Unlike Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July, Christmas is one of the few holidays many nations and cultures share.
Lincoln Trail Kara Allison takes advantage of this fact by pairing her expository writing unit with a chance to give students the opportunity to present through Hands Around the World each year.
Allison started the Christmas Around the World research project her first year of teaching in 2001.
“Christmas is one of my favorite times of year,” she said. “I was inspired by our H.A.N.D.S. Around the World Event here at Lincoln Trail, and I thought it might be fun to research how other countries celebrate Christmas.”
Each year students are tasked with writing a research report and give a speech.
The first year Allison quickly learned that 26 students giving speeches took three days.
The next year she decided to follow the layout of the fifth-grade science fair and have each student present information about their country to other students, teachers and family members at an exhibit booth in the classroom.
About a month before Christmas break, students select a country, collecting information about their Christmas tradition. Allison asks former students to come into the classroom to help with the research process.
“Having experienced assistants helps when there are 28 of them and only 1 of me during the research and note-taking phase,” she said.
“It’s neat to see kids working together collaboratively.”
At home, students create a poster that includes a map of their country, at least five facts and three pictures or illustrations.
Some students even come with a prop, such as special food or a costume, for the presentation.
“I love this project because it teaches kids about other cultures and gives them an opportunity to be creative and teach others about a topic,” Allison said. “It’s a project that brings us together as a classroom community and brings families together as they help their child prepare.”
On Tuesday, Allison’s class presented the 17th annual Christmas Around the World.
Fourth-grade classes, fifth-grade helpers and parents packed Allison’s classroom in 15-minute rotations to learn about other traditions.
“When they are presenting to other classes you can see the pride they have in themselves,” she said. “It takes a lot of hard work and dedication.”
Allison hopes the project is one that will stick with students as they reflect on their experience in her classroom.
“I want my students to have fun and enjoy learning,” she said. “I love watching the kids get excited about sharing what they have learned. They love going around and looking at each other’s posters and of course, we share the many foods that are brought in post-fair celebrations. It’s the perfect way to lead up to winter break. Hopefully, the research and report writing skills will stick with them as well.”