Lesson Plans for Winter and the Holidays

Celebrate winter and the holiday season in the classroom with this selection of lesson plans featuring poems by Richard Blanco, Emily Dickinson, Naomi Shihab Nye, and more.

lesson plan

From Light to Dark and Back

These lessons focus on poems about light and darkness:

There's a certain Slant of light (258) by Emily Dickinson
Acquainted with the Night by Robert Frost
Those Winter Sundays by Robert Hayden
The Coming of Light by Mark Strand

Around the world, December is a time when light and dark are at their peak. In the northern hemisphere, the Winter Solstice gives us the shortest day of the year and the transition to longer days with more light. In the southern hemisphere, we experience the Summer Solstice with the longest day of the year transitioning to days with less light. Our poems mark these transitions, not only in their planetary manifestations, but also symbolically. As your students work with the concepts of light and dark, they, too, will understand that they can create powerful symbols.

The lessons below, aligned with the Common Core Standards, ask your students to look at light and dark in different settings, experiment with how light and dark change the mood of a place or object, then read the poems collaboratively. After reading the poems and coming to an understanding of their meanings, students will write their own poems using light and dark.

A note about lesson integration: The study of light and dark can integrate with Science lessons. You may want to alert the Science teacher on your grade team that you are thinking of teaching these poems and coordinate the timing of your lessons with hers in order to enrich assignments in both subjects.

As in other lessons, in order to reach diverse learners, you should look at the activities as suggestions from which you can choose in order to help all your students learn. You can always modify the warm-up to reach more students in your class. The same is true for pre- and post-activities.

lesson plan

Thanksgiving with Richard Blanco's "América"

Thanksgiving may seem like the most American of holidays, but with changes in demographics and the diversity of cultures that accompanies them, Thanksgiving may no longer look the same to everyone. In his poem "América," Richard Blanco brings us into the experience of Thanksgiving celebrated by an extended Cuban American family, making us think about the many ways to be an American today. When your students add the experience of Thanksgiving in their families, the conversation around the poem becomes even more complex.

This lesson plan provides a series of activities you can use with your students before, during, and after reading "América." Feel free, of course, to adapt them to the needs and interests of your students. The methodology used here tries to “level the playing field” for diverse students to experience poetry, and may also help set the stage for reading more complex texts as you address the Common Core State Standards. We hope you agree!