Participate Project


  • Pencil
  • Book: Celebrations of Light: A Year of Holidays Around the World by Nancy Luenn
  • Book: Celebrate! Connections Among Cultures by Jan Reynolds
  • Cluster Web (see below PDF)
  • Large Index Cards
  • Journal

Additional Resources:

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Technical Needs:

  • Computers or laptops
  • Internet Access
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Lesson Plan:

*Note* - the following calendar is based on the original ePals project, but modified to fit the needs of Mrs. Mueller's classroom.

Day 1: Activating Prior Knowledge about Holiday Celebrations (1 hour)

• Display books and other resources about celebrations around world in the classroom. Allow students to explore and interact with the materials to build excitement about the project. (see Related Resources list for suggested books)
• Conduct a class discussion about holidays, festivals and celebrations to elicit prior knowledge. Ask question such as: “What are the most popular holidays in our country?”, “What are your favorite holidays? Why?”, “What kinds of things do
people do on holidays?”, “What are some common elements of holiday celebrations?” Guide students to the understanding that all holiday celebrations have things in common such as: special foods and feasts, traditions, activities, special clothing, and more.
• After a classroom discussion, have students write about their favorite holiday. Ask students to tell why that holiday is a favorite and to include descriptions of the sights, sounds, feelings, foods, and traditions of that holiday.

Day 2: Email Exchange (1 hour)

• Have a brief discussion of yesterdays activities.
• Write to your ePal about holidays. Ask what his or her favorite holiday is and why. Ask about activities, foods, and traditions that are shared on that holiday. Share information about your favorite holiday and the traditions that surround it.

Day 3: Holidays and Celebrations Around the World (1 hour)

• Choose one or more of the books in the National Geographic series Holidays Around the World (see Related Resources for specific titles). Read to the students.
• After reading about a holiday from another part of the world, ask students to identify what elements of the holiday are similar to holidays celebrated in their home countries or cultures. Guide students again to look at important elements
of a holiday celebration: foods, traditions, clothing, etc. After examining similarities between holiday celebrations, ask students to identify any differences they might find between holidays at home and holidays abroad.
• As time allows, read about other holidays from other parts of the world and conduct discussions about similarities and differences.

Day 4: Email Exchange (1 hour)

•  Write to your ePal about one of the holidays you read about from another part of the world. Identify what elements of the holiday are similar and different from the holiday that you celebrate.

Day 5: What is a symbol? (1 hour)

• In this lesson, students will learn about symbols and their relationships to holiday celebrations. Show students a variety of photos/illustrations, or actual symbolic objects for a variety of holidays. Ask students to identify the object and ask what holiday each one is connected to. Ask what they think the symbol represents. Ask students to define the word “symbol”. Allow students to brainstorm different ideas and keywords until a working definition is established. The final definition should explain that symbols are signs or objects that show an idea, an event, a message, a person, or another thing.
• Invite students to look for examples of common symbols within the classroom. Help students identify things such as flags or picture symbols. Extend the discussion to other symbols in the world around us. What symbols might represent your school? What other symbols represent your country? What are the common symbols of your holiday celebrations?
• Read Celebrations of Light: A Year of Holidays Around the World by Nancy Luenn if available. Discuss the role that light, fire, candles, and lanterns play in many holidays. Would these items or pictures of these items be good symbols for these holidays? Why or why not?

Day 6: How do I research my topic? (1 hour)

• Direct students back to the favorite holiday they chose in the first lesson. In a Think-Pair-Share activity have them first think of a symbol to represent that holiday, pair with a partner and then share that symbol idea with the partner in
preparation for a short writing activity—either an email to an ePal or a journal entry.
• Email Exchange: Write to your ePal about common holiday symbols. Ask them what symbol they think of when they think of their favorite holidays. Share with your ePal the Think-Pair-Share activity you did regarding symbols and your favorite holiday. Explain what symbol you chose to represent that holiday and why.

Day 7: How do I research my topic? (1-2 hours)

• In this lesson, students, working in pairs, will choose the holiday that they will research and will begin the research process. Introduce the book Celebrate! Connections Among Cultures by Jan Reynolds, if available. Explain that while
every culture has its traditionss and history behind its celebrations, there are many commonalities. Have students conduct research on the holiday or festival of their choice, paying close attention to the following themes from the book and
how they relate to their chosen holiday:
a. When we celebrate we eat and drink (food or dink);
b. When we celebrate we decorate ourselves (special clothing);
c. When we celebrate we play music (special music)
d. When we celebrate we dance (dance, pageants, events or parades)
e. When we celebrate we use fire (light and decorations)
• Provide each student pair with five large index cards (notebook paper or preprinted documents will work too) and instruct them to write the above topic titles, one on each card. Students will put the information that they find, and the
sources, on these cards.
• As a whole class activity, brainstorm a list of possible sources for the holiday and festival research. Ask students to think about what kind of information they are going to need and where they can find it. The list might include: books, websites,
magazines, videos, expert interviews, maps, etc. Accept all answers as this is a brainstorming session. Circle the best choices. See Related Resources for specific resources that will be helpful in this stage of the project.
• You may want to introduce ePals student forums as a source for first hand information from students who celebrate various festivals and holidays. Students with ePals access can post specific questions on the forums and, as ePals is a
global community, students from around the world can answer their questions. ePals Student Talk Forums can be found here. Students will need to be logged in to post questions. The best forums for these type of questions are Culture, Homework Help, and Looking for Information on…
• Allow student pairs as much time as needed for research of their holiday or festivals, providing support as needed. As      students find information they should record it on the appropriate index card along with its source. Email Exchange: Share with your ePal what holiday or festival you have chosen to research and what avenues you plan to pursue to find your information. If your ePal lives in a country that celebrates this holiday or festival ask him/her for information about how it is celebrated.

Day 8: Create a Symbol as a Culminating Activity (1 hour)

• For the culminating activity students will share their learning with two items: 1. a web or mind map that effectively shows the information that they have gathered about their chosen holiday or festival and, 2. a symbol that represents their holiday or festival.
• Student pairs will transfer the information from their index cards to a graphic organizer web. The web should state the holiday or festival in the center, have linking lines to the sub concepts, and include pictures or graphics to enhance the text.
• Students will also create a symbol to represent the holiday they’ve researched and construct that symbol in some way—on the computer, on paper, etc. Along with this construction they will need to explain, in a short paragraph, what the symbol is and why it best represents their holidays.

Day 9: Email Exchange (1 hour)

• Share with your ePal what symbol you have chosen for your holiday or festival. Scan a copy of the picture and send it as an attachment if possible. Explain why you feel this symbol best represents this celebration.
• Have student pairs share with the class their research and symbols so that the whole group has an opportunity to learn about other holidays and festivals around the world, either in oral reports or in a museum-style display.

Day 10: Reflect and Assess (1 Hour)

• Students can reflect in an email to their ePal or as a journal entry: Every culture in the world celebrates.
  • How are the traditions and practices that surround your favorite holiday different from the holiday that you researched?
  • How are they similar?
  • What was the most fascinating or surprising thing that you learned while studying holidays and festivals?
• Students will write a reflection in their journal. Some prompts include:
  • How do you feel about your final product?
  • What was the hardest part of this project?
  • What was the easiest part for you?
  • What did you enjoy the most?
  • What have you learned about different holidays?
  • Would you like to do another project using ePals?
Last Updated: January 30, 2010