December always marked five wonderful days of teaching "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens and dramatized by Frederick Gaines in my middle school classroom. The classic tale about choices and the way they impact those around us is meaningful and profound.
Since students must navigate through the elements of a drama, the challenging vocabulary, and the historical references in the play, I've created a unit that helps students successfully read and analyze the text. Here are a few of my favorite activities to accompany reading "A Christmas Carol."
"A Christmas Carol" was published in 1843 in England. Nearly one-third of Londoners were living in poverty at the time. The city of London was dirty and overpopulated as factories grew in the city. The Poor Law of 1834 forced homeless into workhouses. It was a dark time for those in need. Dickens sheds light on these issues throughout the play. That's why I like to start the unit with an activity to build background on The Poor Law, Workhouses, Charles Dickens, Novella, and "Dickensian" England.
Help students build background by...
*** Providing reading passages for small groups to read and collect important facts
*** Assigning topics for students to complete mini-research projects about to share with the class
*** Watching short videos on YouTube about the different topics
The vocabulary in "A Christmas Carol" is challenging. While reading they will encounter words like endeavor, surplus, and provision.
Provide students with a list of new vocabulary words and help students create meaning for the words by...
*** Having students define the word and create an illustration
*** Challenge students to write sentences or a paragraph using the words in context
The character of Ebenezer Scrooge is iconic. His transformation from a greedy miser to a generous gentleman is inspiring in the play. Since Ebenezer's growth is at the heart of "A Christmas Carol," I think it's important to include lessons about characterization in this unit.
Give students a chance to analyze Ebenezer Scrooge by...
* Recording character traits on a character web. Divide the web into two parts so that students can analyze how he changes throughout the play.
* Host a discussion about Ebenezer's character. Discuss how he speaks and acts in one scene vs. another.
* Encourage students to act out how Ebenezer might react to a situation at the beginning of the play vs. at the end of the play.
Once students finish reading "A Christmas Carol," it's a great idea to give them a chance to respond to writing prompts or complete a writing task.
Here are some fun writing tasks...
* Write a letter to Marley as if you are Scrooge. Recount "your" transformation to Marley.
* Think about a significant choice that you've made. Write how this choice impacted your life and those around you.
* Charles Dickens was a social crusader. Take on a social issue and write how you could make a change.
To help students connect to the play, give them a chance to reflect on what they learned about while reading. I like to include a creative culminating activity to wrap up and solidify students' understanding of their reading.
You could have students reflect on their learning by...
* Putting together a personal reflection that includes what they have learned in the past, present, and hope to learn in the future.
* Creating a set of questions for students to discuss in small groups.
* Giving students an opportunity to share what they learned, liked, and didn't like about "A Christmas Carol."
I hope you've found a few ideas to add to your own instruction of "A Christmas Carol." To learn more about the complete unit that includes over 40 pages of resources, just click HERE.
Wishing you and your students a festive holiday season,
P.S. If you're looking for more ways to celebrate the winter season in your classroom, check out this fun collection of my favorite winter lessons!