The first of these is The Legend of the Poinsettia which is retold and beautifully illustrated by Tomie dePaola.
This story is a good Christmas story because it opens up conversations about gift giving at Christmas and how it is "the thought that counts". It also explains one of the Christmas decorations - the poinsettia and introduces the Christmas colours of red and green. We had a discussion about how the people in Mexico celebrated Christmas in the story and how this is the same and different from some of our own Christmas customs. We are a catholic school so many of the children do go to the Christmas mass and take part in the nativity so it was nice to see how another culture celebrates this idea.
To reflect on the story and to brighten our classroom, we made a very simple Christmas craft: a poinsettia.
I prefer to use painted paper because it has a richer texture than coloured construction paper and it is fun to paint the paper yourself. Each child painted one A4 sheet of red and one A4 sheet of green on one day and the next day they used this paper to assemble their craft. We re-used paper from our classroom to make the activity even more environmentally friendly.
I make hand-drawn "star" templates on light card in red and green and write "cut 1" on the green and "cut 2" on the red. The green one is slightly larger than the red one. If you are not game to free draw yours (even though I think they look better) you can print this image. (You will need to adjust the size to suit your paper.)
I make only enough templates for about a third of the class for each colour (about 8 red ones and 8 green ones for a class of 24). It doesn't take them long to trace the shapes and it is good for them to be a bit patient and practice their turn taking skills.
They turn the paper to the "white side" before tracing in case they make a mistake and they push the star to the edge of the paper so the leftover pieces are useful for other Christmas crafts later on. They need to be careful so they fit two red stars on the same page.
To assemble the craft, simply stack the two red shapes on top of the green on and turn them slightly so you can see the different points from behind. A little dab of glue in the centre is enough to hold them together. I give them little squares of yellow crepe or tissue paper to scruple into balls for the centre of the flower.
They are really simple to make. It took me longer to explain it than it does to make them.