Holidays Around the World Unit For Kids

Many teachers think a Holidays Around the World unit will be expensive, messy, chaotic and require a lot of planning and prepping. That doesn’t need to be the case at all. This blog post will... 
  • Explain the 5 simple steps I’ve used over and over to implement a successful Holidays Around the World Unit in my own classroom 
  • Provide you with a list of book titles to peruse 
  • Tell you how to access free books and videos to use as teaching resources 
  • Showcase the tried and true, classroom-tested, no prep activities I use each year and 
  • Give you a free 70-page printable resource to use to complement your unit in your own classroom
Holidays Around the World is a perfect unit for the month of December. While many schools encourage teachers not to focus on Christmas or Santa, the children are often hyper-focused on the holidays as they know them. Students everywhere tend to check out a bit as the winter break draws near and they crave classroom activities they perceive as being “fun” as opposed to the typical routines. Teachers are busier than ever and need to keep the students learning and engaged. A Holidays Around the World unit is the ideal solution because it allows you to integrate reading and writing skill practice with so many other learning opportunities…all while your students enjoy what they think are fun, seasonal activities.

Step 1: Pick the Countries / Holidays You Wish to Include
There are so many interesting ones to choose from. Some years I include more than others depending on when the winter break begins. Here is the list of the ones I included in the resource I created to get you started.

✦Australia ✦Brazil ✦China ✦France ✦Germany ✦India ✦Israel ✦Italy ✦Mexico ✦Netherlands ✦Spain ✦Sweden ✦United States ✦St. Lucia Day ✦Kwanzaa ✦Christmas ✦Chinese New Year ✦Diwali ✦Hanukkah ✦Las Pasadas ✦Epiphany

Step 2: Gather Your Resources
Some teachers avoid taking on a Holidays Around the World unit because they worry that it will be expensive to buy all of the necessary resources to teach the students about the different holidays. This doesn’t need to be an obstacle. 

The resource I created includes printable close reading activities chock full of information. They can be assembled into a book for students or used one at a time. You can enhance your unit with more great resources FOR FREE. 

Take a look at the Holidays Around the World book list I have compiled in this blog post for titles you may want to use. You’ll find many of those books at your local library as well as by searching online for videos of them being read aloud. 

I highly encourage you to also check out my Holidays Around the World video collection blog post that includes a great collection of the holiday storytellers I curated after a recent trip to Disney World. They are the perfect complement to your unit and your students will learn so much from them.

Are you looking for ideas and free resources for a Holidays Around the World Unit? Here you'll find tips and links to make planning easy.

Step 3: Determine How You Will Implement the Unit

One of my favorite ways to bring the unit to life is to team up with colleagues. This lightens your workload during a busy time of year when your plate is extra full. Have each person take responsibility for a different holiday and rotate your students “Around the World.” Consider working with teachers in other grade levels and mixing your students up into groups. 

Another option is to set up research centers for independent or small group learning. Designate an area for each country or holiday and stock it with resources, printable activities, and art supplies. Let your students travel around the room to complete the activities. 

Some teachers prefer to use whole group lessons. Gather the students together for read alouds, videos, discussions, and instructions. Then have them use that information to make scrapbooks or write about what they’ve learned as a follow-up activity.

Step 4: Choose the Activities You Want the Students to Do

You can do as many or as few activities you want. Here is what worked well for me over the years. 

I always start with a quick map skills lesson. If you have not already viewed my video on the many benefits of teaching map skills I welcome you to check that out now. I introduce the countries we’ll be “visiting” and we find them on the map.

To keep all of the materials organized throughout the unit we make “suitcases” which become learning portfolios. The kids love decorating them and the parents always rave about what a nice keepsake they are when they get sent home.

Next, I give each student a passport and explain how they will be filling them with stamps as we learn about the winter holidays celebrated by other cultures. Then it is time to begin our study of Holidays Around the World.

For each holiday the students complete a graphic organizer noting the traditions, clothing, foods, and activities associated with the holiday. Using this format allows them to see the similarities between cultures as well as the things that are unique about each. They fill in the organizers as they gather info when watching videos, listening to stories and reading the close reading passages They then use the organizers to write in their travel journals and create a scrapbook page.

My favorite activity is the scrapbook. The open-ended aspect of it makes it perfect for all ability levels. I’ve had the students add drawings, images, words, etc. They really get creative and showcase all they’ve learned. They start each one after we have learned about the holiday through books, videos, and storytelling and add to them as an independent project as time allows.

Finally, I have them create a postcard for each of the countries we visit. Some years I do this in conjunction with the travel journal and other years I’ve done it in place of the journal. They write a brief note filled with facts to a family member and then decorate the front to show what they’ve learned in pictures. These make a great informal assessment of their learning.

Are you looking for ideas and free resources for a Holidays Around the World Unit? Here you'll find tips and links to make planning easy.

Step 5: Enlist the Help of Others
Consider collaborating with your art, PE and/or music teacher to turn this into a truly interdisciplinary unit. Your colleagues in those specialist areas could work on cultural crafts, games, and music during their classes to complement the work you are doing in the classroom. 

No doubt this is a busy time of year. Save yourself time by asking parent volunteers to help with this unit. They can gather resources for you, come in to read aloud stories, share their family traditions, prep materials at home or just lend an extra set of hands in the classroom. To save even more time I encourage you to download the Holidays Around the World Resources I've already made for you.

I know this is a crazy, busy time of year so it was very important to me that I created a product that would provide teachers with an excellent resource without a lot of prep. 

It has been jam-packed with a collection of activities. The packet as a whole is perfect for grades 2-5 and the majority of it is also great for first graders as well. Younger learners will especially love the passport/stamps, luggage craft, postcards, journal, travel scrapbook and Venn Diagrams. Older learners will not only enjoy those but will also feel great pride completing research organizers and writing reports and presenting information.

Take a look at all that is included.

I also promised you some free printables that pair perfectly with this unit. It was my pleasure to have created a collection of graphic organizers that can be used with ANY books as a free gift to the subscribers of the Clutter-Free Classroom email list and/or I am pleased to now offer it to you as well. 

Get FREE content/printable be becoming an email subscriber by clicking here.


Holidays Around the World Videos

➼ The Importance of Map Skills

 Independent Research Projects: Countries

➼ Stress-Free December for Teachers

➼ Travel Themed Classrooms

Are you looking for ideas and free resources for a Holidays Around the World Unit? Here you'll find tips and links to make planning easy.

By the way, if you are not already subscribed to The Clutter-Free Classroom newsletter I encourage you sign up. Subscribers receive weekly tips for organizing and managing a classroom as well as exclusive free printables. You can sign up here.

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