Teaching Holidays in Schools – A Year-Round Opportunity #BCSLearns

In the article from Edutopia, Teaching about the Holidays in Public Schools, Peter Siegel shares his thoughts about how teachers “can avoid controversial topics and still honor a diversity of holiday stories, characters, and rituals as symbols of positive values.”  In short, Siegel suggests that discussing the different holidays with students offers a great opportunity to draw on comparisons and similarities.  He also suggests making sure we do not limit ourselves to just the winter holidays – make it a year-round endeavor. 

The article Culturally Responsive Instruction for Holiday and Religious Celebrations provides great insight and tips as they relate to holidays in the classroom through the important lens of culturally responsive instruction related to holiday celebrations and honoring traditions.

As for culturally responsive teaching, the article lists ideas that we…

  • Look for ways to integrate cultural traditions of your ELL families throughout your school.
  • Add classroom visuals reflecting the racial and ethnic diversity of the classroom.
  • Incorporate books with multicultural themes and different perspectives into classroom readings.
  • Explore themes that are common to all cultures.
  • Take interest in students’ lives outside of school and asking questions about community events and traditions.
  • Ensure major assignments or exams do not fall on religious or cultural holidays.
  • Integrate ethnic art, music, and games into classroom activities.
  • Support English language learners and their families with materials in their first language.
  • Use current world events to teach students to read, think, and discuss from multiple perspectives.

As for celebrating holidays, the article suggests the following ideas…

  • Recognize various talents and accomplishments when focusing on people.
  • Consult more than one internet or library source and do not expect a student to be your sole “ambassador” or resource for finding out about a whole culture or ethnic background.
  • Incorporate the information you select into existing lesson plans or special projects.
  • Make it more than just about food, music, or popular icons.
  • Seek various representatives to show the diversity within a common group.
  • Plan ahead of time.
  • Encourage other children who may not have “official” holidays representing them or whose families have lived in the U.S. for multiple generations to explore and share their own heritage and background.

As for religious holidays and traditions, the article suggests using the following guidelines (that also align with our BPS policy 8800) where we…

  • Have an approach that is academic and not devotional.
  • Focus on the awareness of religions rather than acceptance of any one religion.
  • Sponsor study about religion, not the practice of religion.
  • Expose students to a diversity of religious views and do not impose any particular view.
  • Educate about all religions — do not promote or denigrate any religion.
  • Inform students about various beliefs, rather than conform students to any particular belief.

For a few more resources, check out…

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