3 ways to create an inclusive classroom during the winter holiday season

3 ways to create an inclusive classroom during the winter holiday season

Making sure all of your learners are celebrated this December

By Gabby Cushman

It’s officially the winter holiday season, and it can be difficult as a teacher to ensure all your students feel included when certain holidays get centered over others. In the United States, December is primarily seen as the month for Christmas celebrations, and if any other holidays get included, it’s typically Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. This leaves out many holidays celebrated in different cultures, across the world, and throughout the year. For many kids, this time of year is not their holiday season. It’s essential to make sure your students feel seen and validated in the classroom, no matter what or when they celebrate. So, here are three ideas to get you thinking about how you can make your classroom inclusive this time of year!


Take the opportunity to learn about different holiday celebrations around the world

Unfortunately, Christmas is often centered in schools over other holiday celebrations. Numerous holidays that don’t get recognized throughout the year leave students feeling alienated and forgotten. Instead of focusing on Christmas and other holidays celebrated exclusively this time of year, take the time to teach your class the importance of different holidays year-round. You can assign students a research project where they all choose various holidays to learn about or have them do a writing prompt on something they personally celebrate. There are also books you can read as a class that go over celebrations distinctive to diverse groups of people. Here are two good ones to start with: 

  • Celebrations Around the World by Katy Halford
  • What Do You Celebrate? by Whitney Stewart


Explore common themes between different holidays

Although all celebrations can differ by culture, religion, and family, many holidays share similar themes and activities. These include time with loved ones, decorating personal spaces, traditional meals, and special music. When learning about different groups and the holidays they celebrate, emphasize to your learners that although there are celebrations throughout the year that may differ from their own traditions, they have more similarities than it first may seem. If they feel comfortable, encourage your class to share their favorite celebrations or times of year that are important to them. If two students enjoy celebrating two different holidays, they will likely find similarities in the aspects they love about them!

Recognize that not all students experience this “holiday season” or wintertime

There have been movements to make December a more inclusive time of year by taking the focus off of Christmas and focusing on a “holiday season” where many celebrations are acknowledged. However, there are still a lot of people out there who don’t celebrate any holidays this time of year. This could include some of your learners. Focusing heavily on holidays this month leaves them feeling left out, and they likely don’t get their usual holidays recognized in the classroom in general. Because of this, it’s best to refrain from only discussing the December holidays in your classroom. 

You may instead want to focus on wintertime activities to avoid holiday discussions in general. However, even this can be a sensitive topic for some students. Winter (and the holiday season) can be difficult for certain kids due to their experiences with loss, financial instability, or complicated family dynamics. You also may be in a location where the weather doesn’t allow for traditional winter activities. Whatever the case, it’s better to take the opportunity to learn about all kinds of celebrations and give your students space to share what’s really important to them this time of year- or any time of year!

These tips are a starting point for opening your classroom to all students this December. You can learn more by asking other teachers what they do for an inclusive holiday lesson, especially if they celebrate their winter season differently than you. Or you can continue researching the various holidays that exist during the year. Regardless of how you do it, making sure your students feel included this time of year will make a massive difference for them. 

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