Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Fifteen Favorite Stories, Poems, and Non-fiction Readings for the Christmas Season

There are so many fun holidays coming up, but for this post, I’m sticking to the one I know and love the best – Christmas!  One of my favorite parts of the Christmas season is all the preparation in the weeks leading up to the holiday.  So in the classroom, as well as at home, Christmas for me always started early.

Today I’m posting with ideas of stories and other readings for this holiday season.  There’s something of a mixed bag here – classic stories, funny poems, informational articles, and a play.  I’ve included some links so that you can go right to the stories to check them out.  Some of the stories can be copied for class use directly from that site, but not necessarily all of them.

Snowball (poem)
Snowball is a very short, funny poem by Shel Silverstein about a snowball that does what snowballs do when they’re brought indoors.  It’s not strictly a holiday poem, but it’s a fun read at this season.

A Cowboy’s Letter to Santa (poem)
This poem by Eric Ode is one of the many funny, kid-friendly poems on the Giggle Poetry site, in the Holiday Poems section.  It’s about a cowboy letting Santa know that what he really, really wants is a horse.

Christmas Truce (informational text)
Different versions of the story of the World War I Christmas truce are available in various places.  The article on this site, Ducksters, is short and easily readable with the information divided up under subheadings, and there is a quiz at the end.

The Grinch Who Stole Christmas (story)
I couldn’t write a list of favorite Christmas stories without including this Dr. Seuss classic picture book, and popular Christmas movie.  The Grinch steals all the presents but can’t stop the Whos from singing out their Christmas joy.  Finally like Ebenezer Scrooge, the Grinch undergoes a Christmas Day transformation.

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (poem)
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, by Clement Clark Moore, has been published in numerous picture books and seems to be readily available online.  If you plan to project it directly from your computer to read to the class, this version, from the American Literature site, includes nice illustrations.

National Guard Flies to Remote Arctic Village (informational text)
The Tween Tribune site from National Geographic has several interesting Christmas articles. This article, from 2014, is about an Operation Santa Program that brought toys, treats, and other gifts to children living in poverty in an Inupiat Eskimo community.  You can choose among four lexile levels ranging from the 800s to 1200.

The Polar Express (story)
This picture book, by Chris Van Allsburg, is another story that I just couldn’t leave off my list, even though everyone has probably already read it!  It’s about the Christmas bell that can only be heard by those “who truly believe.” There’s a movie, too.

Must be Santa (poem/song)
Must Be Santa, a Christmas song, originally written by Hal Moore and Bill Fredericks, includes poetry elements like rhyme and repetition and a call-and-response format.  Bob Dylan’s version, on a YouTube video, is fun to listen to and seems to include the names of a few US presidents mixed in with the reindeer!

The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree (story)
This is a lovely picture book – both the story by Gloria Houston, and the illustrations, by Barbara Cooney. The story takes place in the Appalachian Mountains and features a brave little girl and a dad who’s a soldier and returns just in time for Christmas.

The Elves and the Shoemaker (story)
This traditional story by the Brothers Grimm is also available from the American Literature site.  The elves secretly help the shoemaker; the shoemaker returns the kindness.  Everyone lives happily ever after.

A Christmas Carol (story/play)
In Charles Dickens’ classic holiday story, Ebenezer Scrooge mends his miserly ways after receiving Christmas Eve visits from three ghosts. You can read the story here, but there are also versions written as a play, and in simpler, more modern language, that kids seem to have fun with year after year during the Christmas season.

The Christmas Song (poem/song)
“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire . . .”  The Christmas Song, written by Mel Torme and Bob Wells and made famous by Nat King Cole,  is a good example of a poem with (mostly) four line stanzas and rhyme schemes ABAB and AABB. 

Christmas Bells (poem)
There’s a Civil War connection to Christmas Bells, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and you can find lessons online that expand on that connection and incorporate both English and history.  This poem, too, is commonly encountered as a Christmas carol.

The Gift of the Magi (story)
The Gift of the Magi, by O. Henry, is widely available online, but I especially like the picture book version illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger.  This is a story set at the turn of the twentieth century and about a young couple who each sacrifice their most prized possession to buy a special Christmas gift for the other.

A Child’s Christmas in Wales (story)
A Child’s Christmas in Wales, by the poet Dylan Thomas, is told as a nostalgic remembrance of a wonderful Christmas in the past when the speaker was a young boy. At various times, readings of “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” were recorded for radio and TV.  It’s not an easy read with its complicated and old-fashioned language, but for a class that could appreciate it, this would be a great holiday story.

Hope you’ve found a Christmas reading that you enjoy here!  And if you have stories to add to the list, I would love to hear about them!

Happy holiday season!  
From Sharon, at Classroom in the Middle.

Classroom in the Middle

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