Activity Inspiration

Discovering Hanukkah in the Classroom

04 Dec 2023

Hanukkah is fast approaching and with it comes a wonderful opportunity to bring religious education and literacy together in your classroom. Beyond the twinkling lights and delicious treats, this Festival of Lights offers a rich tapestry of traditions that can be woven seamlessly into literacy-focused activities. In this blog post, we’ll explore a collection of creative and educational Hanukkah activities designed to engage your class and celebrate the cultural richness of the holiday.

Dreidel Story Writing:

Engage students in creative storytelling by having them write a story where a magical dreidel plays a central role. This activity encourages imagination, narrative development, and writing skills.

  • Begin by introducing the dreidel, explaining its significance in Hanukkah traditions. Discuss the letters on the dreidel (Nun, Gimel, Hey, Shin) and their meaning in the game.
  • Show actual dreidels or display images to inspire creativity.
  • Introduce the magical dreidel… Ask students questions like:
    • What if a dreidel had special powers?
    • Where did the magical dreidel come from?
    • What adventures could the dreidel go on?
  • Share a brief example story or scenario involving a magical dreidel. This can serve as a model for the students and help spark their own ideas.
  • Guide students in creating characters for their dreidel story. Encourage them to think about the personality and background of the magical dreidel and any other characters that may be involved. Instruct students to outline the plot of their dreidel story. What challenges or adventures will the magical dreidel face? How does the story unfold? Encourage creativity and originality.
  • Have students start writing their dreidel stories. Remind them to include details, dialogue, and descriptive language to bring their narratives to life.

Hanukkah Haikus:

Explore the art of haiku poetry with a Hanukkah twist. Have students create haikus about the holiday, focusing on the themes of light, miracles, and celebration.

  • Begin by explaining what a haiku is: a traditional form of Japanese poetry consisting of three lines with a 5-7-5 syllable pattern.
  • Discuss the themes of Hanukkah with the class. Emphasise key elements such as the miracle of the oil, the lighting of the menorah, and the joyous celebrations.
  • Share an example of a Hanukkah haiku to give students an idea of how to incorporate holiday themes into this poetic form. Here’s ours:

                                   Candles softly glow,

                                   Miracle in each flicker,

                                  Eight nights of pure light.

  • In groups, have students brainstorm words and phrases associated with Hanukkah. Encourage them to think about the sensory experiences, emotions, and symbols connected to the holiday.
  • Instruct students to write their own Hanukkah haikus. Encourage creativity and expression by explaining Haikus often only capture a moment or feeling,.

Hanukkah Recipe Writing:

Ask students to write a “recipe” for celebrating Hanukkah, including ingredients like family, traditions, and joy.

  • Begin by discussing the traditions and symbols associated with Hanukkah, such as lighting the menorah, playing dreidel, and enjoying special foods like latkes and sufganiyot.
  • Share a model “recipe” for celebrating Hanukkah. This could include steps like lighting the menorah, spinning the dreidel, and enjoying a special Hanukkah meal. Emphasise the use of descriptive language and sensory details.
  • Instruct students to write their own Hanukkah recipes. They can include steps for various traditions, family customs, and personal reflections on what makes Hanukkah.
  • Encourage them to use vivid language to describe the sensory experiences associated with each step.

Menorah Maths:

Incorporate maths into Hanukkah by having students design their own menorahs. .

  • Begin by discussing the significance of the menorah in the Hanukkah celebration. Explain that the menorah has nine branches, with one candle being lit each night for eight nights, symbolising the miracle of the oil lasting for eight days in the Temple. Eight of the nine branches hold lights, the ninth branch holds a candle which is used to light the other eight. 
  • Provide each student with a piece of paper and art supplies. Encourage them to design their own menorah.
  • Each candle should be labeled with a number (1-8) to represent the eight nights of Hanukkah.
  • Once the menorah designs are complete, introduce the maths component.
  • Ask students to perform mathematical operations related to the menorah. For example:
    • Find the sum of the numbers on all the candles.
    • Calculate the difference between the number on the first and last candle.
    • Multiply the number on each candle by 2.
    • Divide the sum of all the candle numbers by 2

Like many major festivals and celebrations, everyone celebrates Hanukkah in different ways. Whether it is through storytelling, poetry writing or perhaps even dance, we hope that you and your class find the perfect way to enjoy the Festival of Lights this December.

– Phoebe (Creative Development Officer)