Every year I have a student in my class that celebrates Hanukkah. It is fun to have the child's version of what they do at night as a family to celebrate the Holy Days. The child is so excited to explain, but being only five years old, she really doesn't know all the facts. She just knows what she experiences.
I begin this lesson with a few short videos to reel in my class and to help them see a little of what I am going to read to them. Front loading information by showing my students a video, even if it is an animated video, helps with topic interest, vocabulary and comprehension.
I gather my students on the carpet and begin my lesson.
"This week is a special week for some of my friends. This is the week Hanukkah begins. Hanukkah is a special holiday that the Jewish people celebrate. I am going to show you two quick videos about Hanukkah. Watch closely to what happen in the stories and we will talk about them later."
Today I will be exposing my students to a wonderful new way of celebrating the winter holidays. My goal is for my students to be able to write a narrative sentence to describe their drawing about Hanukah.
"As we saw in the videos, Hanukah lasted eight days and the people lit eight candles, one for every night. I would like to read you this book, Eight Candles to Light, which is about the Eight Candles of Hanukah. Listen carefully and look at the pictures to see if you notice anything that you saw in the videos."
As we read about the Macabees I stop and refer back to the video and explain what was happening to the people at the time. I also stop to explain the Menorah and the eight candles. The students want to learn to play the dreidel game and eat some chocolate geld.
"Does anyone know the story of the Macabee Family?"
One of my students answers quickly and reverts to speaking Spanish to explain that the Macabees were fighting.
"That is right, they had only enough oil for one day. They prayed for the fighting to stop and for more oil to get there. The oil lasted eight days not one. It is a miracle!
"There is a fun game that many people play called the dreidel. Does anyone play this game at home with your family?"
"Families are known to cook special food for Hanukah."
"I think it would be fun to celebrate Hanukah. They call it the Festival of Lights."
Because this is a quick "read and write" activity to introduce my students to a winter holiday, I have preprinted writing papers in dot to dot font, Hanukah is the Festival of Lights. They just have to trace the sentence and draw their idea of what the Festival of lights is all about. Because we are writing everyday about the different holidays, I thought using the dot to dot writing would relieve the stress some of my students have about sounding out words. This will be a fun and enjoyable assignment.
My class is still gathered on the carpet from the reading of the story.
"Let's talk a little about the writing activity today. Here is the paper you will write on. Here is the sentence you will trace. It says, Hanukah is the Festival of lights. Can anyone tell what lights we are talking about here?"
I get many answers, Christmas lights, twinkle lights and then someone yells, THE CANDLES!
"You are right. The holiday is about the candles. I am so happy you remembered that. So when you go back to your seats and trace the sentence, what will be in your picture? Will it be the Christmas lights? Will it be twinkle lights? NOOOOO, it will be the candles. Who can tell me the name of the thing that hold the candles? Katya, can you tell us?"
"Yes, it is the menorah. Everyone say Menorah, Menorah. Great. Let's move to our tables, one row at a time and my paper passers can pass out the writing paper."
My students go to their cubbies to get their pencil boxes and the paper passers will make sure everyone has a paper. I have a job for every student so that they learn responsibility and a sense of community. There is a lot of pride and seriousness shown during their performance of a job.
I walk around and discuss picture details with the students. I love the no stress writing days. Everyone is chattering happily at their tables. When the students are done I collect their papers and they go sit quietly on the carpet to read holiday books until everyone is finished.
Here is the Writing template.
I gather my students on the carpet after putting the books away and gathering all their writing papers. I call each row to stand up and take a turn reading their sentence and displaying their pictures. I love how some of them put themselves and their family in the picture, just like in the book.
At the end of the day I show another video about Hanukah. I find it helpful for my ELL students to see multiple videos and hear multiple stories about a topic. The repetition helps again with vocabulary and comprehension.