Fresh Holiday Ideas for Secondary ELA Classes

This year I’m replacing O. Henry with David Sedaris podcasts. Why? Because in years past I pulled out “The Gift of the Magi” and most of my students have already read it – a few times.

If you’ve had similar experiences or just want to mix it up for own sanity, read on for a few new options.

David Sedaris Podcasts

If you follow my blog you already know I’m a big fan of humor in the classroom. So of course I include Sedaris’s “The Santaland Diaries” and “An Animal Farm Christmas.”

Santaland Diaries

A humorous account of Sedaris’s days as Crumpet the Elf at Macy’s during the holidays. Basically, Sedaris details his horrid experiences working a seasonal job he hated; most of my students easily relate to this. His description of his costume and encounters with customers as well as other employees   are sure to get a smile from even the most solemn students.

I use an abridged podcast (click here to listen) and have students complete a worksheet that focuses on characterization, author’s purpose, and theme.

An Animal Farm Christmas

This piece of fiction is Sedaris’s take on a Christmas fable. Farm animals decide to do a secret Santa. The cow insists on gifting to the turkey, but only because she knows the turkey is about to become Christmas dinner. Of course Sedaris tells it best and it is meant to be heard rather than read, so don’t judge from my quick summary. Here is the link if you want to hear it.

I again use a worksheet that focuses on characterization, irony, and theme.

I like to pair them together to ask students to describe Sedaris’s overall style. I also like to discuss how listening instead of reading affected their understanding or enjoyment of the stories. I have my worksheets for these at my TeachersPayTeachers store here. Of course Sedaris intentionally makes an allusion to Animal Farm here.  If you happen to have read that in class or are in the middle of it, this sets up the perfect extension question about allusion and author’s purpose/intended effect on the audience.

A few fresh ideas to bring Christmas topics to your secondary ELA classroom: David Sedaris podcasts and informational texts on controversial holiday topics like Elf on the Shelf as Big Brother and opening stores on Thanksgiving.Engaging Nonfiction Christmas Articles

Is Elf on the Shelf Preparing Our Youth for Big Brother?

Originally published in 2014, this article from the Washington Post details what Elf on the Shelf is and how some argue is prepares our children to be more accepting of invasion of privacy by the government.

“I don’t think the elf is a conspiracy and I realize we’re talking about a toy,” Pinto told The Post. “It sounds humorous, but we argue that if a kid is okay with this bureaucratic elf spying on them in their home, it normalizes the idea of surveillance and in the future restrictions on our privacy might be more easily accepted.”

Click here to read the article in its entirety. I really enjoy doing this article with the students because they often have a lot to say on the topic of privacy. Great discussions and debates come from this article and it pairs perfectly if you happen to be reading 1984. (Notice my Orwell theme? Completely unintentional, I swear.)

Cashing in on the Toy Craze

This article, published last year during the whole Hatchimals toy craze, is fairly recent. Your students are probably pretty familiar with Hatchimals and maybe even have one at home if they have younger siblings. The article details how two men predicted the Hatchimals toy craze in October and bought up as many as they could with the intentions of selling them at a higher cost to desperate parents in November and December. Click here to read the article.

I enjoy doing this one with the students because they have so many varying opinions about capitalism and “hustling.” Since this resale practice is not illegal, it  makes the students come up with their own ideas of whether they agree or disagree with people trying to cash in on toy crazes. Students usually can relate to this because they’ve seen or experienced a similar situation with tickets to concerts or sporting events.

Stores Should Open on Thanksgiving

This last article is short and a bit heavy with sales information, but again it is one that students tend to feel strongly about. Many students probably work at jobs that require them to work on Thanksgiving or have seen friends or family forced to work on the holiday. This article supports stores opening placing the blame on the shoppers who refuse to miss out on a good deal. Similar to the articles above, this topic has no clear right or wrong answer and makes for good discussions in class. Here is a link to the article.

Don’t have time to create guide questions and writing prompts? Here’s  a link to my worksheets and answer keys in my TpT store.

What Did I Miss?

What is your favorite December activity? I’m always looking for different activities to keep the students’ interests. There’s so much going on and everyone starts to get squirrelly the closer we get to break!

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2 Replies to “Fresh Holiday Ideas for Secondary ELA Classes”

  1. Hi there! I love this idea…any chance you’d like to share your activities (Characterization / Author’s Purpose) that accompany the Santaland diaries and Animal Farm Christmas? I teach English 11…I, too, love Sedaris. Would love to test this with my students.

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