Do you know those teachers who like to go all out for Christmas? You know, the ones who plan lots of Christmas-themed lessons and put up a tree in their classroom? I’m not ashamed to say that I am one of those teachers! I love finding ways to get my students’ attention, and celebrating Christmas in the classroom is a great way to do it. The one rule I have set for myself when it comes to holidays in the classroom is to make sure the holiday activities still align to the standards. One of the best ways I have found to do this with my upper elementary students is by using Christmas read alouds.
You may be thinking Christmas read alouds are not for upper elementary students but think again! Older students enjoy being read to just as much as the little ones. Christmas read alouds can also be a great introduction to an ELA lesson. Here are some of the best Christmas books for kids.
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Classic Christmas Stories
I promise this list will contain both old favorites and new stories you and your students will fall in love with. But, I want to start with the classic Christmas stories. These are books you probably enjoyed as a child and your students are sure to love them too.
A Charlie Brown Christmas
A Charlie Brown Christmas is one of my absolute all-time favorite Christmas stories! This story about the true meaning of Christmas has been melting hearts for generations, but I find that many of my students have never heard of Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang. Over the years, it has been fun to introduce my students to something that I enjoyed when I was their age and see them grow to like it too.
I have created lots of fun ELA activities to go with this classic Christmas story. I begin by using the story as a Christmas read aloud with my whole class. Then, I have a variety of Charlie Brown reading and writing center activities that I use throughout the week leading up to Christmas. Last, on the day before Christmas break, I show the class the movie as a reward for good behavior.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Another classic Christmas story is How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I love this book as a read aloud for upper elementary because it provides the perfect opportunity to review character development and to practice expanding vocabulary.
I have created a character development sort where students listen to the book and the “Mr. Grinch” song to determine how the Grinch changes throughout the story. The vocabulary used throughout the story and song to describe the Grinch helps students see and hear examples of descriptive words. Often, my students writing is full the simple, generic descriptive words (Anyone else feel like they are going to lose it when they repeatedly see words like “nice” and “kind” used in descriptive writing?). Hearing words such as “deplorable” and “generous” shows students that there are a variety of words they can use during descriptive writing. After students have finished the sort, they practice the new words they learned with a word search.
Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer
I like to use Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer as a Christmas read aloud for upper elementary because it provides an opportunity to talk about growth mindset. During the story, Rudolph faces many challenges. Even though he initially tries to run away from his problems, he eventually learns that his differences are what enable him to succeed. Use this as an opportunity to remind students to keep trying even when things are challenging.
I have also created ELA and math centers to go with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
New Christmas Books to Read Aloud
In addition to the classic Christmas books, there are many newer Christmas books to read aloud that will likely become some of your students’ favorites.
Red and Lulu
I recently discovered Red and Lulu by Matt Tavares and instantly fell in love. This Christmas book tells the story of two birds that are looking for the perfect place to build their nest when they spot one of the most famous trees in the world, the Rockefeller Christmas tree. This story provides a great research opportunity for students. After reading, have students research the Rockefeller Christmas tree to learn about its history and how it has changed over the years. If you have access to technology in your classroom, you can also have students create a slideshow presentation with the information they learn about the Rockefeller Christmas tree.
Dasher is another book by Matt Tavares that makes a great Christmas read aloud for upper elementary students. In this twist on a classic holiday story, readers learn how the famous reindeer came to join Santa’s team. After reading, talk about creative writing and how the author created a new story about something that people are familiar with. Then, have students practice creative writing by writing their own story about one of Santa’s reindeer.
How to Catch Santa
How to Catch Santa by Jean Reagan is a funny Christmas story to read aloud. In the story, kids try creating different traps to catch Santa. Some of the traps they create are quite comical and you’ll likely hear lots of laughter from your students as you read to them. Use this Christmas book as an introduction to a STEM challenge. After reading, have students create their own traps to catch Santa Claus.
Little Reindeer by Nicola Killen is a short Christmas picture book and is likely below grade level for some upper elementary students. Even though the reading level is lower than I would prefer for my older students, I still like to use this holiday book because it provides excellent examples of figurative language. Throughout the story, the sounds of winter and Christmas (such as “jingle” and “crunch”) are repeated, providing fun examples of onomatopoeia. After the story, have students find their own examples of onomatopoeia that are related to winter and Christmas.
Little Robin’s Christmas
Little Robin’s Christmas is a sweet story about a bird who gives away vests he knitted to his neighbors. When he runs out of knitted vests and sees his neighbors freezing, Little Robin makes a huge sacrifice and gives away his own vest. I like Little Robin’s Christmas because it incorporates SEL. SEL stands for social and emotional learning and it is a huge topic in education right now. With SEL, students are taught to think about the feelings of others. Little Robin’s Christmas opens the doors to discuss the needs of others in your school or community. Students can even plan a class service project to help others during the holiday season. One of my favorite class service projects is to have students write letters to troops serving overseas at Christmas time.
Using Christmas read alouds with upper elementary students is a great way to celebrate the holiday while still covering important standards. I usually use several Christmas read alouds per week during the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I have found this to be a great way to keep students engaged at a time in the school year when they are very distracted. Do you know of any great Christmas read alouds for upper elementary that are not listed in this post? Be sure to share them in the comments below!
Are you looking for even more picture books to use with your upper elementary students? Check out the other posts in my holiday read alouds for upper elementary series.
Or, maybe you’re looking for more Christmas activities and ideas for upper elementary. Be sure to check out these posts for LOTS of great ideas!