Tag Archives: Holidays

Thank You, Santa

26 Dec

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This is one of my favorite after-Christmas storybooks!  It is almost 10 years old now, but just as relevant as it was when it was first published.  I used to read it every year in my classroom when we returned from our winter break.

A little background for you…Before the kids left in December, I sent home a note saying they were allowed to bring one item to school in January that they could share with the class.  And I talked about it with them ahead of time.  They understood that meant only one item, that said item must be something they received over the holidays, that we were going to talk about our items during the morning meeting (which meant morning meeting was going to go on, and on, and on that day… oh well, if you can’t beat them join them), and that it should not be the most expensive item they had received because we were going to share these items in the group.  This was actually a pretty popular homework assignment, and we hardly ever had anyone who forgot to bring something.  On occasion, some poor child did forget, but they still got a chance to talk to the group about their favorite gift.

So, now we’re all up to speed… On the first day back, the kids were exploding with excitement and I was prepared!  We sat in a circle, read the morning message from me welcoming them back for the new year and describing a special item I had received that year.  I would share my item, usually a book or scarf or new ornament for the tree.  Then I would tell them who gave it to me and why I liked it so much.  Then it was their turn.  Every child told us about a special gift they had brought to class. We would pass it around the circle and the child would talk about who gave it to them and why it was special.  There were lots of gifts from Santa, mom & dad, grandparents, etc.  Seriously, this took ALL morning!

After lunch, I read Thank You, Santa by Margaret Wild and illustrated by Kerry Argent.  This book was published in 1994 and is simply one of the best books I have read to introduce students to letter writing.  The illustrations are gorgeous and the kids are mesmerized by the story.  In this story Santa and a little girl, Samantha, exchange letters every month for a year, so there are a total of 12 letters written in two hands spanning two pages each.  Starting in January, Samantha writes a thank you letter to Santa for the gifts she received.  He is so thrilled to actually get a letter in January, that he writes her a letter in February.  They continue back and forth writing letters each month for the whole year.  Another wonderful element of the story is that Samantha lives in Australia so her seasons are the opposite of those in the northern hemisphere, giving us another layer to enjoy in this story.  Santa teaches her about the animals living near the north pole and she is worried about Santa’s littlest reindeer at the North Pole and the polar bear living in the zoo in Australia.  Many of the letters are part of gift packages that Santa and Samantha send to each other throughout the year as well.  Her last letter to Santa is her wish for snow for the polar bear at her zoo (in her December summer).  The final illustration shows us how Santa grants her Christmas wish.

Of course in the classroom, we talk a bit about the 12 months of the year.  But the biggest lesson I prepared is letter writing.  We spend another good portion of the day introducing letter writing – the reasons to write a letter and the five parts of a friendly letter.  Before the students go home for the day, they draw a picture of the gift they shared with the class and make a very quick word web surrounding the picture including the name of the person who gave them the gift and some important information about the gift.

All of the gifts go home at the end of the day with another note from me asking parents to send me the complete name and mailing address of the gift giver.  We spend the rest of the week writing our thank you notes and envelopes.  At the end of the week, I send these home to parents with instructions to read their child’s letters and to please add the stamp to the envelope.  Some children have informed me that their parents also sent a photo of them playing with the gifts to the gift givers.

I hope you get a chance to read and enjoy this fabulous book!

On a note of full disclosure…. in my last few years of teaching, I had a scripted reading program which left me no time during reading class to be creative.  However, and I’m sure some of you have already figured this out, I started using only our writing time and used this book to introduce the concept. The point is, if it is something you love, you make time to do it!  I used great books to introduce writing, science, social studies, and even math concepts.  You can too!

If you like this post, don’t forget to comment and please share it with your friends!

Winter Lights

11 Dec

This week, Susanna Leonard Hill is hosting a holiday writing contest on her blog. The rules dictate that the story be about a holiday (Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanaza) mishap, mix-up, miscommunication, mistake, or potential disaster not to exceed 350 words.

You can read more details about the contest at

http://susannahill.blogspot.com/2013/12/ho-ho-ho-3rd-annual-holiday-writing.html

I’ve already read some really amazing stories submitted this week, but I’m going to see what my little holiday gem brings.  I’m taking a chance by not mentioning the holidays in my 346 word story, thereby allowing the reader to make inferences through the text.  That being said, I’m having trouble giving my little story a title.  After you read it, I would love to get some title suggestions from my astute readers.

snow-field-by-terry-banderas-from-fineartamerica-dot-com

Winter Lights

by Juliana Lee

Nico brushed the snowflakes off his shoulders.

Picking up his bundle, he hurried toward the barn.

Meow, Meow, Meow

The sound came through the icy air.

Meow, Meow, Meow

Nico’s whiskers trembled.

Meow, Meow

There near the holly bushes, Nico saw a large ball of fur shivering.

A tail twitched.  A head poked up.  Then two.  Then three.

How many were there? Nico wondered.

Meow, Meow, Meow

Nico stepped forward.

Meow, Meow, Meow

“Follow me,” he said.  “You can stay in the barn tonight.

Meow, Meow

Nico started off.

Eight kittens tumbled after him ears over tails.

Cow gave them fresh milk.

Meow, Meow, Meow

Donkey gave them dry straw.

Meow, Meow, Meow

Sheep gave them soft wool.

Meow, Meow

Nico searched the starless sky.

He saw only one light, shining in a window.

In the morning, the world was painted white.

Meow, Meow, Meow

The snow continued to fall.

Meow, Meow, Meow

Nico strung berries and leaves together.

Meow, Meow

The second night Nico searched the cloudy sky again.

He saw two lights shining in the window.

The snow continued to fall.

Meow, Meow, Meow

The world outside looked like a snow globe.

Meow, Meow, Meow

The barn was warm and smelled of evergreen.

Meow, Meow

Every evening Nico searched the dark sky.

Every evening Nico saw one more light shining in the window.

The snow drifted against the barn.

Meow, Meow, Meow

Nico mixed seeds and nuts.

Meow, Meow, Meow

The kittens played with thistle ornaments.

Meow, Meow

On the eighth night the snow stopped.

The moonlight reflected the snowy world.

Nico led the kittens out of the barn.

Meow, Meow, Meow

A ribbon of kittens trailed through the snow.

Meow, Meow, Meow

Tiny paw prints marked their path.

Meow, Meow

Nico counted eight candles in the window.

The light glistened on the frosted pane.

“What have we here?”

Meow, Meow, Meow

“A gift for a lonely old woman!”

Meow, Meow, Meow

“Come in, Come in.  You must be freezing!”

Meow, Meow

Nico saw the star in the sky.

It was a good night.

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