The smell of cinnamon and spruce, the twinkling of lights, a bubbling cup of hot cocoa, sweet melodies ringing in the air. Ahhh… The holidays really are the best time of the year! And, if it’s even possible, celebrating the holiday season always seems to be even more wonderful in the classroom. From holiday programs to classroom parties and crafty projects, it is a magical time for everyone.
And while I absolutely love the fun activities that accompany this time of year, I wanted to give my students a Christmas activity that brought a little more history into our holiday festivities. So, I created this simple Christmas history activity!
In this lesson, your students will look back on historical figures they have studied this year. Acting as one of Santa’s elves, they will use evidence to decide if each person belongs on the “naughty” or “nice” list! Not only is this activity so much fun, but it also challenges students to think at a higher level (Bloom’s Taxonomy: Evaluating).
Check out the lesson plan below and be sure to click the link to download the Christmas history activity worksheets. Happy Holidays!
Christmas History Activity Lesson Plan
I can judge historical figures as “naughty” or “nice” based on evidence.
1. First, students brainstorm a list of the historical figures they have learned about so far this year. This can be done independently, in partners, or all together as a class. If you need help thinking of historical figures, checkout the Smithsonian’s list of the 100 Most Significant Americans of All Time.
2. Next, students pretend to be one of Santa’s elves and sort the historical figures as either “naughty” or “nice.” Students could do this in groups or independently.
3. Finally, students select one person from the “nice” list. Using evidence to support their decision, students write one paragraph justifying why their chosen person belongs on that list.
“Nice” Historical Figure Example:
In my opinion, Abraham Lincoln belongs on the nice list. Although he was not perfect, he did several good things for our country. First, he led the nation through the American Civil War and helped preserve the Union. In addition, he freed millions of enslaved people by issuing the Emancipation Proclamation. After the war, he encouraged Congress to pass the 13th Amendment which officially ended slavery in the United States. For these reasons and more, I believe that Abraham Lincoln should be on the nice list.
Photograph of Abraham Lincoln
4. Students repeat step 3 for one person from the “naughty” list.
“Naughty” Historical Figure Example:
I think that Andrew Jackson belongs on the naughty list for several reasons. First, he signed into law the Indian Removal Act. This law led to the forcible removal of thousands of Native Americans from the South. Furthermore, one goal of Indian Removal was to open up land in the South for slave plantations. So, Indian Removal invigorated the domestic slave trade. Jackson himself enslaved hundreds of people and did not support abolition. For these reasons and more, I believe that Andrew Jackson belongs on the naughty list.
Painting of Andrew Jackson
Download the Christmas History Activity: Naughty or Nice? Worksheets
I hope this Christmas history activity brings a little more meaning (and joy!) into your holiday festivities this year. I’ve created worksheets to help your students organize their thoughts during this activity.
To download the worksheets, simply click the button below.
Looking for more social studies lessons? Check out these other free lesson plans I have created. In addition, all lesson plans are Google Classroom compatible – perfect for both in-person and distance learning!