It’s the holiday season, and everything and everyone is abuzz including your classroom! However, it is important to pause and ask ourselves and our students, what are we celebrating? Your classroom is a melting pot of cultures and traditions. As a teacher who is creating a positive classroom community, it’s crucial to remember not all students celebrate the same way or at all. Today, we are going to look at how you can make sure you have inclusive holiday classroom activities so your space remains comfortable for all students during this festive month.
Creating Inclusive Holiday Classroom Activities
When you are creating an inclusive holiday classroom, you want to consider when you are celebrating. I mean, who says holiday cheer is reserved for December? You can always consider celebrating various cultural events throughout the school year. By doing this, you are giving students a deeper understanding of the diverse world they live in. Doing this makes your holiday classroom activities in December part of your standard teaching approach.
Decorating for December in Your Inclusive Classroom
Now, I know we all want our classrooms to transform for the holiday season. Before you make holiday magic, take a moment to ask yourself some essential questions. These will serve as a guide for creating truly inclusive holiday classroom activities.
Does this activity lean towards or against any religious ideas?
When you are creating activities, you want to make sure they aren’t implicitly or explicitly endorsing religious beliefs. This is especially true in a public school! In public schools, you have to maintain separation of church and state. So, focus on cultural education and shared values that can be appreciated by all!
How does this align with our educational objectives?
While this is a fun month, every activity should still serve a purpose. Whether you are teaching history, social studies, or art using your inclusive holiday classroom activities, make sure they align with your curriculum goals. This not only keeps your focus educational, but also justifies the time and resources spent.
Could this make anyone feel left out or marginalized?
Inclusivity should be at the forefront of all of your holiday planning. Consider the diverse backgrounds of your students. Like I said, it’s possible that your classroom is a melting pot of traditions and cultures. You want to ensure all of your students feel like they can participate and learn from your inclusive holiday classroom activities. Feeling isolated should never happen because you have an environment where everyone feels welcome.
Is this a one-off December activity, or do we also focus on other holidays throughout the year?
Remember when I said we don’t just have to celebrate in December? If you are only doing December holidays, you might be unintentionally giving more weight to certain celebrations over others. To maintain balance, plan activities around various cultural and religious holidays throughout the year. This sets the precedent that all traditions are valued and respected.
Are we equipped to educate about the religious aspects in a culturally enriching way?
Before diving into the details of any particular holiday, make sure you are well-informed. You don’t want to misinform students and push stereotypes or misunderstandings even if it is unintentionally. If you need to, talk to community members, parents, or colleagues who know about the holiday you’re trying to celebrate.
When you think about these questions, you’re laying a great foundation for creating truly inclusive holiday classroom activities, discussions, lessons, and decor. Why? Because it’s a thoughtful approach that separates a well-intended teacher from an Educational Rockstar like you! Trust me when I say that going the extra mile to make sure everyone feels included will be worth it. By doing so, you’re not just celebrating holidays; you’re celebrating diversity.
Creating Inclusive Holiday Classroom Activities
Now that you know what questions to ask yourself, let’s talk about what you need to consider when creating or finding inclusive holiday classroom activities. If you really want to stand out, make sure you do the following:
Go Beyond the Mainstream
While Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanza often steal the spotlight in December, there are so many other celebrations like Diwali, Las Posadas, and Lunar New Year which all can fall around the same time frame depending on the year. You want to incorporate activities that bring these lesser-known holidays to the forefront. By doing this, you’re introducing students to a wider world of traditions. Plus, you’re making all backgrounds seen!
Use Educational Resources
We live in the age of technology. Therefore, the amount of online resources, books, and videos that can help you gain a better understanding of different holidays is ridiculous. You can use these resources to inform your lesson plans to give students a more well-rounded education.
Have Student-Led Activities
If you are looking to empower your students, let them take the lead. One way you can do this is by encouraging students to present a holiday they celebrate. This can be complete with traditions, food, and customs. Not only does this make your student feel valued, it also educates their classmates.
Bring in Community Members and Parents
Sometimes you need an expert. Who better to come in and talk to a class about a different holiday than you celebrate than someone who celebrates that holiday. Having community members and parents come and share how they celebrate holidays in their culture is a great way to get parents involved. This creates a community of learning and gives students first hand experience with the different customs and traditions. Always remember to maintain a balance so no one holiday or tradition overshadows the others.
Just like a “normal” lesson plan, you always want to take time to reflect. After the holiday season, take time to look back and evaluate what went well and what could be improved for next year. Have students and parents give you honest feedback. Then, use their insights to help you refine your approach to inclusive holiday classroom activities.
When you give thought to your representation, you’re not just decorating a classroom; you’re creating an inclusive and respectful atmosphere. This is what is going to bring from great to rockstar status!
Avoid Cultural Cliches for Inclusive Holiday Classroom Activities
There’s so much to think about when you’re using holiday classroom activities. A big aspect you want to think about is stereotyping. You want to be cautious of stereotypes because they can be harmful and reductive. Therefore, you don’t want to simplify complex traditions into cookie-cutter activities or decorations. Instead, take the time to research and consult with people who know more about the traditions you want to include. This enriches your understanding and ensures your inclusive holiday classroom activities are respectful and accurate.
Be Careful of the Spotlight
The holiday season should be about inclusion not a time of isolation or scrutiny. Therefore, you don’t want to ask students to be the spokesperson for their entire culture or religion. Instead, make your inclusive holiday classroom activities an open space for everyone to share, learn, and participate. If you do have a student who is going to share his/her traditions, make sure you read up and learn about the traditions and culture before. You can even invite additional experts to support the student so he/she doesn’t feel singled out.
Practical Tips and Strategies for an Inclusive Classroom
Creating an inclusive classroom can be difficult. However, there are a few things you can do to make sure your classroom is open and well rounded to all cultures and traditions.
- Create an information board showcasing different December celebrations around the world.
- Read books that celebrate and tell students about various holidays and traditions.
- Organize a potluck where students bring dishes from holidays they celebrate. This is also a great way to include parents.
- Craft several holiday themed crafts that are inclusive holiday classroom activities yet still respectful.
- Open the floor for discussion to students who want to talk about their family traditions or holidays they celebrate.
Inclusion is More Than an Activity
All of these inclusive holiday classroom activities are about creating a positive environment. However, we need to remember it can’t just be about December and still be inclusive. Making this a part of your teaching philosophy is huge! Holidays are celebrated all year round. Inclusive holiday classroom activities are just the starting point when you make it a part of your regular classroom. It becomes an opportunity to expand your lesson plans, your teaching, and yes your decor. More than anything, having inclusive holiday activities and beyond makes you more of a rockstar than you already are.