The holidays are a fun time in the classroom. They give you the opportunity for creative lesson plans that cannot be done any other time of year! These 4th grade expository writing prompts about holidays around the world will help keep your students engaged during one of the most wonderful - and distracting - times of year in the classroom and help them learn more about other cultures and their traditions.
Prompt #1: Tell me about an interesting tradition that is popular in another country during the holidays. Where did this tradition come from?
This is a great research-centric writing prompt and your students will find it really interesting to learn about holiday traditions around the world that differ from their own!
This prompt offers a great opportunity to show your students the importance of finding information from reputable sources and using the information they gathered to create an interesting piece of writing.
If doing internet research, you should have your students write down a few key terms that they will search for. For example, if they are researching Chinese New Year, that is obviously one of their key terms but they could also search traditions on Chinese New Year and history of Chinese New Year traditions.
Then, talk to them about weeding out all of the junk they get from search engines and how to tell if what they are reading was written by a good source. Have them look for sites that end in .edu, .gov or .org. These usually have more thoroughly researched info than sites that end in .com or .net as these could just be someone’s blog and the research may not be as accurate.
Make sure you talk to them about taking notes as they research. Some students will prefer to use a pen and paper while others will want to put their notes into a word document directly on the computer. Both of these methods are fine to use however, it is much easier to save specific website sources in a word doc. Click here to view more writing projects that develop research skills.
After your students have their research notes, they can now compile the information into a piece of writing about their chosen tradition!
Have your students create a class magazine about different traditions around the world. Feel free to read them a few examples from publications such as National Geographic that often write about traditions around the world then have them take what they wrote from their research and revise it to be more engaging. Encourage them to not just regurgitate the information they found but use that information to tell a story. After their magazine articles are complete, have them include an illustration of the tradition they wrote about. You can then take their articles and drawings and publish them into a classbook that they can keep for the rest of their lives! After you receive your books, why not have a special publishing party where you try out some of the traditions they wrote about?
Prompt #2: Your friend is traveling to (country of the student’s choice) for the first time during the holidays. Explain what it will be like when they get there.
Your students will enjoy researching a different country and their specific customs and traditions. This prompt combines both expository and descriptive writing so it does double duty when building writing skills.
Have your students research some of the important traditions that can be seen in a different country during the holidays. Do they use different decorations? What about parades and public celebrations? Your students will also benefit from looking up pictures of that country during the holidays. They can stick to winter holidays but here is a great list of different holidays from every season that they can research.
Have them take notes as they research and save pictures that they can use for reference in their writing. The idea with this prompt is that they will need to find important information and then be able to explain what they found in a clear way to someone who has never been there before.
After your students have completed their research, have them write a travel guide for their friend that explains what they can expect to see while they are in a different country during a specific holiday. Have them include information about large events and ceremonies, traditional foods, decorations and anything else they found that is interesting. Have them include a picture of the things they described in their writing and combine their work into a holiday travel guide classbook. This is something they will cherish for years to come and who knows? They may get inspired to travel to one of these places when they are older!
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Prompt #3: Describe a traditional dish from another country that is different from your own.
Who doesn’t love learning about new and delicious foods? Your students will enjoy looking up traditional holiday meals and dishes from different areas of the world and learning about the history behind those foods.
You can kick off the lesson by using a slideshow like this one or if your students are already somewhat familiar with research, they can be let loose to discover a traditional dish that they would like to write about.
Make sure you remind your students that people in different areas of the world might enjoy dishes that they find weird or even gross but they shouldn’t be judgemental or rude about those dishes.
If you have a variety of cultures in your class, you could also have them gather information on a specific dish that is enjoyed by another student’s family. After all, it’s great when you can use an activity to promote cultural understanding in the classroom!
In addition to learning what the dish is and having your students research the history, have them jot down the traditional recipe when they come across it - this will be used in the project below.
Have your students create a holiday cookbook with traditional dishes from around the world. Have them write about the history of the dish and what they think it tastes like. A huge trend in modern cookbooks is to add a little more description or background of the recipe so if you have an example you can show them how these are written. After they write their description, have them draw a recipe card with the steps it takes to create the dish and a picture of what it looks like. Combine these into a holiday classbook cookbook and encourage your students to try and recreate some of the dishes with their families this holiday season!
Writing Prompt #4: Tell me about an interesting holiday tradition your family has. Is there a country that does something similar? Compare and contrast the two traditions.
This writing prompt is great for your 4th grade students who have already been introduced to research.
Have your students write down a few of their family traditions. This could be anything from a gift exchange and decorating a tree to singing specific songs and giving each other specific gifts like socks during the holidays. After they have a few traditions written down have them research and see if anywhere else in the world does something similar.
They will get to look at a wide variety of traditions from around the world and will be able to better understand those traditions by comparing them to their own.
For example, in Germany, they have Christmas trees, but instead of using lights to illuminate their trees they use candles. In addition to that, baking gingerbread cookies during the holidays is a big tradition here in America and they also make gingerbread cookies in Sweden - although they are slightly thinner and crispier than ours.
Have your students use a Venn diagram to compare and contrast the holiday traditions and then have a class discussion about each one that they chose.
After the discussion, have your students write about the similarities and differences between the traditions.
Take your students small Venn diagrams and create a large one in the classroom with all of the holiday tradition comparisons. It will be interesting to see how many traditions overlap and why there are slight differences between each one!
5. What are three cool traditions from other countries that you would want your family to implement? Tell me more about those traditions and why you chose them.
The beauty with researching different holiday traditions is that it is fascinating to almost all of your students. Some may find researching things for social studies boring, but having them do research about something like cool holiday traditions from other countries can turn that around.
You can give your students a few examples of unique holiday traditions from other countries.
For example, in Japan they don’t necessarily celebrate Christmas, but they do always eat KFC on December 25th!
In Germany, they have a Christmas pickle and if you find the pickle on your Christmas tree on Christmas Eve, then you get a special treat.
For your students who may find the holidays a bit too wholesome, they may think they want to bring Krampus from Austria into the mix during the holidays.
Have them do their own research to see what holiday traditions they would enjoy and take notes on what exactly the tradition is and why those traditions exist.
After they gather their research, have them write about why they chose each tradition and explain it in detail - make sure they include the history behind it!
After your students write about their chosen traditions, have them imagine their holiday with those traditions. How would it change? How would their family react? Have your students write a paragraph or two briefly describing the traditions and how they would change their holiday. Have them include a picture of what they think these traditions would look like in their home and combine everything into a classbook! After you receive your classbooks, try out some of these traditions at your own classroom holiday party.
The holidays are an extremely fun time of year, but it can be hard to keep students on track. With activities like the writing prompts above, it can be a little easier to make sure your students are still learning while also remaining festive!
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