InClass

The holidays are a time for excitement, joy, and wonder. But it’s important to remember that not all students have the same backgrounds and celebrate with the same traditions. Here’s how to navigate the holidays while ensuring everyone is respected.

Dec 01, 2022

The holiday season is a time to come together and celebrate. But for some, the holidays can bring feelings of exclusion and being left out.

Whether it's because of religious beliefs, cultural traditions, or family dynamics, not everyone feels comfortable or included during this festive time of year. With a little effort, however, we can all make the holidays a time of inclusion and acceptance for all — especially in the classroom. 

Here we offer a breakdown of the importance of culturally responsive teaching, plus some actionable ways to make your holiday celebrations inclusive of all students.

Culturally Responsive Instruction Helps All Students Feel Valued

Culturally responsive instruction helps students learn about and understand different cultures while ensuring that all students feel welcome in the classroom as you establish a safe and supportive learning environment. 

The reality is that we live and teach in a society that adheres heavily to Christian holidays and traditions, yet many of our students (or us) aren’t Christian and/or may not celebrate Christmas. Some students even may not celebrate the holidays at all, or perhaps they have traumatic associations with the holiday season.

Culturally responsive teaching practices dictate that we stay in tune with our students’ backgrounds and beliefs so we can ensure we find ways to celebrate all of them, not just those who happen to practice Christianity and/or celebrate Christmas.

How to Plan for an Inclusive Experience

With culturally responsive practices in mind, start planning by doing your research. Take some time to research different age-appropriate holiday traditions from around the world, our country, and even your local community. Talk to your students about the different holidays they celebrate, which will give you insight into their family traditions and what is important to them. Once you’ve collected your background knowledge, begin considering ideas that meet the criteria you compiled.

Ideas for Celebrations/Explorations That Honor Each of Your Students

Now that you have a sense of the type of activities that could work for your students, here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. Have your students share their traditions with the class. Note the term “traditions” — the focus here is not necessarily on a holiday. Perhaps you can invite family members to class to share their traditions and customs, whether that means clothing, food, or simply sharing meaningful stories.
  1. Teach your students about traditions from around the world. This could tag along with the prior point; if some of those traditions could be better explained by students or parents who actually celebrate them, even better.
  1. Focus on a specific theme or activity. For example, you could have a “cookie exchange” party where everyone brings their favorite holiday cookies to share. Or you could have an “ugly sweater” party and award prizes for the most creative or outrageous sweaters.
  1. Explore the gift of giving as a classroom community. Can you take your students to a food bank to serve lunch to the homeless? Raise money for a foundation that has meaning to some students? Visit a nursing home? While this may not be possible to pull off during school hours, perhaps you consider organizing an outing for your students on the weekend.

Want to Learn More About Culturally Responsive Classrooms?

Restorative practices is an approach to student discipline that generally complements a culturally responsive classroom. Get the 101 on restorative practices to see if it could be a good fit for your classroom!

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