During the Christmas season, I wanted to plan lessons using a book that would not only tell the story of the birth of Jesus, but also teach academic skills. I found such a book in B is for Bethlehem by Isabel Wilner. With beautiful illustrations and rhymes, the author gives the reader some very important details about the events surrounding His birth.
I created this plan as an eight day study unit. I read the book aloud to my grandsons each day, and chose one other activity from the plan, making sure by the end of the study unit my grandsons has done one activity from each intelligence. Additionally I planned differentiated lessons based on each grandchild’s needs:
Tigger (6) would be able to read many of the words, recognize the rhymes, and would benefit from the higher level vocabulary used in the story. My goal for Tigger would be increased comprehension of the events that led up to the birth of Jesus.
Kona (4) already recognizes all the alphabet and most alphabet sounds. His literacy lessons would focus on discussing the rhyming words and being able to explain at least four details from the book.
Tahoe (2) is still learning his letters, so I would focus on the letters B (Bethlehem) and J (Jesus). He should also be able to tell me the names of the main characters when I point to their pictures.
Linguistic Intelligence/Word Smart
- Read the book aloud to the grands each day of the study unit.
- In subsequent readings, discuss the alphabet letters, letter sounds, familiar words, new vocabulary, characters, setting, and main events of the book depending on the readiness and literacy goals of each child (grandsons, in my case).
- Each page has two rhyming words, so discuss and/or write down some of these rhyming pairs. Kona and I discussed the words that rhymed on each page. For Tigger I copied a few rhyming pairs on paper, and had him match them up afterwards.
- I made picture cards of the main characters, scenes, and events from the story. I had the older grands use them to make a story map of the book.
Musical Intelligence/Music Smart
- Play a recording or sing songs such as “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “The First Noel,” “What Child Is This?,” “Angels We Have Heard on High,” and/or “Away in the Manger.” You can find recordings or videos for most of these songs on the Internet.
- Play a recording of “Not That Far from Bethlehem” by Point of Grace. If you don’t have a recording already, you can find videos on the Internet for this song.
Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence/Body Smart
- Create actions for “Away in a Manger” or use ones found at this website: http://christmas.lovetoknow.com/Christmas_Songs_for_Preschool
- Visit a Living Nativity. The one we attend each year at a local church has attendees walk to ten different scenes that explain the events of the birth of Jesus.
- Scavenger Hunt-Take a walk in your neighborhood for Christmas displays that show events or characters from the book. Make a list with words or use picture cards of items or characters that you would like the child(ren) to find. Ideas for this Scavenger Hunt include: baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, manger, Christmas star, shepherds, angels, and wise men. (You could also use this list if you go to a Living Nativity.)
Interpersonal Intelligence/People Smart
- Use dramatic play to enact a journey to Bethlehem using robes, sheets, or pillowcases to improvise costumes. A baby doll can be the baby Jesus. (Use the manger idea under “Naturalist Intelligence” to make the crib for the baby.)
- Guessing Game: Have one person call out a letter of the alphabet, and another person name something from the Christmas story that starts with that letter. (You can decide whether it has to be the exact same word from the book or if other responses are allowed. For example, the book has “A is for Augustus,” but if my grandsons answered “Angels” I would consider that a correct answer.)
Spatial Intelligence/Picture Smart
- I gave the grands some pattern blocks to make pictures of Nativity scenes. I used the Nativity pattern block mats I found on this wonderful website: http://thisreadingmama.com/nativity-pattern-block-mats/
- The Letter “J” project-It just so happened that “J” was our alphabet letter of the week, so we created a picture of the baby Jesus laying in a manger made by the hook of the “J”.
- Christmas Star project-The book has such gorgeous illustrations and I wanted the older grandsons to notice them. Since the Christmas star appeared on many pages of the book, I designed a project for Kona and Tigger that would look similar to the one in the book.
Logical/mathematical Intelligence/Number Smart
- I had Tahoe count the images on each page. For example, he counted all the people in the “C is for Crowds” page and the angels on the “H is for Heavenly Host” page.
- Using a “child friendly” nativity set as manipulatives, I created story problems for Kona and Tahoe such as, “If two shepherds and three wise men came to see the baby Jesus, how many people visited Him in all?”
Naturalist Intelligence/Nature Smart
- Find natural items, such as twigs or straw, to make a manger.
- Gaze at the night sky to find the brightest star you can see. Do you think any of them are bright enough to be the Christmas star? (If you want to go into depth on this topic, there are many articles on the Internet that speculate about the origins of the Christmas star.)
Intrapersonal Intelligence/Self Smart
- Let each child engage with a “toddler friendly” nativity set. If you listen to the child while he/she plays, you can get a good sense of their understanding of the events regarding the birth of Jesus. (I loved watching one of my older grandsons play with the set. He was very concerned that the baby Jesus have enough food. Bless. The youngest grand, Tahoe, focused on playing the music that went with the manger. Obviously he is learning a lot using his musical intelligence.)
- Ask each child their favorite letter, picture, or event from the story.
- Allow each child an opportunity to look at the book by themselves.
While this book was first written for second graders, and my grandsons are all younger than that, they got a lot out of this book study. This is a book I can use for many years with them and change my literacy goals for them as they mature.
I hope you are finding these Multiple Intelligence activities useful as you plan lessons for children in your care. If you would like to see more of these unit studies as I create them, you can become a follower of this blog.
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