Teaching About Christmas?

Posted by Nancy Callan on 16 December 2012 | 0 Comments

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Imagine you were teaching abroad for a year's exchange in the country of Slavarnia, spending part of your time in classes learning the language of Slavar. It's not a real country so follow along with this hypothetical example, if you will. The biggest holiday of the year was called Glistin. Stores were closed and there were two stat holidays associated. Hallmark had come in and commercialized Glistin significantly, creating a large gift giving fairy as the main character. But actually, the roots of the holiday were religious. When the subject of the holiday came up in class, you read and played games centred around the Hallmark fairy, but you learned nothing about the historical and religious origins of the holiday. Apparently, the school was concerned about religious proselytizing and so kept the focus on the secular aspects. As a result, you remained in the dark about half of the holiday's significance. You had no interest in converting your religion, but just wanted to understand what was behind the holiday. How would you feel? 

Of course the classroom should never be our personal soap box. Aside from actively teaching respect for other cultures and the environment and fighting against racism and sexism, we leave our personal biases out of our curriculum. I don't believe that teaching about the historical origins of Christmas, if done with the same mindfulness with which we approach other subjects, need be seen as proselytising. I've been teaching the story of Jesus' birth to adult ESL students for 20 years. I make sure before I start the lesson to explain that we are studying the historical context of the holiday and that many people celebrate Christmas in an entirely secular way, too, so this is just for information. These lessons have always been met with interest. 

Callan's Holiday Jigsaws 1 and 2 and Callan's American Holiday Jigsaws 1 and 2 all have the story of Santa and the story of Jesus. You can choose to use one or both of these jigsaws. And if you are looking for something completely different for the holiday season, you could also teach The Gift of the Magi jigsaw, found in Callan's Thematic Jigsaws 1 and 2

I've made some Christmas questions to use with games for review of the information studied at Christmas. One sheet has general questions about Christmas, one has questions about the story of Jesus' birth and one has questions about Santa. Feel free to use these questions in your own classroom. Ideally, they are meant to be cut into separate squares and used in snakes and ladders board games or put into a bag to be pulled out randomly. They could even be enlarged and taped on the reverse of construction paper labeled with dollar amounts for a game show style activity. Click on the image below to view all three sheets on your computer and download if you wish. 

Happy Holidays!

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