It can be challenging to balance sticking to the reading skills curriculum and keeping kids engaged. However, with holiday picture books as mentor texts, you can teach reading skills AND celebrate seasonal fun too. In this post, I’ll share several of my favorite seasonal mentor texts and how I use them.
Holiday Picture Books I Love
Christmas Tapestry by Patricia Polacco
It’s no secret that I love Patricia Polacco. Her writing just touches me in so many ways. I love the themes she includes and the messages she sends to her readers through her books. One I’ve enjoyed using during December is Christmas Tapestry. It does involve the church setting, but the focus is not on religion. It is all about overcoming challenges, family traditions, and connections. I think the link to the past provides a great segue to discussions of family history and past generations.
With this picture book, I have taught several reading skills including visualizing, sequencing events, making comparisons, but the reading skill I really focused on with this book was questioning skills. The method in this set is Question-Answer Relationship. There is a questioning anchor chart, task cards for sorting (and answering), and post reading options for response.
The Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett
When I think of winter authors, the top pick for me is Jan Brett. This Jan Brett Author Study has been in the top 100 list in the past and continues to be my top seller. I think it’s because the bundle can be used from November through March with ease, and that the units within the bundle offer options for whole group, small group, partners, or centers. Of all holiday picture books, The Gingerbread Baby is a favorite. I used it for years with my students in the middle grades. It is perfect for sequencing events, story retelling, and making comparisons.
As a mentor text, the best skill would be retelling. To introduce retellings, the teacher can model the story plot using the plot mountain or a sequencing chart. From there, discussions of what would be included in a retelling would be a good idea. Perhaps narrowing the focus with an anchor chart to focus on just the main story elements. This activity is included as a project within the unit.
Christmas in the Country
Another book in my holiday picture books list comes from another favorite author, Cynthia Rylant. All of her books lend themselves well to the skill of visualizing and imagery. Cynthia Rylant’s writing is filled with description, and this book is a great example of that.
To help children visualize, it’s important to probe with questions that help them use text information to create pictures. In the printable within this unit, I ask key questions that point to specific story scenes. In addition to using text information, artist storyboard is another great strategy to use. For this, students draw what they picture. I’ve had kids draw out their ideas in shaving cream on their desk or illustrate with colored pencils. For additional practice, [this freebie] in my store can be used with any book.
In addition to visualizing, this bundle includes materials for schema building, vocabulary, story elements, questioning, and writing in response to reading options.
Wild Christmas Reindeer
I just love this book, and I enjoyed using it as a paired text with caribou nonfiction. I introduced research paper writing using the caribou as our topic. Then students continued with polar animals they were interested in learning more about. This book is great for problem and solution in particular and as a mentor text for writing ideas.
Links to Other Mentor Text Lessons:
- How to Make Inferences using the book, Silver Packages
- Using the Night Before Christmas as a Mentor Text
Holiday Picture Book Recommendations
Certainly there are many other holiday picture books I’d recommend, and there are new books that come out each year. Recently, I discovered How to Catch an Elf which would work well for writing how-to papers or for sequencing. My friend, Sandy from Sweet Integrations wrote about using The Magic of Friendship Snow to teach theme. You can visit her post HERE, and I also shared The Snow Dancer for teaching figurative language in the same mentor text link up. You can view all of those posts at the link above.
Enjoy your holiday, and I hope these resources and ideas will keep your students focused on reading skills during these last few weeks before vacation.