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Our Top 20 Christmas Books For Your Classroom [episode 39]


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Overview of episode 39:

As you all know, we’re big fans of books, whether we’re reading them for ourselves or to our students. Reading Christmas books during this time of year is something we especially love! There’s something magical about seeing the story come to life through your students’ eyes, their faces when looking at the illustrations, and meaningful discussions we can have afterwards. 

With so many Christmas books out there, how can you choose which ones to read? That’s where we come in! In today’s episode, we’re breaking down our favorite Christmas books to read to your students and add to your collection.

The magic of Christmas can be shown through a variety of different elements, which makes it so hard to pick. Therefore, we’ve decided to divide our favorite Christmas books into 10 categories to assist you in finding the perfect book for your classroom. 

The month of December is a great time to add some holiday festivity to your classroom and a simple way to do that is by reading Christmas books to your students. Check out our favorite Christmas books that are sure to bring holiday cheer and fun to your classroom!

Highlights from the episode:

[00:53] Today’s morning message: what do you like to do for teammate gifts?

[3:31] Resource of the Week: Christmas Jargon Journals

[6:02] Sharing of our favorite Christmas books by category: gingerbread, snowman, 12 days of Christmas, animal character, and funny.

[14:46] Sharing our favorite Christmas books by category: chapter books, childhood favorites, modern favorite, new release, and wild card.

[23:12] Today’s teacher approved tip for how to track holiday gifts that you receive.


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Read the transcript for episode 39, Our Top 20 Christmas Books For Your Classroom:

Hey, there, thanks for joining us today. In today's episode, we're diving into our favorite Christmas books for kids that we think your classroom will love.

We start our episodes with a morning message, just like we used to do at morning meeting in our classrooms. This week's morning message is what do you like to do for teammate gifts? Emily, what do you what did you do for your teammates? I don't feel like I ever did anything particularly spectacular. But if I did have teammates this year, I think I probably give them Stanley Cups since that's my current love. As long as I really liked them, because that's an expensive gift.

What would you do Heidi? I kind of have to admit that I tended to forget about team gifts. So they were not typically very meaningful. So really sorry, to any former co workers out there. One year though, I thought is being so smart and I bought a bunch of those like tooth necklaces for kids who lost teeth at school. So it's like a little plastic tooth box that opens up you put the tooth in. And I made little tags that went on it that said I lost a tooth today. And I could like hang on the necklace string and I just thought it would be so useful for second grade teachers because there are a lot of lost teeth.

Yes. And it's so annoying to deal with the lost tooth when they happen. You don't make a plan till suddenly you've got a tooth in someone's hand. Yeah, so that's a brilliant idea. But you know, the necklaces were just plastic junk. And when the kids wore made totally fell apart. Oh, yeah. So then we had lost lost teeth. Oh, no, which was so much stress for kids. And my co workers probably really not excited to get a bunch of tooth necklaces. So double sorry, there.

This surprises me that anyone wouldn't be excited to get that because my maybe it's showing my love language that an act of service that you did work for me you did something I was going to need to have for my kids and I didn't have already so I actually love that idea. It's just too bad. It didn't.

We have some answers from our community. Anna said homemade cookies from my epic baking day where she does 10 to nine different kinds of cookies. That is epic. I'm just thinking about it. Michelle said we always go out to dinner together instead of giving each other gifts. Oh, that's fun. I like that. I like that idea. Good for team bonding. Jennifer said caramel popcorn. Oh yum. Donna said flair pens and notepad; cannot go wrong with flair pens. Katie said I give cookies and a lottery ticket. I love that. We'd love to hear your response to this and other questions over in our teacher approved Facebook group or on Instagram at @2ndstorywindow and that is with the two.

Now it's time for the resource of the week our Christmas jargon journals. The Jargon Journal Program is our weekly words curriculum designed to use picture books to teach tier two words to your students.

Heidi, do you want to tell us a little about the jargon journal routine? I would love to because I love jargon journals. So this system is set up to provide a weekly framework to practice vocabulary. On Mondays you introduce four new words for the week using a read aloud. Then during the week the students practice the words each day and record their thinking in an interactive vocabulary notebook. And then there is a PowerPoint review lesson to wrap up the week. And then we have a brief assessment just to see how well students understand those new words that they practiced all week.

And I think my favorite part about the program is that we suggest teaching your students to make a soft ding when they come across a jargon journal word in something they're reading. The feedback we hear from teachers is that their students are always proudly making little dings while they read the rest of the year. And I always thought it was funny because you know, I'd be reading and I just hear all these little dings pop up and I wouldn't have even clocked that it was one of our words but they remember like it's in their little heads. So love that they remember that's what we want.

We have jargon journal units available for each month of the year. And we actually have two sets for Christmas. The Christmas books we have units for are Bear Stays Up for Christmas, Christmas Eve Goodnight, The Night Before Christmas, Toot & Puddle: I'll Be Home for Christmas. That's a really cute one. I love that one. The Polar Express, Red and Lulu, Santa Bruce, and Pick a Pine Tree. All such good ones.

You can grab just the titles you need, month long bundles of four, or a bundle for the whole year. The Jargon journal units are available in our store at the link in the show notes.

So one thing that you need to know about us is that we are crazy for Christmas books. Yeah, we really are. I mean, we're crazy for all picture books. And we both have large, extensive collections. But the Christmas section is for sure our favorite. Yes. So we thought it would be fun to share with you some of our favorite Christmas books that you may want to read to your students this year or add to your collection.

To keep it fun, we decided on 10 categories of books to share about with you today. But we didn't share with each other what books we selected for each category. So we're going to discover each other's favorites together with you right now. I'm excited. This is gonna be fun.

Well, the first category is gingerbread. Do you want to go first, Heidi? Sure, I will go first. Okay, I think my favorite gingerbread book and this was actually really hard decision because I have a lot because I love to do in December, I love to like teach with all the different versions of the gingerbread story. But I think my favorite is Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett. The illustrations are so cute. It has just a fun twist at the end. I like it better than than traditional tale. Yeah, we're gonna get me in. It's a little bit of a rough. Yes. It's just a softer ending and they love that he has this little house. So that is my favorite gingerbread book. But I have to say in preparing for this, I was looking over, you know, my Western gingerbread books and going on Amazon. So this was just a lot of fun research for me. And I added like three new titles in my cart, but I haven't bought them yet. That was dangerous. You'll have to show me which ones you picked out. Okay.

Emily, what's your favorite gingerbread book? I picked The Gingerbread Man Loose at Christmas. Oh, I love that by Laura Murray. And it has those hilarious illustrations by Mike Lowery. If you don't know about these gingerbread man books, Oh, he's so cute. And he lives in this school. And there's a bunch of different versions of like back to school and St. Patrick's Day. And the book is told in rhyme, which is not always my favorite. I could go either way on that. But in this book, I think it works really well. And it's just such an engaging funny story. And I also really love that it takes place in a school, which is fun. And I like that like if your kids have background with the traditional gingerbread stories like it's just fun for them to make the connections about places it's similar and places is different. So yeah, can't go wrong with gingerbread books.

The ones I put on my wish list are How to Catch a Gingerbread Man by Adam Wallace. They only have a few of those. So if that's good, let me know. And then I saw cute when that was called Gingerbread Twins, but I couldn't see inside. I don't know. But the illustration looks really cute. So it needs some further investigation. Okay, report back.

Emily now we're on to snowman. Why don't you tell us your favorite snowman title? Because I think we might have the same one. Do you have a backup? Because I do have I do have a backup? Maybe we'll share our backup too. Okay, so my choice is Snowman at Christmas by Caralyn Buehner I think is how you say it and then is illustrated by her husband Mark Buehner. Now there's several books in this series, and I really love them all. But I went with Snowman at Christmas for Christmas. And it's just this funny insight. If you haven't read any of these books yet, it's just a funny idea to explore of what do you think snowman do when we're not watching? And so this is what do you think snowman do for Christmas? And so you just get to see what the snowman are doing as they prepare for Christmas. And it's just so cute and delightful.

What was your choice though? Oh, 100%. I love of all the snowmen books. I think the first one was Snowman at Night. Yes. I love which one just such a classic. And then Snowman at Work is like the snowman jobs. It's just funny. And it's got a lot of puns. So yeah, love it.

So my backup title is kind of a new one. I went way out of left field. And it is published by Make Believe Ideas. I don't even think it has a real author besides the publisher. And it's called Oh no, Mr. Snowman. And it just came out I think last year, maybe the year before. And so the premise is that a couple of kids make a snowman and then you know, they go into the house, but Mr. Snowman wants to come in too. So he was trying to sneak into the house. And every time he gets in the house, they're like No, you have to leave because he's making everything go wrong. Like he freezes the bathtub water and all this stuff. So but then it's Christmas Eve, and the desserts are melting like something's going wrong. So Mr. Snowman has to come save the day. It's kind of it's just funny and clever. So Oh No, Mr. Snowman by Make Believe Ideas.

What was your snowman backup? Actually my snowman backup was kind of a cheat because it's technically not a snowman book, it's a snow book. So I might be robbing one of your future choices. It's Dream Snow by Eric Carle. Okay, you did. Yeah, that was on my list. Okay. You can share it again later. If you want. I won't go into it so that you can still share it later. But Dream Snow is in my top 10 favorite Christmas books. It is just this charming Eric Carle book that I think everyone needs to own. But we'll talk about it. We'll talk about it in a minute.

So the next category is the 12 days of Christmas. So what was your choice for that one? This was hard to pick because I wasn't sure do we go traditional? I know, do we go more modern, we do a fun take? So I've got like multiple on the list. But we'll just start with a traditional one, which is the version by Britta Teckentrup. And that was my backup. Oh, the illustrations are darling. It's just the traditional song. But each page has little like peek through windows, and I love all of her books.

So what was your non backup? My first choice was actually the Greg Pizzoli version. That was my backup. I like it because it's still the traditional words from the song, but the illustrations are what will make you laugh when you read this book. It's so funny that we can't do it justice. You know, I mean, this really should be a video instead of a podcast, but we have a podcast so you'll just have to imagine.

And I did have a third backup of 12 days of Christmas by Jane Cabrera. So it's not the traditional one. It's like woodland animals all getting together to have a party and Jane Cabrera illustrations are just always so charming. Yes, I have that one too. It's really cute.

All right, down to number four on our list. Emily, what is your book with a favorite animal character? This was hard because there's actually so many animal characters. So I picked A Christmas for Bear by Bonny Becker. We're the worst. No one knows that one that's such an underrated book. That's why I love it. It is so charming as the most darling illustrations. And it's just funny. You know, I really love the tale of mouse and bear and I relate to that Grumpy Bear on a deep level. He just wants what is it like pickles and quiet. Yeah. Yeah, it's so it's just, you know, grumpy sunshine characters and unlikely friendships and how they managed to make Christmas work for the two of them. Yes. So definitely check that one out if you haven't.

What was your backup choice? My backup choice, I've got like three on my list, but I will spare you. My backup choice is Finding Christmas by Lesley Evans. So these little woodland animals find a little frozen bird at winter, and have to like try and warm her up and help her and it's just such a sweet story of like, they use their gifts that they got for each other to help someone else. And I remember like we read it to our preschoolers and it just was such a good gateway to talk about, like how we can help people with the gifts that we have. Yeah, it's just it's such a sweet little quiet story. I love that one.

Okay, our next category is funny. What did you choose for a funny Christmas book Heidi? So this is another one that I love to read to the preschoolers. It's called Presents Through the Window by Taro Gomi. And it's another one that has like peek through windows. So like Santa lands in this village. And he's trying to get the presents to the right people. So he's like looking through the window. And he's like, Oh, the bunny lives here. He needs like these ear warmers. And then you turn the page and you see that so Santa looking through the window, sees what looks like two ears poking it through the window. But then you turn the page and it's like the two knobbly knees of an ostrich that kind of looks like ears to the window. So he gets these like crazy ear muffs that obviously aren't gonna fit an ostrich. So based on what Santa sees through the window, yes, he gives them all the wrong gifts. And it's very cute and funny. I forgot about that one. That's a good one. And then I did have the backup of Vegetables and Holiday Underwear.

Emily, what's your funny book? I picked Here Comes Santa Cat by Deborah Underwood. I love all of the cat books. They are so funny. The cat is communicating with the reader by holding up signs. And in the Christmas book, he has a feeling that maybe he's going to be on the not so nice list. So cat decides that he's going to try to be good so he can for sure get on to the nice list. And it's just sweet and hilarious and my kids love to hear it. We just really love this one. Get all the cat books are so funny, but I think my Christmas one's the best. Yes.

Okay Emily, what is your favorite Christmas chapter book? I had to go a little bit old school on this one and pick Junie B Jones: Jingle Bells, Batman Smells! (P.S. So Does May.). I know Junie can be a bit of a controversial character, but personally, I adore her. I think she has so much character and interest that kids just love reading about her. And I have a reluctant reader at my house who has not been that interested in chapter books until we got to Junie B. Jones book and she has been very into Junie. It's very on brand for her. Yes, it is. So I'm excited to read her the Christmas one this year, because I haven't read it in a lot of years. Yeah, I haven't either.

What was your pick? Well, I have to go nostalgic too, because I picked the two that I used to read my second graders every year. And those just feels like Christmas to me. One is the Bailey school kids Genies Don't Ride Bicycles, which is sadly out of print. I don't know why I know. They've reprinted a bunch of them. But not that one. And then Horrible Harry and the Christmas Surprise, which is another fun character. Those are both so fun. But a newer one I really like is the narwhal and jellyfish one. Oh, yeah. Like, last year? Yes. That's a funny one. That one's cute.

Okay, well, let's get to the childhood faves, because I'm pretty sure you have the same book. I'm certain we have the same book. Do you want to tell people about it? I get to go first. So I'm taking it. It's The Sweet Smell of Christmas. It is by Patricia M. Scarry. It is just the most darling book, I think probably a lot of you listening had this book as a child. And it was such a favorite in our childhood at home that we both hold it dear to our heart. And I'm delighted to say that my children now adore too it's one of the first books we read every year and we scratch the little stickers and take a big whiff of the orange and the hot chocolate in the pine tree. I just could not love this book more. And I actually still I have a new version of it. A new copy of it, I should say. And I have our original one from scratch marks in it because I can't bear to part with that one. I don't feel like the new stickers smell as strongly as the old one. Yeah, so that's kind of a drawback, but you still get with some of the magic. Yes.

And so what is your, do you have a backup for this one? I do because I figured we'd have the same one. And this is a deep cut. But I've loved the book The Dolls Christmas by Tasha Tudor. And it's just it's that's it story of like, these two little girls, and I don't know, it's like Victorian England or 1920s. But, you know, even it was old when I was a kid. And they have like a doll party because they have this amazing doll house. And I was just always just drooling over it. And I thought it was just magical. And so they throw a party. They have a Christmas party, and the doll's have a Christmas party. And I loved it so much. It came out they released it a few years ago. So you know about a copy. I love it. Do you even remember that book, Emily? Oh, maybe if I saw it, it would ring a bell. But check it out for you reminding me.

Did you have a backup for this one? Yes, but actually, I'm gonna save it for a different category. I thought it might be your backup. So I didn't put it later on. But I'm gonna save it for a different category now. Yeah.

So the next category is the more modern favorite. So what did you pick? Well, this is where I put Dream Snow. I don't even know that modern, but it's just so magical and makes a little sound. And it has these like clear pages that you put over the animals to put their like they get snowed on. It's just simple and quiet and so sweet. Make sure you get the hardback version if you do it instead of the board book version. Because I think the little sound at the end which is really true. And those little lights I think are only in the hardback version. So make sure you get that version. Yes. And they did just release it release it a few years ago. Because yeah, for a while. Yeah, you can find it anywhere. So yeah, watch for the hardback one, it's definitely worth it. The problem with this game is that we like all the same books and we're trying to say the same thing.

Well, what's your modern classic, Emily? I did How to Catch Santa by Jean Reagan. I have that. I don't think I've actually read it. It's really cute. These two sibling narrators give clever tips for catching Santa like be crafty, be clever, gentle on Christmas Eve. And it's got a lot of humor and it's just a really fun read aloud. I'm gonna have to actually check that one out. I also had Pick a Pine Tree as one of my backups too because that is just a really good more recent book you can't go wrong with that and the Halloween one, the Pick a Pumpkin is also cute not as cute as the pine tree but yeah.

Okay, new release. This was actually kind of hard because like there have been a ton this year. I know I have been having a hard time too on this one. I don't even have a backup. So hopefully we don't have the same one but I don't think we do. So the book I picked for new release that I really loved is Merry Christmas, Anne by Kallie George. That was my top pick, but I got back it was just in case so no worries. Yeah, I really love that there's these new books coming out. I think they're all by Kallie George taking on our beloved characters from Anna Green Gables and putting them into new versions of the story. So this one's a picture book version. But she also has some short chapter book versions that I love. They're all just so beautiful. Yes. And so it's just really fun to see Christmas avidly. And I love this book. And it's an gets the puff sleeve dress. Yes, yes, yes. So it's still taking parts of the original stories that we love and just putting them in a little bit of a new format. So if you're an Anne fan, you definitely need Merry Christmas, Anne. And the illustrations are they're just magical they're so good.

And what is your backup? Okay actually had came up with a few but I'll just pick the top one, which is Five More Sleeps Till Christmas by Jimmy Fallon. And usually like, you know, celeb picture books just kind of let you down but it feels like Jimmy gets it because probably he's basically just a big kid. So I really liked that one. I thought that was fun. And then maybe one that people haven't heard of as much is Share Some Kindness, Bring Some Light by Apryl Stott, which isn't particularly Christmassy is more like wintry but it works. It's all about like just coming together and helping each other and I love her illustrations. They're just like this magical. This little girl and the snow falling around her in the forest. And all these animals come together. It's very sweet.

Okay, the last category is the wild card. What did you pick for your wild card book? I picked the Jolly Christmas Postman by Allan Ahlberg. That's the one I wish. I was like, save that for later. Okay, I have another wild card. It's got all these little letters and these fairytale characters. I love it. So the postman tries to deliver all their Christmas mail and it's just so fun. And I have to really hold myself back from being that mom. That's like, be careful when you take the letter out. Just enjoy. Because each of the letters sometimes they have like little interactive things in there a little I think there's like a little puzzle and one of them. Oh, I love it so much. It's just it's a book and a gift. Oh man. I'm getting my Christmas books out today. Can't wait.

Kay, well, what's your other wild card? My other wild card was I Got the Christmas Spirit by Connie Schofield Morrison. It is such a sweet one and so charming. It's about this little girl and her mom and they're enjoying the sights and sounds of the holiday season. So she's hearing this sleigh bells ringing, and the carolers singing, and the crunch crunch crunch of the chestnuts roasting and it's just really sweet and joy filled. Really fun read this time of year and the illustrations are just so exuberant. It's so yes, she's a very charming character. We'd love to hear about your favorite Christmas books over in our teacher approved Facebook group.

Now let's talk about this week's teacher approved tip. Each week, we leave you with a small actionable tip that you can apply in your classroom today. This week's teacher approved tip is prepare a list for tracking gifts you receive. So depending on where you teach, you will probably receive a gift or two for the holidays. And it's obviously not required. But it is a nice touch to send a thank you note for anything you might get. For one, it shows the parent that the gift actually made it to school. And then also the kids just feel so special to get a note in the mail from their teacher. Yes.

So if you plan to send thank you notes, print a list of your students names ahead of time. That makes it easy to track who sent which gift, because I just always expected Oh, all the gifts are coming last day. But they do not oh come on the same day. Yeah. So prepare your list early in the month. And then as the gifts trickle in, you're just ready to go. I know it was always like keeping lists on sticky notes and trying to keep track of everything. So if you just print it now we're all set.

And if you're really on the ball, you could get your thank you note cards ready to go. So you can start filling them out when you have a moment just to let it's already out of your heart. And I have to say, when I was in first grade, my first grade teacher sent a thank you know, postcard over Christmas break. And it is in my childhood memory book. And I just thought again a few years ago and I was just struck by what a lovely letter it was she sent and I was so glad my mom sent it because it was very personal and sweet. And I bet I was so excited to get that letter over Christmas break. So consider sending a thank you note and prepare ahead to keep track of your gifts so you're ready if you decide to do it.

To wrap up the show we're sharing what we're giving extra credit to this week. Heidi, what are you giving us credit to this week? My extra credit is going to my Sun Box Bright Light Therapy Lamp. That's mouthful. I really struggled so hard with the winter darkness like I think a lot of people do. But I typically wait till I start to feel lousy before I get out the sun lamp. But last year, I had the idea to start using the lamp before I felt bad. And I really think that made a huge difference. So I just got out my lamp the other day for this year and hopefully does the trick Fingers crossed. But if not, I might need an emotional support Hemsworth to get me through. If you need to get a light before the winter blahs set in there is a link in the show notes to the Sun Box that I like.

Emily, what are you giving extra credit to this week? I'm giving extra credit to the book Meet Me in the Margins by Melissa Ferguson. It's about Savannah, an editor at a small publishing company that specializes in high brow books. But she secretly has a dream of writing her own romance novel. So she keeps her manuscript stashed in a secret room at her office and one day discover someone else has been reading the manuscript and leaving her notes in the margin. So this is not serious literature, but it is a fun cozy light read that you'll love if you enjoy a good Hallmark movie. And it's a time of year for fun light read. Yes, I wish it was Christmas themed. It's still good.

That's it for today's episode, check out some of our Christmas book recommendations, and let us know your favorite Christmas books.

More About Teacher Approved:

Do you ever feel like there’s just not enough time in the day to be the kind of teacher you really want to be? The Teacher Approved podcast is here to help you learn how to elevate what matters and simplify the rest. Join co-hosts Emily and Heidi of Second Story Window each week as they share research-based and teacher-approved strategies you can count on to make your teaching more efficient and effective than ever before.