As technology makes our world smaller and smaller, the families in your community may become more diverse. The students in your classroom may have alternative traditions or celebrate different holidays completely. Instead of just focusing on popular holidays this year, use this as an opportunity to learn about different cultures.
Talking about different cultures and holidays can help students feel more accepted and open up about the different ways their families celebrate holidays. It can also help students understand and relate to their classmates and neighbors.
A great way to start a discussion is to ask students to talk or write about their favorite family traditions from this time of year. If the students seem open to it, ask what it is about that specific tradition that is important to them or their family. Even students who celebrate the same holiday will do so differently or place different emphasis on parts of the holiday (for example, a religious-based Christmas vs secular Christmas). Some students may even celebrate two holidays!
Another idea is to ask students to give a presentation to the class about different cultural holidays. Don’t limit it to just the December holidays – some cultures may celebrate at different times throughout the year.
Try an around-the-world approach. Take a day, or a few days, and teach the holiday customs of a particular country or region. If you’re able to get the parents involved, host an Around the World holiday celebration, and have parents sign up to bring in a dish from a specific culture (either assign them, if your school is homogeneous or have people choose a dish that is representative of their own traditions).
Note: try not to overly emphasize gift giving. Some families may not be able to give the gifts that others do.
And don’t forget to share YOUR favorite holiday traditions with your students! They can only benefit from learning about as many traditions as possible.
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