Holiday Seasons & Winter Holidays: Developing Cultural Literacy Through Analysis & Discussion

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SWBAT demonstrate understanding of the meaning of words as used in the text via an in-class vocabulary quiz. SWBAT respond thoughtfully and make new connections to winter holidays by participating in discussion of their family traditions and others.

Big Idea

The gretting, "Happy Holidays" can include many different days; what does it mean to my students when they hear it?

Welcome and Introduction: It's The Last Day Before Break!

3 minutes

It is the last day before Winter Break! As students enter the classroom, I welcome them to class and hand them the multiple-choice "bubble sheet" they'll need for today's vocabulary quiz. 

At the bell, I wish the students "Happy Holidays," and tell them that, after the quiz, we'll be talking about their holiday traditions. 

With the abundance of holidays coming up, we take the time "out" of class today to provide variety in the material for the students in order to build cultural literacy, yet still address informational reading and speaking and listening skills. Celebration of the "big" holidays strengthens my efforts to build community and trust in the classroom and provide students with an alternate education experience beyond the textbook. Some students respond well to these "breaks" from our day-to-day, and it serves to engage them, drawing those students in to the classroom routine. By noting Thanksgiving, we are also able to recap the ideas we addressed with Puritan writing earlier this year as well. 


Summative Assessment: A Vocabulary Quiz

20 minutes

As the final literature-circle-related activity for "The Catcher in the Rye," students have a short vocabulary quiz on the second set of fifteen words from the novel. Students are demonstrating understanding of the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meaning (RL.9-10.4). As with the previous vocabulary quiz (see lesson: "Foiling Holden") the words were chosen from a list of standardized-test-aligned vocabulary for the novel, in order to provide students with exposure to the formal assessment vocabulary, as well as to increase their own personal lexicon as well. The initial vocabulary quiz was written to also include "reading-check" information on the novel; this one does as well, evaluating both knowledge of textual evidence to support analysis of the plot and the vocabulary words (RL.9-10.1). Additionally, this assessment evaluates if the Vocabulary Finders in each group were thorough and effective at their task. This assessment will determine how well students have verified preliminary definitions (L.9-10.4d) in order to determine/clarify the meanings of words. Today's quiz is entirely multiple choice, testing student knowledge and ability to apply the words in context. Students will utilize both context clues (L.9-10.4a) and parts of speech/usage patterns (L.9-10.4b) as they did while reading, in addition to memorization, to demonstrate understanding of the terms. 

I ask students to turn in their tests and take copy of the "Holiday Insights" handout (see below) and read it as the rest of the class finishes. 

Given a minute for each item, students should be able to complete the test and the reading in the time allotted. If needed, students can be given extra time. 

Holiday Traditions: A Class Discussion

25 minutes

Once students have finished the quiz and had an opportunity to review the handout on holidays, I will open the conversation with "Any thoughts?" The floor will be open to student reactions and idea, but I have a few questions prepared if conversation dies down or if students are not forthcoming:

1. Do you open presents? When? 

2. For whom do you purchase presents? 

3. What the best present you have received? What's the worst?

4. Do you travel for the holidays? Where?

5. Who is in change of cooking? How do you contribute? 

As with all of our Holiday Insights discussions, the objective if for students to propel the conversation by posing and responding to questions and to actively incorporate others into the discussion by clarifying or even challenging their ideas (SL.9-10.1c). Because each student brings a unique perspective to the class, students must justify their own views and understanding, making new connections as they understand each other's celebrations (SL.9-10.1d).

The handout I provided was compiled (under Fair Use: Directed Self-Study, on 20 December 2013; as such, a printable copy is not included here) from the introductory paragraphs at the following sources:

Christmas (

Diwali (Wikipedia)

Festivus (Wikipedia)

Haunakkah (

Ramadan (

Yule (Wikipedia)

Since the information herein is property of the respective websites, I presented a class set of the information and collected them at the end of each class. 


Two-Minute Warning: Wrap-Up and Reminders

2 minutes

I end the conversation with two minute remaining in class, and make sure to thank the students for sharing their celebrations and holidays. I remind students that over their break, they should be working on their contribution to the board game project. I also wish the students Happy Holidays, and, "Have a safe--and FUN--break!"