Two of my favorite books to read in December are The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg and The Gingerbread Man by Jim Aylesworth. I love to use these books not only because children adore them, but also because my students are usually familiar with both of them. This familiarity allows me to do more extension activities, rather than focusing only on comprehension. When children are already comfortable with a book’s storyline and have a good understanding of it, I like to focus on writing activities that use the text. Both of these books are great mentor texts for creative writing.
PRINTABLE HOLIDAY WRITING ACTIVITIES
#1 The Gingerbread Man Activity
I know most of us are already familiar with the story of The Gingerbread Man, but just in case you need a reminder, a little old man and a little old woman bake a gingerbread man. When they open the oven door he hops up and runs away. As he runs through the town he tells everyone he meets, “Run, run, as fast as you can, you can't catch me, I'm the Gingerbread Man.” With the little old man, the little old woman, and some of the other townspeople hot on his trail, the Gingerbread Man finally meets his demise when he encounters a hungry fox.
I use the The Gingerbread Man Activity to model repetition in writing and to practice creating alternate story endings. I tell my students that they will be rewriting the story of The Gingerbread Man. I explain that their story should begin with the Gingerbread Man somehow escaping from the fox. I tell them that in their story they need to introduce the character of the Gingerbread Woman, and for those students looking for a challenge, I encourage them to have a catch-phrase that is repeated throughout their story like in the original version. I always enjoy seeing that students write stories where the gingerbread people get married, or are brother and sister, best friends, or even enemies.
Once complete, have students decorate gingerbread man and gingerbread woman cutouts. Available for download are adorable gingerbread man and gingerbread woman cut-outs for your students to decorate. Remind students that their gingerbread people can be decorated to reflect aspects of their stories. Hang them up on a bulletin board along-side their finished published story to make their stories come to life. Download The Gingerbread Man Activity now.
#2 The Polar Express Activity
In case you have never read The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg, here is a brief synopsis. On Christmas Eve, a young boy boards a train to the North Pole, where he makes a Christmas wish which leaves him believing in Santa forever.
I use this book with my students to teach them how to use the books we read together (and the books they read independently) to help inspire their own creative writing.
After reading The Polar Express to my class, I share the notion of taking a train somewhere special is a great story idea that they can borrow from the author. I tell them that they will be writing their own Express Train to Somewhere Stories. The focus with this writing piece, in addition to 'author inspiration', is having a clear beginning, middle and end to their stories.