I have been talking with my students a lot about holiday traditions. We began talking about traditions in November when it was Thanksgiving time. Our conversations have continued into December focusing on all of the holiday celebrations my students have coming up. My students really love hearing about my family’s holiday traditions. I've shared that every year on Christmas Eve my parents would let my brother and I open one present, and that present would always be a board game. We would always play the board game as we spend time together as a family on Christmas Eve.
This year I had the opportunity to share one of my favorite traditions with my students. My dad generously purchased chocolate advent calendars for all of my students. I passed them out on Dec. 1 and my students were so excited to eat their first piece of chocolate that was made in Germany! Every day my students rush into my classroom and excitedly ask "Can we eat our chocolate now Ms. Q?" and then they ask, "What number do we get to eat today?” About half way through the calendar, I concluded that giving a bunch of fourth graders chocolate first thing in the morning, might not have been the smartest decision I've ever made. But I can put up with their hyper behavior just to see the happy looks on their faces.
Another fun exciting thing that we got to do this holiday season is take a field trip to see the Joffrey Ballet perform part “The Nutcracker.” It was quite the undertaking to organize the trip for the entire 4th grade (191 people with teachers, chaperones and students), but in the end it was worth it. I am glad to give my students and the other 4th grade students such a great cultural experience that they would otherwise wound not have had the opportunity. They enjoyed the live performance and the opportunity to go to the theatre. Even the students who were not excited about seeing a ballet really enjoyed themselves!
One tradition that I started with my students during my first year of teaching is my gingerbread mini unit. During the week before winter vacation, I will stray slightly from the curriculum and read gingerbread man books with my students. Let me tell you there are so many great variations of the classic gingerbread story out there now. There are stories about gingerbread pirates, gingerbread girls, gingerbread cowboys, and gingerbread men who get lost in the library and another lost in the school.
I have gingerbread Readers Theater that my students enjoy, a writing project where my students create their own gingerbread characters, and to wrap up the entire week my students get to decorate their own gingerbread cookies to take home and eat. While having 15 students with disabilities all in my room at the same time can get a little crazy, they love having the chance to make their own gingerbread cookies complete with frosting, sprinkles, and candy!