Hanukkah?
  • How is Hanukkah similar to, and different from, the other holidays celebrated around this time of year?
  • Rename the title of this article. What would you name it and why?

Group 4: A History of Christmas

Possible article: Untangling the history of Christmas lights

Discussion questions:

  • What do Christmas lights symbolize?
  • How do the symbols of Christmas compare, and contrast, to the symbols of other holidays?
  • What did you learn about Christmas from this article?

In their expert groups, students should read their article and answer the discussion questions. They can record their findings on the Jigsaw Recording Sheet. After 15-20 minutes, students will get into their jigsaw groups and each student will share out what they learned about their holiday.

Activity 2: Extended writing

After they read an article within this Text Set, have your students compose a writing piece in response to this prompt: “Describe a holiday tradition that you are especially proud of.” Be sure to include:

  • A description of the tradition.
  • What it teaches you.
  • What makes you excited to participate in this tradition.

Giving back to the community

Inspire your students to spread kindness and give back this holiday season. Maybe these articles will spark a community service project in your classroom or school.

Activity 1:

Use this article “Program trains young garbage collectors amid U.S. shortage” to show your students how the Civicorps program is teaching others to make a difference. Click on the PRO Teacher Resource titled “Proposals to make a difference.” 

Activity 2:

Explore with your students how people are helping those who are affected by extreme weather. Use this article, “

The Southeast's raging wildfires could be a glimpse into the future”. Click on the PRO Teacher Resource titled “Service Learning Plan.”

Creative writing

Engage your students’ creative side by using their imagination to respond to these Write prompts.

Activity 1:

Create a new holiday: Have students create a new holiday after drawing inspiration from this article about Mother Language Day. Click on the PRO teacher resource titled “Create a new holiday.”

Activity 2:

Writing about literary characters: Students will create a story that will enter them into a fictitious contest to earn a visit to Dracula’s castle. Click on the PRO teacher resource titled “Writing about literary characters.”

Activity 3:

Make your own superhero: After drawing inspiration from this article about Marble’s decision to cancel the comic “Nitehawk”, students will create their own superhero and comic strip. For the full activity click on the PRO teacher resource titled “Diversity through superheroes.”

The year in review

Have students identify and determine the 10 most important and trending topics of 2016. Have them search the “news” section of Newsela. Here are a few ways they can report their findings:

  • Create a newscast where they summarize each article and report trends among the articles.
  • Have students try to complete our Trending Topics in 2016 Crossword Puzzle. 
  • Construct a crossword puzzle where the answers to the clues reveal one of the article headlines. Try an online puzzle maker such as this one.

Goals for the new semester

With all the talk about New Year’s resolutions, now is a great time to start thinking about goals for the upcoming semester. Setting goals with your students helps motivate and encourage them to do their best. Start early by downloading our goal-setting template here. Have students think about areas of reading they would like to improve on in 2017.

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