Take Time to Celebrate (and Still Meet Your State Standards)!

It's no secret that I love any excuse for a celebration! Especially at this time of year, when teachers are in the throes of test prep, taking the time to celebrate something special can be a welcome (and needed) respite.

Holidays can be a really great topic for exploration with gifted students, and there really are so many things you can do to celebrate a holiday, while still working on meeting necessary standards.

Why Holidays?

If there's one thing you've probably noticed about gifted children, it's their innate curiosity. They are full of wonder and questions! They want to know how things work, why we do certain things. Cause and effect. They start their questions with phrases like, "I wonder...," and, "Why...," and, "But how...," right? One topic my students always enjoyed exploring was the origin of holidays and the roots of the customs that have become part of a typical holiday celebration. It's fun to stop and consider things like, why do we have Christmas trees, or why do we set off fireworks on the Independence Day?

Especially as the testing season is closing in upon us, it's easy to convince ourselves that we don't have time to spend "exploring" silly things like holidays, right? It's easy to get into the mindset that teaching to the standards or preparing for tests and having fun are mutually exclusive ideas. Well, I have good news for you! You can celebrate the holidays and still help your students prepare for the tests. You can help satiate their desire for exploration and learning while still meeting state standards. You can support the gifted child's need for choice and autonomy while developing critical thinking and close reading skills. One way to do that is to find (or create) high-interest reading material, and then create (or find) questions or activities that encourage high-level critical and creative thinking, analysis, and evaluative thinking skills.

I know that creating your own materials can be really difficult and time-consuming, which is why I've made it part of my mission not only to help educate people about the nature and needs of gifted children but also to spend time creating materials that teachers can use in their classrooms to help meet the special needs of this population of kids, while still meeting the standards. I'm not on this journey to become rich and famous--I truly want to help people learn about and serve gifted children.

An Illustration of How We Celebrate One Holiday in My Classroom 

To help you understand how I made holiday celebrations in my classroom, I'll tell you about how we celebrated St. Patrick's Day.

Before starting, I spent time researching St. Patrick's Day and the traditional customs that we have in the United States--things like wearing green clothes, decorating with shamrocks, drinking green milkshakes, and going to big parades. As it turns out, many of the things we think we're doing because we're emulating or celebrating Ireland and Irish culture are actually rooted in America. Did you know that St. Patrick wasn't Irish!? He wasn't even born in Ireland! And he didn't wear green, he wore BLUE! I also learned that while we celebrate this day in March with raucous parades and green drinks, the holiday in Ireland was really a pretty somber occasion spent in reflection of the life of a non-Irish missionary on the day of his death. I don't know about you, but I find things like this to be fascinating, and I'll bet your students will, too.

After researching the information about St. Patty's Day, I wrote three reading passages. They're all about the same topics and facts, but they're written on the 4th, 6th, and 8th-grade reading levels, so that the children in my class could access them on (at least close to) their independent reading level.

I also created a pre- and post-reading comprehension activity in which children read statements prior to reading the text, and make predictions about which statements they think will be true or false. Students read the text and then come back to the activity sheet to determine whether they still think the statements are true or false. They have to change the statements so that they are all true and cite the location of text evidence. I wrote these activity sheets on three different levels as well.

Finally (and this is my favorite part), I created a set of eight task cards based on the three highest levels of Bloom's Revised Taxonomy (analyze, evaluate, and create). The task cards include questions for reflection, writing, creating, and/or discussion. For example: Have you ever thought about a how holiday celebration gets invented? How do you think people get a new idea for a holiday? How to they decide the ways they celebrate the day? Another card suggests the students design a flow chart showing how St. Patrick's day has changed over time (past, present, and future predictions). Recently, I revised the file to also include activity sheets/recording pages for each of the eight tasks.

The beauty of engaging in activities like this is that teachers have tons of flexibility with how they employ them in their classrooms. There are eight different cards, so children could have a choice about doing one, two, or more. They could work independently, in pairs, in small groups, or as an entire class. Some of the cards could even be a jumping-off point for research. One of the cards asks students to research and reflect on how and why holidays aside from St. Patrick's day have changed over time. They can answer from personal reflection and observation, but they could also research how holidays have evolved over long periods of time. This would require more reading and text analysis, and if they use internet sources for their research, of course, you could throw in a mini-lesson about source credibility. All of these things are reinforcing standards in reading, writing, and social studies, engaging students in something they're interested in learning about, activating analytical and creative thinking skills, and allowing them choices about how they interact with the materials.

If you're interested in a closer look, you can link to the activity in my Teachers Pay Teachers store by clicking the St. Patrick's Day picture, you can take a peek at my entire store right here or check out how we celebrated some other holidays by clicking the pictures below.









Let me know if you have questions! Do you think you can see something like this fitting into your lesson plans?

Thanks for reading!
~Jen



Signature

3 comments

  1. To me good friend Snyder, another bloody good post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Scalllllliiii! Thank you, friend! I am so, so grateful for you! Thanks for reading and thank you especially for your encouraging words. <3

      Delete

Back to Top