Whether you teach preschool, elementary school, or even homeschooling, thematic units can bring tons of fun into learning.
Sometimes I spend an entire week tying certain themes in here or there, and other times it’s just one day where many different activities relate to a certain theme.
There are certain months when I think this has been the most helpful at keeping antsy and excited students busy and learning. December is definitely one of those times.
I’ve made a list of 10 of my favorite themes to use in December (some of them I slide to January as well so they will probably make my January list as well). Some of the themes I have written about in more detail and you’ll find links to those below, and others I’m still working to share more about, but I hope the ideas will still help you!
Gingerbread theme is always a fun one. It’s great for holiday season because it’s not really holiday specific, but it does always feel festive. There are also so many ways to use the theme to incorporate math and literacy skills.
Learning about wild reindeer is super fun and engaging for students. We usually read some reindeer themed stories as well and the topic of Christmas reindeer vs. wild reindeer always comes up (we’ve even made a venn diagram using information from stories about Christmas Reindeer vs the wild reindeer from the informational text)
I have a basic How a Reindeer Grows resource you might like here!
Children are always so curious to learn about how people around the world celebrate holidays, especially in December. It’s great to recognize the diversity within how people around us celebrate and how people from different places also celebrate differently.
This is the resource I used with my first graders (there’s a digital version too).
Learning about animals in winter is a great way to incorporate seasonal changes. Children can observe how they adapt and change to survive the winter. There are also some great stories like about our good friend Bear hibernating in his cave that students love to read.
Many students in my area have experience with Hanukkah. It’s fun and informative to learn about some of the traditions associated with celebrating this holiday. I used this basic vocabulary reader to introduce my first graders to some basic terms, and then we reinforced that learning with identifying the symbols in our color by code activities. It’s always also fun to play a game of dreidel together!
Many students are abuzz with excitement in December. If it’s appropriate for your class, some Christmas themed activities may be fun!
I’ve got a bunch of Christmas favorites here!
Learning about trees that survive the winter is so interesting to students, especially if you live in a place where other trees lose their leaves. Learning about how a coniferous tree grows is always a hit. Some of my favorite stories also include trees, so you can definitely make a literacy connection there. Check out The Night Tree by Eve Bunting if you’re going to take on this theme! If you want to go more Christmassy with this one, I also put together a “How a Christmas Tree Grows” emergent reader.
Animals are always a hit, and cold weather animals are no different. I also often slide this theme to January because it’s so much fun to do independent research and there are so many stories about penguins and polar bears and such.
If you live in a place where it snows, we all know those first few snowflakes of the year always have students out of their seats and lined up along the windowsill. Learning about snow or reading snow themed stories is a favorite for sure.
If you want to get sciency, this is a resource I have created and used throughout the years.
Learning about generosity is one thing, but December is great time to practice it! This topic can include gifts, giving, donating, and lending a helping hand. This is a great time to organize a class wide collection (or contribute to a larger school wide collection to help others. Whether it be holiday gifts, socks, or anything else, it’s a great way to include real life community outreach in the season.
If you have any other topics you think I should add, or any of these you’d like me to write more about, leave a comment below!