Today’s En la Clase continues our December theme on winter celebrations by sharing how to implement another great children’s book into your teaching. We’ve already shared posts on The Miracle of the First Poinsettia and A Piñata in a Pine Tree. Be sure to check those out for some other fun resources if you missed them.
I recently remembered a recommendation a blog reader gave me last year about the beautiful book ‘Twas Nochebuena written by Roseanne Greenfield Thong and illustrated by Sarah Palacios. Somehow I’d missed this book when it came out in 2014, but I’m really happy to be writing about it this year in time for one of our December posts. Greenfield Thong and Placios have created a new version of the familiar ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas tale. Here, students will read about one family’s Nochebuena celebration. This story, like some of the others we’ve highlighted this month, is filled with references to Latino Christmas traditions such as tamales, adornos, canciones, las posadas, and champurrado. Written in a mixture of English and Spanish, the book can be used with English speakers or Spanish speakers, as the surrounding words and illustrations provide plenty of context clues. The glossary at the back is also a great resource.
“When our guests all arrive, we stroll down to the park,
and join the posadas that start when it’s dark.
With homemade faroles that glow in the night,
we’ll sing canciones by soft candlelight.
For students familiar with the Spanish vocabulary, it could easily be used as a choral reading for engaging oral language practice. Discuss with students why it’s such an easy story to read out loud, or why it sounds so nice when read aloud. You may need to read something else out loud that is not written with such a pleasing rhyme or rhythm to help them identify the differences. Guide them to think about the effect the rhyming pattern has on the way the text sounds.
Once students have read the text, consider using some of the following ideas to expand the activity beyond a read aloud. Since the book is based upon the widely known ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, have students read the original version. You can find an illustrated book, or if you just want the text, it’s easily available online. Once students have read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, as a class, compare the two versions. Ask students to identify what is the same and what is different in the two versions. Use large chart paper to record student responses. Integrate graphic organizers and writing by asking students to fill out a Venn Diagram and then write a compare and contrast paragraph based on their Venn.
You can also have students compare the traditions in ‘Twas Nochebuena with their own holiday or winter traditions. Ask for volunteers to share the way their traditions compare to the ones shared in the story. Again, you can record their responses on large chart paper. They can then use this comparison as the basis for a Venn Diagram and a compare and contrast paragraph based on their own celebrations.
For a bit more creative writing, ask students to write their own version of ‘Twas Nochebuena/’Twas the Night Before Christmas. Using both versions as examples, students can work individually or in a small group to create their text. They can choose to rhyme, follow a rhythm, and/or incorporate words from different languages if they are multilingual. If there are students who don’t celebrate Christmas, they can easily change the title to reflect their own family’s tradition for a winter celebration.
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts and any ideas you have for teaching about winter celebrations.
If you’re looking for other lesson plan and resource ideas like the ones shared in this post, check out the links below:
- All of our posts on teaching about Las Posadas
- En la Clase: Around the World with the Gingerbread Man
- En la Clase: Tamales, Poinsettias, and Navidad
This will be our last En la Clase until January. While I know these last couple of weeks of school are always a little crazy, I hope they’re filled with lots of fun and laughter.
I wish you a ¡Feliz Navidad and to all a good break!