Here come the holidays! How can we use the upcoming festivities to enhance students’ thinking?
Let’s write a persuasive essay about one holiday from the point of view of another holiday’s “mascot.” For example, what would the Easter Bunny think about Christmas, how would Santa feel about Valentine’s Day, and what would a Turkey have to say about St. Patrick’s Day?
Naturally, this idea is inspired by A Nightmare Before Christmas, in which Jack the Pumpkin King’s “Halloween-centric” point of view gets in the way of his interpretation of Christmas.
We’ll structure this as a traditional five paragraph essay with three body paragraphs. This will enable our gifted students to be creative while remaining grounded in a simple structure.
And remember, the essay should have a clear opinion about the holiday in question, and that opinion should match up with another holiday hero’s perspective.
- Focus is on thankfulness, just like Christmas.
- The importance of family is also a similarity.
- However, in my holiday we display our thanks not just through words, but by giving gifts.
- Turkey dinner was associated with Christmas first!
- Similarly, stuffing and cranberry sauce is confusingly shared by both holidays.
- Pies are the focus, but I prefer cookies.
- Christmas’ bright colors are better than browns, oranges and dreary greens.
- Why is a Turkey the mascot if he is eaten?
- Squashes and cornucopias are not as festive as a large green tree.
Of course, we can’t just send our kids off to write on such a complex topic. We need to give them the scaffolding necessary to approach this task.
The key to making this work is identifying those “medium sized” ideas: the body paragraph topics. Brainstorm with your students. We’re looking for categories that are common across many holidays:
- Gift giving
- Attitudes (thankfulness, fright, thoughtfulness)
Students should pick three of these to organize their body paragraphs.
And remember to still carefully teach students how to write a quality persuasive essay. This holiday topic is simply a way to add complexity to the task.
When expressing opinions, students must back up their reasoning with multiple details. Help students focus on their best arguments, rather than many weak arguments. And make sure they pick a strong thesis with an obvious opinion. In my experience, students gravitate towards “both are good” persuasive essays. We want some controversy!
Modeling is essential, so connect that laptop to a projector, and write your essay in front of the class. It’s amazing how much this clarifies the task (and helped me find problems with my own assignments!). Bonus: kids can always refer to your model when they get confused.
Students might love this topic, and you could take it beyond a simple essay:
- Have debates (in costume, of course!)
- Create propaganda posters
- Develop and film pro/con commercials (especially awesome if it’s election season: “I’m Santa and I approved this message.”)