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A Season of Gratitude

PUBLISHED: Wednesday, November 10, 2021 by Emilee Howell

 

With Thanksgiving Break just around the corner, it’s officially the holiday season! There are many events and holidays to celebrate this month, including World Kindness Week, Veterans Day, Hanukkah, and National Novel Writing Month. Below is a list of holidays and activities you can incorporate into your classroom instruction. 

World Kindness Week, November 8-14th – From random acts of kindness to donating to charities, spreading the message of World Kindness Week is a great way to enter into the season of thanksgiving. Celebrate by holding a school-wide canned food drive to donate to your local food pantry. Students can also write “kindness cards” with encouraging words to give anonymously to each other. 

Veterans Day, November 11th – Originally called Armistice Day to commemorate the soldiers who fought in World War I, Veterans Day has evolved to include everyone who has served in the U.S. military. A great way to teach your students about Veterans Day is to invite a veteran to come and speak to your class about their experience serving in the military. If you don’t know a veteran, your local Veterans Affairs office can recommend a speaker. Your class can also thank active duty men and women by writing letters and creating care packages to send through the Red Cross’ Holidays for Heroes program. 

National Novel Writing Month – Also known by the acronym NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month is an event that challenges everyone from novices to seasoned authors to write an entire book in just 30 days. The Young Writers Program is a great creative writing project for teachers to use in their classrooms. Teachers can create writing challenges for their students, check students’ progress, proofread what students have written so far, and set daily goals with NaNoWriMo’s online classroom

Students participating in the Young Writers Program can write their mysteries using the free Carole Marsh Mystery Writing Guide. This guide provides step-by-step prompts for expository writing, dialogue, and character development. Encourage students to write their mysteries over the next 30 days and then share what they’ve written with the class at the end of the month. 

Thanksgiving, November 25th – This holiday dates back to November 1621 when the Pilgrim settlers of Plymouth, Massachusetts, and their Native American allies celebrated a successful harvest with a festival that lasted for three days. It wasn’t until 1863 that Thanksgiving was proclaimed an official holiday by President Abraham Lincoln. 

In addition to teaching about the rich history of Thanksgiving using these resources, celebrate the meaning behind the holiday with fun activities. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, students can write lists of things they’re grateful for and take turns going around the room and sharing one or two items from their list. Seeing how easy it is to practice gratitude can help students do it all year long! 

Hanukkah, November 28th - December 6thHanukkah (also spelled Chanukah) is the Jewish “Festival of Lights” that lasts for eight days and celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem by the Maccabees (a group of Jewish “freedom fighters”) in the second century BCE. After defeating the Seleucids (a Syrian-Greek army), this small but victorious army, led by Judah the Maccabee, returned to the Temple and rededicated it to God. Judah only found enough oil to light the menorah in the Temple for one day. Miraculously, the oil lasted for not just one day but all eight!  

This miracle is commemorated during Hanukkah. On the first day of the Festival of Lights, a single candle on the menorah (an eight-branched candelabra with one candlestick in the middle, called the shamash, or “attendant” candle) is lit while saying special prayers. Over the next seven nights, another candle is lit until all eight candles (including the shamash) are ignited on the last night of Hanukkah. 

In addition to lighting the menorah, another Hanukkah celebration is the game “spin the dreidel.” A dreidel is a four-sided top that is spun on its point. Each side has a different Hebrew letter engraved on it: nun, gimmel, hey, and shin. Players sit in a circle and place either candy, coins, nuts, or chocolate in the middle of the ring. Each player takes a turn spinning the dreidel, and depending on which side the dreidel falls on, takes nothing, all, or half of the pile in the center.  You can play this game with your class using this free guide from the Hanukkah Activities, Crafts, Recipes, and More! book.