December Holiday Read Alouds for Upper Elementary Classrooms

December Holiday Read Alouds for Upper Elementary Classrooms

December in the classroom is a magical time! The air is filled with excitement, the children are all smiles, and as the weather gets a bit cooler, it is the perfect time to gather together in the reading area for a good book!

But how do you pick the perfect December read-aloud that all of the students in your class can connect with? It is definitely tricky! That is why I love to make sure that my December picture book stack is well balanced to represent different holidays and traditions, especially some that my students may not have heard of before!

This list of suggested December picture books for upper elementary classrooms is a great place to get started when it comes to going beyond just the Christmas read-aloud. These books have all been read in my classroom and enjoyed by all students, no matter what holiday they celebrate, or don't celebrate.

Don't forget to grab the free printable activities that go alongside some of these picture books, just perfect to add to your December lesson plans.

1. The Little Owl and the Big Tree written by Jonah Winter

christmas read aloud for kids

This sweet tale tells the story of Rockefeller, the small owl that stayed in his large evergreen tree even after it was cut down to be the main Christmas tree attraction in Rockefeller Center in New York City. This tiny Northern Saw-whet Owl stayed buried in his hole, afraid to come out even after the tree he lived in traveled for hours to get to NYC. This book tells how this little owl was found, nursed back to health, and released back into the wild. I love this one for December because it is not Christmas focused and is a real story that the kids love! I love to read this book and then dive deep into a nonfiction article about this book as a paired passage reading activity.

2.  How Santa Got His Job written by Stephen Krensky

Santa read aloud for kids

This fun read follows Santa as he takes and leaves different jobs, until finding the right fit! Each job he takes has a problem that leads him to quit or get fired and take a new job. But each job he leaves provides him with an important skill that will help him do his job as the Santa Claus that we all know! The kids will love seeing Santa in different jobs and roles. A fun follow-up activity would be to write persuasive letters to Santa, telling him to take the year off after working all these jobs!

3.  Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree written by Robert Barry

Christmas read aloud for kids

I have read this book for years, and it is always one of my holiday favorites to read aloud each December! Written in prose and chock full of good word choice and vocabulary, this story follows the small pieces of one big Christmas tree as it is passed on to others. I love that this book can be used to illustrate how one action can have many different effects, which lends itself to lessons on kindness and the power of one kind deed.  

4. The Polar Express written by Chris Van Allsburg

Christmas read aloud for kids

No December read-aloud list is complete without The Polar Express! A truly classic tale, this story follows the adventures of a young boy on the way to the North Pole on the polar express. The adventure comes at the perfect time as the young boy is beginning to wonder about Santa's existence. As with all of Chris Van Allsburg's books, this one is cleverly written, includes beautiful illustrations, and will have the students at the end of their seats as they predict, infer, and connect as each page is read!

5. The Broken Ornament written by Tony DiTerlizzi

Christmas read aloud for kids

The Broken Ornament tells the story of a young boy named Jack who gets caught up in the Christmas rush and breaks his mom's special ornament. Throughout the story, he finds out why the ornament was so special to her and learns the real meaning of Christmas...the value of kindness and giving. After being visited by a Christmas fairy, Jack decides on a special way to try to make it up to his mom.  This book is a perfect read-aloud to springboard into discussions about the students' family holiday traditions.

6.  The Nutcracker written by Valeria Docampo

The Nutcracker book for kids

This beautifully illustrated version of the classic Nutcracker is one your students will love, especially if they have not heard this story.  Not familiar with this story? It is about a young girl who is gifted with a nutcracker on Christmas Eve. She falls asleep and dreams of a magical land with candy and sweets and is protected by her Nutcracker who has come to life! I love to read this book before diving deep into a nonfiction article about this ballet as a paired passage reading activity.

7.  Night of Las Posadas written by Tomie DePaolo

Christmas tradition read aloud for kids

This book is a religious story that tells about the tradition of Las Posadas. The tradition of Las Posadas is one that takes place in Mexico and lasts for nine days. It is a procession that re-enacts the story of Mary and Joseph looking for a place to rest and have Jesus. This story is definitely one for classrooms and families that celebrate Christmas and offers a twist at the end that will have students critically thinking!

Learning about different winter holidays around the world? You will love these activities.

8.  The Legend of the Red Poinsettia written by Tomie DePaolo

Christmas tradition book for kids Poinsettia

Have you ever wondered why Poinsettias are commonly called the Christmas flower? This story, retold and illustrated by Tomie dePaola, tells about the legend that explains why Poinsettias are associated with Christmas. A young girl has nothing to bring to church to celebrate Baby Jesus so she brings weeds. Once inside the church, the weeds blossom into beautiful and shining red and green flowers. I love the legend and the special author's note at the end, too!

9.  All of a Kind Family written by Emily Jenkins and Paul O.  Zelinsky

Hanukkah story for kids

This is a must-add to your December collection! This book takes place in New York City in 1912. It follows one family who celebrates the first night of Hanukkah by making latkes. I love how each page is filled with traditions this family celebrates and holds close to their hearts. No matter what holiday you and your students celebrate, everyone will instantly want to share one of their own family holiday traditions following a read-aloud of this story!

10.  Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins written by Eric A. Kimmel

Hanukkah story for kids

I love this story! It is so engaging and always has students at the edge of their seats, cheering Hershel on as he attempts to save Hanukkah from the goblins. This original story, complete with unique and beautiful illustrations tells the story of one man as he tries to save Hanukkah from pesky goblins who try to stop the holiday from taking place. The author's note offers insight into how this story was created and why it was written. Definitely a must-add to your collection!

11.  Oskar and the Eight Blessings written by Tanya Simon

Hanukkah story for kids

This is my favorite Hanukkah story to share. This one focuses on kindness and blessings and helps students to appreciate the small things in life. This story takes place in Manhattan on Christmas Eve and the 7th day of Hanukkah. The year is 1938 and Oskar, a young refugee from Nazi Germany is in NYC looking for his aunt whom he has never met. As he travels the city and streets of Manhattan he meets 8 strangers, each offering one small act of kindness. I love the discussions that take place around a reading of this book!

12.  Together for Kwanzaa written by Juwanda G. Ford

kwanza story for kids

This story focuses on one family who celebrates Kwanzaa. Filled with traditions and practices of this winter holiday, your students will learn just how important this holiday is! The youngest of the family is worried that her brother will not make it home in time for Kwanzaa celebrations. As they prepare for the holiday the family all comes together, making this year's celebration extra special.

13.  Seven Spools of Thread - Kwanzaa Angela Shelf Medearis

Seven Spools of thread Kwanzaa story

This book is perfect to introduce students to the holiday of Kwanzaa during the month of December, but its message is perfect for any time of the year! This story has so many positive messages and follows the theme of family, community, and working together. In this story, seven brothers most put their differences aside and work together to complete a mission their father set out for them. The powerful tale perfectly illustrates the value kindness and teamwork. The introduction to the story is a must-read as it explains the history of Kwanzaa and goes over each of the guiding 7 principles. I love reading this one each year!

Grab these free coordinating book activities:

When it comes to sharing favorite read-alouds in December, remember to share books with a wide range of holidays, traditions, and cultures. The kids love learning about different holidays, their origins, and the traditions associated with them. This list is a great way to get started, they are all student approved! Happy Holidays!

Looking for more meaningful holiday activities like these? See more here

christmas and holiday nonfiction reading activities for kids

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December Holiday Read Alouds for Upper Elementary Classrooms

*affiliate links: “Think Grow Giggle is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.” (source: Section 5)


Christmas Holiday December Activities for 3rd 4th 5th Graders

Christmas Holiday December Activities for 3rd 4th 5th Graders

When it comes to December, some schools and classrooms celebrate Christmas, and some do not. 

I have worked in three schools and the holiday focus in December varied in each. I have found that the celebration of different December holidays is usually based on the population of the school. One school celebrated Christmas complete with decorated trees in the halls and Christmas sing-alongs each Friday afternoon during the month. However, another school I worked in only celebrated the season of winter because there were so many different holidays celebrated by the population. I have also worked in a school that did a bit of everything in December: winter, Christmas, and other seasonal holidays.

No matter what the philosophy of your school and district is when it comes to celebrating winter holidays in your classroom, I have some high-engagement activities that your students will love! Some with a Christmas theme, some with a winter theme, all easy to use and perfect for December.

What I especially love about these activities is that they will keep your students engaged throughout the day. You can add them to your lesson plans as formal lessons, use them as fast finisher work, and even turn some of the ideas into your holiday party craft!

Christmas Activities for Upper Elementary

persuasive letters to santa christmas writing activities for upper elementary

These activities are high interest, yet easy to implement! They will help you practice important skills while weaving in a Christmas theme that excites and truly motivates kids. These activities are perfect as standalone lessons, centers, party activities, or any way you want!

Christmas Holiday Close Reading Traditions These reading passages are of high interest and include topics like Ugly Sweaters and the Nutcracker. 

Christmas Opinion Writing These this or that type opinion writing activities will have students writing all month long as they share their traditions and opinions with their peers.

Santa Letters Persuasive Writing This one is always a hit! These persuasive letters to Santa are a fun twist on the traditional letter writing to the big guy! You will be wowed by the work your students complete!

12 Days of Christmas Math These are so much fun as a countdown to break by completing one a day for twelve days, or create a mini-book and have students work on them days before break. Either way, your students will be critically thinking!

Reindeer Games These are so much fun for any time, centers, or holiday parties! All you need is a pencil and paper clip to make the spinners and some manipulatives to use as game pieces. Students can play with a partner or independently.

Tic Tac Jingle These differentiated math games are also good any time and fun for parties! Just print and go!

Christmas Kindness Challenge Bulletin Board Decorate for Christmas with these Christmas kindness posters designed to be festive and spread some kindness cheer! The kindness challenge is a fun way to spend December in the classroom.

Christmas Color by Code Because big kids love coloring too! Use as morning work to start the day with some calm or add these to your lessons and party plans!

December Holiday Activities for Upper Elementary

winter bulletin board and kindness activities

These activities are inclusive of a wide range of holidays that are celebrated in December. These Christmas alternative activities are a great way to engage and include all of your students will no additional prep work. I love using activities like these that build and strengthen our classroom community.

December Holidays Your students will learn about all the December holidays with this pack that is sure to have your students feel represented: Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, St. Lucia Day, and more!

✅ 12 Days of Winter Countdown the days until break with this winter twist on the 12 Days of Christmas.

Holiday Cinquain Poetry This non-holiday specific poetry writing activity allows students to write about the holiday and tradition of their choice!

Gingerbread House Performance Task Can your students create and design a gingerbread house that will make the biggest profit? They will love trying to figure this task out!

 How to Make Hot Cocoa Procedural Project You can still have a hot cocoa-themed party, but it just does not have to be Christmas themed! This project is so much fun as kids try to write the perfect recipe for hot cocoa!

North Pole Reading and Writing Bust out the maps and learn about the North Pole with this close reading pack that combines geography and nonfiction reading, perfect for December.

Holiday Thank You Cards These are great for teachers to give students, but also for students to write out, too! We love writing thank you cards in the are some ideas.

Welcoming the New Year Print, copy, and leave on your desk to make the January return to school much simpler!

Bring on the Winter Activities for Upper Elementary

winter sports and snowboarding close reading for upper elementary winter activities

Winter activities in the classroom are favorite to use, because not only do they include all students they can be completed all winter season long! This means that there is no rush to get them done before the holiday break! Yay! Another positive is that when you have winter work prepped and ready to go, it makes the return to school after the break that much more simpler and enjoyable!

Winter Kindness Challenge Bulletin Board Decorate for the season of winter with these winter kindness posters designed to be festive and spread some kindness cheer! The kindness challenge is a fun way to use all season.

Tic Tac Snow Math Games These differentiated math games are also good as centers, any time, and fun for parties! Just print and go!

Winter Solstice We love reading nonfiction in the classroom, and this set is perfect for the winter solstice and all season long.

Snowman Job Designer for Hire This fun persuasive writing unit will have your students applying for the job of snow designer. Complete with a job application, students must persuade you to hire them for the job!

Winter Sports Close Reading  Another high-interest nonfiction close reading pack with creative tasks that kids love to read!

Winter Wonderland Writing Project This is always my favorite activity of the year and is perfect for December or January. Find out how I teach descriptive writing with this project HERE.

No matter how you choose to celebrate the month of December with your students remember to have fun and soak in every moment of that December magic! Happy holidays!

Be sure to grab these free holiday activities!

free Christmas and Hanukkah activities for upper elementary

Looking for more meaningful winter activities like these New Year's ActivitiesTake a look here

new year celebration activities for kids upper elmentary

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Christmas Holiday December Activities for 3rd 4th 5th Graders

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10 Must Try Tips for Parent Teacher Conferences

10 Must Try Tips for Parent Teacher Conferences

At the beginning of the year, when we get the school calendar, I immediately circle two dates: Meet the Teacher Night and Parent Teacher Conferences. After teaching for 18 years, I still get a bit nervous for both!

I do love parent-teacher conferences, even though I get a bit nervous! I love meeting with parents and families and working together to make the school year one filled with goal setting, accomplishments, and growth. After many years of planning and prepping to make parent-teacher conferences run smoothly, I have compiled a list of 10 must-do tips to help make any parent-teacher conference a success!

Try one or all 10 of these tips to make your next parent-teacher conference a success!

1. Create a warm environment.

Dim the lights, turn on a lamp, and play soft music to help set the mood for your conference. I have found that meeting at a table in the room is a great way to be a bit more personal versus sitting at your desk. I always have a hot water pot on and offer parents and family members a cup of tea to welcome them and help them feel relaxed before beginning our conversation.

10 Must Try Tips for Parent Teacher Conferences

2. Celebrate your students and their work.

Display recent student writing, work, and projects around the classroom. Parents love to take a few minutes to see their child's work in action! Don't forget to snap pictures throughout the year of students working in your classroom. Display those for your parents to see, too! The pictures and work you display will show how much you care for your students and give you some great talking points, too.

3. Create a class collaborative book.

I love to create class books and leave them in the hallway for parents to read and look through as they wait for their conference time. it can be a collection of student writing or a simple photograph introduction book. To do this, I simply take a photo of each student, and then they write a few sentences about themselves. This is always a hit! Parents love to see their child's classmates. When conference time is over, this class book earns a permanent spot in our classroom library.

4. Be prepared and organized, and start with a positive.

Use forms and data sheets to be prepared and organized. Sort your paperwork in the order of your conferences so that each child's conference folder is at your fingertips at the start of each conference. Starting with a positive comment about each child is a great way to show parents what an important part of the class their child is. You can start by celebrating any aspect of the child, no matter how small the compliment is, parents are always excited to hear something nice about their child. A simple, your child's smile brightens the room, is enough to kick off the conference on a positive note.

5. Use student-completed forms to kick off your conference!

Keep student work and student-completed reflections in your conference folders. I love kicking off each conference by reading and sharing student reflections about the year, their work, and their progress. There are so many positive talking points that help us start off the conference on the right foot. 

10 Must Try Tips for Parent Teacher Conferences

6. Be honest.

Always be honest with students' academic and behavioral progress, sharing any concerns that you have.  If there is an area for improvement, be sure to share that with parents. You will want to start with a positive, but then be sure to share your concerns.

7. Take good notes.

Be an active listener during your conference and take notes on the discussion that you have. The notes you take will come in handy as the year progresses and can be referred to the next time you meet about that child. If you do not want to write your notes while the parent is there, be sure to record the notes and thoughts that you have as soon as they leave. Grab these FREE parent forms to keep track of parent communication throughout the year.

8. Invite a colleague.

I always invite support staff to attend the conferences of students who receive support.  It is nice to have another staff member on hand to help answer questions and offer additional insight into the student's growth and areas for improvement. Having an additional staff member attend is also good because they serve as a witness to the conversation. Ex: If you have a student who receives reading support, invite the reading specialist. 

9. Be sure to follow up!

I love sending thank you notes to parents and families who attend the conference. You can send just a quick thank you with any follow-up information that they requested or you can simply just write your own personal message about the conference. If you do include information about a question that parents asked during the conference, be sure to make a copy of the letter that you send home for your own records.

10. Relax, you are done!

Now that conferences are done, celebrate! Enjoy your favorite cup of coffee or treat yourself to something you have been deserve it!

These easy-to-implement tips will make your parent-teacher conferences run smoothly and help you to set the tone that working with parents and families to help students succeed is your number goal. Whether you try one or all ten of these tips, I wish you a happy parent-teacher conference season!

Grab the Parent Teacher Conference Pack HERE.

10 Must Try Tips for Parent Teacher Conferences

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10 Must Try Tips for Parent Teacher Conferences

*affiliate links: “Think Grow Giggle is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.” (source: Section 5)


8 Gratitude Picture Books and Stories for Upper Elementary Students

8 Gratitude Picture Books and Stories for Upper Elementary Students

When it comes to gratitude, there is no better way to bring it into your classroom than with some picture book read-alouds!

As the calendar flips to November, you probably pull Thanksgiving-themed books from the shelf and prepare to read them aloud as part of your Thanksgiving lesson plans. I do that, too!

Recently, I have been making sure that read-alouds and lessons about gratitude have an equal place in my classroom right alongside traditional Thanksgiving read-alouds each November.

Bringing gratitude and kindness into the classroom is an important part of how I set up my classroom community, build relationships, and help my own students make a difference in the world. While we discuss these important topics all year long, November is the perfect time to make them the focus in our classroom environment.

The following list includes 8 of my favorite books that are perfect to teach students about gratitude, the season of giving, and to celebrate the Thanksgiving season

Be sure to grab the free printables to use with these books at the end of the post.

Gratitude is My Superpower written by Alicia Ortego

gratitude activities for kids

This sweet story follows a young girl as she learns the meaning of gratitude. Once she has her gratitude stone she begins to appreciate everything she has, and not focus on what she does not have. With easily relatable examples of gratitude in action, students will understand the true meaning of being thankful. Grab some smooth stones and give each of your students a gratitide stone, or take them outside and have them find one of their own!

Grow Grateful written by Sage Foster Lasser

gratitude read aloud for kids

Grow Grateful is a powerful book about gratitude that can be read at any time during the year, as it is not holiday or season specific. this book follows Kiko, the main character as she "grows grateful" throughout the story. She learned to focus on the small things and not focus on the scary things or things she felt she was missing. Students will easily relate to Kiko! This is a great introduction to what being grateful means.

Fletcher and the Falling Leaves written by Julia Rawlinson

fletcher and the falling leaves

This one is perfect for the autumn season as Fletcher, the main character works hard throughout the book to protect the tree from losing its leaves. While the word gratitude never comes up in this story, it is definitely a theme to discuss with students. Fletcher tries to catch and return all the leaves that fell from the tree to his friend the tree. The gratitude that Fletcher has for the tree comes through and is a focus of this read aloud and students can reflect on how they are grateful for their own friendships.

Thank You, Omu written by Oge Mora

Thank you omu activities for kids

I love this book for any time of the year, but with its themes of giving, community, kindness, and gratitude, it is just perfect for November.  This story follows the day of Omu, a beloved community member who spends the day cooking stew. The reader meets different characters who pop in for a bowl of Omu's stew. Just when it is time for Omu to sit down and enjoy her stew, she realizes that there is none left because she gave it all away! The community members come together to do something special just for Omu! Your students will love to predict what the community will do. This is a must read in your upper elementary classroom!

Knots on a Counting Rope written by Bill Martin Jr.

Knots on a counting rope activities for kids

This story is perfect for November, especially because this one read-aloud will help you celebrate Indigenous Peoples Month and gratitude at the same time. This story follows Boy, as he listens to the story of the day he was born from his grandfather. As the story goes on, your readers will need to use their inferring skills to figure out that Boy is blind. Once that is inferred, discussion begins about being grateful for the things we take for granted like vision. Definitely a must-add to your library collection! Bonus, you can revisit and repurpose this read aloud for lessons on questioning and inferring as readers!

A Chair for My Mother written by Vera B. Williams

A chair for my mother activities

This sweet story follows a small family after their home is burned down, causing them to lose everything. They work together to save their pennies to be able to afford a comfortable chair for Mama to sit on after a long day of work. With the themes of family, community, kindness, and gratitude this is a must-read for November.

The Scarecrow written by Beth Ferry

The Scarecrow book activities for kids

This is one of my favorite read alouds for the fall season and just perfect to tie into discussions and lessons about gratitude. This book follows the scarecrow and his budding relationship with an unlikely friend...a baby crow. The scarecrow protects and cares for the young bird, growing a deep relationship with it until it leaves and migrates for the winter. One spring day when the bird returns, the scarecrow is happier than ever. This book is perfect to discuss appreciation and gratitude for friends. A fun follow up activity is to have your students write a letter or note of gratitude to a classmate!

The Giving Snowman written by Julia Zheng

being grateful read aloud for kids

Get ready for winter while discussing gratitude and kindness with this read aloud! This sweet story tells about Snowman who gives away literally everything he has to help others,like his hat, carrot nose, and stick arms. After the snowman has given everything away and melts, the rest of the characters work together to rebuild him. This book pairs perfectly with Thank You, Omu as they both have similar themes and storylines.

Grab the free coordinating gratitude activities to use with these books!

When it comes to bringing gratitude into your classroom, start with a book! Students will love the ideas they hear from these books and from discussions, you have about these characters and before long you will see a difference in your students!

Looking for more meaningful Thanksgiving and gratitude activities for your students, like these I wish PoemsTake a look here

gratitude writing activities for kids

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8 Gratitude Picture Books and Stories for Upper Elementary Students

*affiliate links: “Think Grow Giggle is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.” (source: Section 5)

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