As we get closer and closer to the holidays and holiday break, it is important to still engage your students with interesting Christmas stories that are not necessarily the typical stories that one would read to students in this season. For this reason I have included Hanukkah and Christmas books that I love to use this season.
Little Blue Truck’s Christmas
I have long been a fan of the Little Blue Truck Series. This is a wonderful story about a little blue truck that delivered Christmas trees to all of his friends. The rhyming words make this story go quickly while helping your students keep a steady beat. The addition of a counting element as Little Blue distributes the trees helps with cross curricular connections in the classroom. In addition the graphics and the light up tree at the end are sure to engage and delight your young learners!
Gingerbread Man/Matzo Ball Boy/Runaway Latkes: Different Version of the Same Story
I have loved the gingerbread story for a long time and did not know there were any alternatives to this story. This article will talk about the original story and alternative stories you can use to celebrate the Jewish holidays in your classroom. What I love about these stories is the repetitive chant that makes the students more engaged as they cheer on the main characters, also opening up room to keep a steady beat and practice rhythm and solfege syllables.
I have used the gingerbread story around Christmas time since that is a common cookie that is baked around that time of year. There are different versions of this story, and I happened to get this book at a sale. I love the colorful pictures as well as the message that exercise is important.
I was surprised to find other alternatives to this story, appropriate for Jewish holidays, specifically Passover and Hanukkah. The first story, The Matzo Ball Boy is very similar to the gingerbread man, because the repetitive chant is almost identical.
Keep Running Gingerbread Man The Matzo Ball Boy
“Run, run as fast as you can, “Run, run as fast as you can,
You can’t catch me, You can’t catch me,
I’m the gingerbread man!” I’m the matzo ball man!”
This is thus a great alternative with a similar storyline that you can use to celebrate Passover with your students. The ending is different than that of the gingerbread man story. The only thing is that I would look up all of the Yiddish words and explain them to your students beforehand.
Another great alternative to this is The Runaway Latkes, which is a good way to celebrate Hanukkah. The repetitive chant is not the same as that of the other two books, but the storyline is similar. I would preface the story about latkes with why we eat latkes on Hanukkah as well as how they are made. Also, an explanation of some of the terms such as rabbi, cantor, synagogue, etc.
While the chant is not similar, the words lend themselves easier to being sung. What I have done with my students is sung the first two lines and then chanted the third, resulting in the following (the letters stand for solfege syllables so and mi):
S S M S S M
Big and round, crisp and brown,
S S M M S S M
Off we roll to see the town,
And you can’t catch us!
Bear Stays Up for Christmas
Another favorite of mine that I love to use in addition with a lesson that I created for this story. The Bear Series books by Karma Wilson are some of my favorites to use for various parts of the year and this is no exception. I have used most of these books and was delighted to find a Christmas one! This is a great way to celebrate the Christmas spirit while practicing steady beat as you read to the students. In addition, I have created a chant and corresponding decoding worksheet to go with this title.
Here is a sample of the chant:
These books can be used with students as young as preschool to celebrate the various holidays in your classroom, and I hope that they can help you as you get ready to acknowledge these special occasions with your students.