Christmas Poetry Study for All Ages

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Studying poetry is a fun  way to build reading comprehension skills.  It lends itself well to developing the skills of visualization and understanding descriptive language.  Christmas poetry can inspire even the most reluctant learners due to the excitement around the holiday.

Below are several poems with suggested discussion questions, concepts to study and/or activities to accompany them.

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All Ages

A Visit from St. Nicholas by Clement Clarke Moore or Major Henry Livingston, Jr.: This poem is fun to memorize!  Then, you could have your children retell it on Christmas Eve.  It also is interesting to research the controversy over who wrote this poem.  Here is a good place to start.  This is a great poem to have in book form.

Tiny Wooden Figures by Rick W. Cotton: This would be a neat poem to keep with your nativity scene to pull out and read each year when you set it up.  A good discussion question: What does it mean “outside we grow older, inside we grow new”?  And if you are feeling crafty, here is a BIG list of DIY nativity scenes for a variety of age levels.

Merry Christmas, Mom by Mary Butto: Ok, so this one might be a bit selfish…it is a great poem for reminding children all that mom does for them!  Discussion questions: How old is the narrator of the poem? Why do you think his name might be Nick?  How do you think he felt about his mom at the various stages mentioned in the poem? What was the poet’s purpose in writing the poem?

The Littlest Christmas Tree by Amy Peterson: This poem is great to discuss the comparison of Jesus’s death to a Christmas tree.  (Trust me, it will make sense after you read the poem!)  It also inspires visualization throughout the first few stanzas.  Looking up pictures of each of the trees mentioned and drawing them would be a fun activity.

Silent Night by Joseph Mohr: Studying song lyrics like you would a poem can be fun, too.  Discuss how the lyrics might be different than if they were written as a poem with no intention to set them to music. Include the rhythm and the repetition of lines in this discussion.  Drawing the scenes in this song would be a great activity as well.

Christmas Past by Carice Williams: This poem lends itself to a discussion of tone (how the author is feeling) and mood (how the reader is made to feel).  How old is the author now?  How does she feel?  What has changed in her life since past Christmases?  What might you do if you were feeling like the author?  Discuss what memories from past Christmases you and your children hold onto.

The Minstrels by William Wordsworth: We studied this poem when the boys were in 1st and 3rd grade and it was definitely a tough one for them.  However, once we read it several times, they were able to comprehend it better.  We researched what minstrels were and really worked on visualizing the poem and drawing it.

Middle School and Beyond

Christmas Tree Lots by Chris Green: This poem is kind of dark, but really good!  So while the language is simple enough for younger kids, I would probably save it until the middle or high school years. You can study lots of  descriptive language as well as tone (feeling the author is displaying) and mood (how we are made to feel as readers). It would be great to see how everyone interpreted the poem in visual art afterward.

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The Three Kings by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: This poem lends itself to studying rhyme and rhythm (aka meter) and how they work together.  Students can label the rhyme scheme and clap out the rhythm and determine what syllables and words are stressed and unstressed.

Poem with rhyme scheme and rhythm noted.

Christmas Bells by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: This poem speaks of the idea of peace at Christmas set against the backdrop of the Civil War.  This is a great poem to discuss descriptive language, mood, and tone.  Note how the poem ends and how that contributes to the poet’s message.

Do you have a favorite Christmas poem that isn’t listed here?  Comment below and let us know!

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