When it comes to winter holidays, unless your school or city with a high Jewish population, Hanukkah tends to get pushed into Christmas' shadow. Here is a look at how you can incorporate Hanukkah themes into your classroom.
Hanukkah focuses on the story of keeping a burning light lit for eight days, when there was only enough oil to last for one. Sounds like an impossible task! Have students write about a time where they accomplished something that they had previously thought was impossible.
Spinning the dreidel is a traditional holiday game. You can have a class competition with the dreidel. Split students into teams to compete against each other, and then have winners compete against the winners from other teams for a class champion. Candy, raisins, stickers, or other small items can be used as prizes.
Celebrating Hanukkah in your classroom represents an appreciation for diversity and cultural understanding. Encourage your students to share their favorite holiday memories through a creative scrapbook. Each student can create a personalized page, or you can have them research the important symbols, meanings, and stories behind Hanukkah and create a class scrapbook.
Living in America, we celebrate diversity. The U.S. Post Office publishes holiday stamps, including ones celebrating Hanukkah. Have your students think about cultural underpinnings - as well as the style of a stamp design - by asking them to create a unique stamp. They can enhance their communication skills by presenting their design and its symbolic meanings.
Jewish children receive a gift for each night of Hanukkah. You can have students design a different wrapping paper for each night. If you have extra time, have students use the wrapping paper to wrap up a small homemade gift for a loved one.
For classrooms that have access to a kitchen, you can make up your own Hanukkah feast as a way to introduce students to traditional foods. If you are unable to actually cook, have students look up Hanukkah meals and design their own menus of what they would serve.
Each night of Hanukkah, the family will light candles in a special holder, called a menorah. You can have students model their own menorah out of clay. Have them look at pictures for inspiration. You can even place real candles in the menorah for students to light at home.
Students can learn that giving to others is an important part of any holiday. Consider having them bring in canned goods for the local shelter, or host a bake sale to raise money for the less fortunate. Older students can vote on which charity they feel needs the money the most.
Since the story of Hanukkah revolves around lamps burning for eight days, this can be a confusing idea for students who are commonly familiar with electricity. Have your students research oil lamps and how they were used. You can also take a look at how olive oil is made, from planting olive trees to the finished product.
Hanukkah is often considered the Jewish "Christmas," but in actuality the two holidays are quite different. Have students research both holidays and their traditions to see how the two compare. Upon closer observation, they may be surprised at how different the two traditions are.
These are just a few ideas on how to incorporate Hanukkah themes into your classroom. With a little creativity, you can have students see the magic behind this holiday as well.