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Lauren Coffey | November 19, 2019

As we go into what many of us in the United States call the “holiday season,” it is natural to want to introduce holidays to our students. Adding a global dimension is important and can be done in a thoughtful and appropriate way. Below are a few suggestions for adding a global lens to the holiday season, along with a couple notes of caution.

Be Inclusive:

  • Remember that students in your class come from diverse backgrounds. According to the NC Department of Public Instruction there are 309 different languages spoken in the homes of our K-12 public school students. Each has his or her own culture. While there are popular holidays particularly during December, remember that all holidays are not limited to the winter. To mitigate this, structure a plan for year-round holiday teachings that can build off identification concepts developed during current holiday lessons.
  • Remember not all students share beliefs or celebrate the same holidays. Your classroom should not be a place to promote one holiday over the other. Even if most students identify with celebrating the same holiday there are still unique practices and relationships with the way they honor the holiday. Emphasize the difference between secular and religious holidays, and how some holidays can be celebrated either way. Bring in and draw connections to other holidays. Your students may find they have commonalities within their unique identities.

Be Equitable:

  • Create equal teaching time and activities for all students’ celebrations. Each student’s values are personal to them and have meaning. Ensure that this importance does not get lost in teaching one topic more than another. Where other’s may overlook a holiday celebrated by the minority, you can enrich a student’s schooling experience and establish yourself as an ally by showing your support in teaching all holidays equally.

Make it Accessible:

  • Be engaging with your students. Holidays are a celebration and time for excitement. While it may be hard to motivate students to learn, fun activities and interactive materials can activate their enthusiasm and interest in new topics.
  • Teach through:
    • Sensory activities: Remember not all students learn the same, so tactile activities can help promote stronger understanding of the concepts around various holidays. Clothing and decoration can give students a visual representation of the holiday and make them more aware of how others live and celebrate during holiday times.
    • Digital resources: Movies and music allows students to visualize the concepts taught, solidifying their learning through multi-dimensional examples they will enjoy viewing. This can be a fun refresher for students already familiar or an engaging break from auditory or pencil-paper learning.
    • World examples: Maps can be a valuable medium to teach special distribution of where holidays are celebrated, illustrating that while a particular region may celebrate one holiday more than others, observants can be found anywhere.
    • Personal stories: Giving students a safe space to share their own beliefs and personal relationships with holidays not only helps them feel accepted, but can enrich others’ learning as well.

Want more information? Check out these educator resources:

December Dilemma – Diversity Best Practices
The December Dilemma: Acknowledging Religious Holidays in the Classroom
Teaching Tolerance: Classroom Resources About Religion 
We Need Diverse Books Campaign