Legend of the Christmas Stocking Lesson Plan for Teachers
Social Studies and/or Language Arts Lesson Plan:
What is the difference between custom and tradition? What is foreshadowing in literature?
Step One: Read The Legend of Christmas Stocking retold by Lin Donn (or another Christmas story)
Step Two: Ask: What is a custom? Dictionary definition of custom is that custom is the widely accepted way of behaving or doing something that is specific to a particular society, place, or time. It's not a rule. It's not a law. It's simply the way things are done in a particular society. In this story, what is an example of a custom? (The dowry. Then ask: Is this still the custom in today's society in the United States? Answer: No, customs change.)
Step Three: Ask: What is a tradition? Say: The dictionary definition of tradition is the transmission of customs or beliefs from one generation to another. A tradition is handed down. A family is likely to have family traditions.
(Option #1, requires prep) Show a clip from the movie Ever After starring Drew Barrymore in her carriage on the way to the ball. The men are ready to leave once her carriage is on the move. But the two women say: Wait, it's tradition. Then Drew leans out of the carriage and waves. They wave back. One of the women says: She looks like her mother. Tradition. Then ask: Can traditions change? Answer: Traditions do not change, but they are sometimes abandoned and are no longer continued.
(Option #2. requires no prep) Say: You probably have traditions in your own family. Does anyone want to share a tradition you have? If no one volunteers, I say: I have one. In my family we always make donuts from scratch the first time it snows each year. The recipe we use is my great-grandmothers. I use my finger to count - great grandma, grandma, mother, me, and my daughter - that's 5 generations of making donuts from scratch the first time it snows each year. That is a tradition.
(Step Four: Insert for Social Studies only) Say: Custom and tradition are very close, but which one is part of culture? Answer: Both of them. But then everything is included in culture. "Culture encompasses religion, food, what we wear, how we wear it, our language, marriage, music, what we believe is right or wrong, how we sit at the table, how we greet visitors, how we behave with loved ones, and a million other things," Cristina De Rossi, Anthropologist, Barnet and Southgate College, London (They should already know what culture is from a prior lesson. Or, skip this step. This is just a reminder.)
Step Five: Brainstorm Christmas customs with your students. Stockings, Santa Claus, Gift Giving, Carols, Gingerbread, Christmas Cards, Greenery, Christmas Wreaths, Candles, Reindeer, etc.
Step Six, Option #1:: Ask: What is foreshadowing? Say: Foreshadowing is how words in a story can predict the future. Foreshadowing in literature is an important literary element to go over with your students. Whether in a short story, play, or novel, this literary device gets readers acting like detectives, trying to guess what will happen next. How does this simple, short story for kids use foreshadowing? (The father being overheard; the possible gift giver being the man who soon after marries the eldest daughter.) Working in small groups, have your kids write a short story that combines a Christmas custom with foreshadowing. Tell them to select one person in their group to take notes on ideas and another person to be the scribe or the one who writes the story down. Give them some time. Ask for volunteers to read their story to the class. Post all stories on the wall so they can be read as time permits.
Step Six, Option #2: Small group activity. Brainstorm a new holiday custom and give that custom ancient roots. Leave time for small groups to share their idea with the class.
Step Six, Option #3: If you are wrapping world religions into your school year, you can say to your students: According to this simple, short story for kids, Christmas is the season of giving. We know that Christmas is a Christian holiday. What other world religions or world cultures have a season of giving? Answer: All of them. Examples:
Ramadan: There are over one billion Muslims in the world. They all celebrate Ramadan. Ramadan is a month long activity. It does not fall on the same month each year, so you need to look up the month Ramadan will be celebrated. Ramadan is the most important month in the Islamic religion. It is a time of giving, not of wealth, but of kindness. It reminds all Muslims the importance of good deeds.
Chinese New Year: Chinese New Year started thousands of years ago. It was a festival for remembering ancestors, for feasting, and for giving gifts of "red envelopes" of lucky money. This festival is still observed today.
Judaism: In the Jewish religion, there are two main gift-giving holidays - Rosh Hashanah in the fall and Passover in the spring. It's more than that. Judaism teaches the belief that donors benefit as much or more than the recipients.
Hinduism: There are rituals that take place around main festivals, and no ritual is considered complete with dana, a donation, a giving of something of value such as your time. Give unto others - it is the unifying belief in major religions.
Assignment: Direct your students to seek at least one example in either a religion or world culture of this unifying belief - the importance of giving, and what customs does that example include as part of that festival or celebration. Have them share their results with the class next time you meet.
Tip for New Teachers: If you wish to take more time with Step 6, Option #1 or #2, have the kids illustrate their story or new custom. They can hold up poster drawings one at a time as fitting to make their story into a mini play with a narrator. Or, let each group decide how they want to present their story. This is an ungraded activity or give them all an A for participation.