A Holiday Craft Full of JOY!

One of my favorite holiday projects to do with my kids during the week leading up to Winter Break is creating a book about joy.

Ah, joy

It's a word we commonly use around Christmas, along with peace and hope, but what's nice for us teachers is that the idea of joy need not be tied to any particular holiday. Joy isn't just a Christmas word (neither are peace and hope, for that matter), and so I've found it to be a nice focus for a holiday craft because I don't have to worry if we're stepping on anybody's holiday toes. It has some other benefits too, which I'll describe.

Our "Joy Book" actually begins by reading a different book: Courage, by Bernard Waber. The story consists of a collection of situations that exemplify courage. Each situation begins with, "Courage is..." For example, "Courage is going to bed without a nightlight," and, "Courage is tasting the vegetable before making a face." Describing a concept like courage by using these concrete situations that students can relate to is powerful. Using Courage is not imperative to the project that follows, but it usually isn't difficult to find a copy in your library during this time of year because, well, it's a book about courage, not Christmas.

I transition to the concept of joy by asking students what they think the word means. I usually get answers of "happiness" and "when you feel really good inside." Then I ask them to think about how Bernard explained to us what courage is... by showing us with real situations.

I ask students to start thinking of situations, traditions, and memories that bring them joy. We try to focus on situations that involve activities and people, as opposed to material things. I give them an example from my own life: Sleeping late on a Saturday brings me joy

And here is where some of those other benefits kick in...

Often, our children, just like we adults, get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life, right? Stopping to think about the things in our life that bring us joy can actually bring us more joy, don't you think? It sure feels good to think about sleeping late on a Saturday, right? It feels good to think about my three-year-old daughter screaming "Daddy!" and sprinting into my arms when I arrive at school to pick her up. Highlighting them helps us appreciate them.

The other nice thing I try to help students discover here is how little things can bring significant joy. These kids' home-lives are varied, and are not always great, so honing in on the simple situations and memories that bring us joy puts students on more of an even playing field.

Okay, so once students are buzzing with joyful situations, I write my example on the board and show students how to turn the sentence around so that it begins with "Joy is" (similar to what Bernard did in Courage).

Next, we narrow our thinking to "joy situations" geared toward the holiday season and winter in general. I love having students give their final Joy Book to their parents as a holiday gift, so I really want students to include memories and traditions that involve their family during the holidays. Here are some more examples:
  • Joy is... my dad reading a story to me while I sit with him in his big recliner.
  • Joy is... running down the stairs with my sister on Christmas morning.
  • Joy is... my mom's smile when she opens my special gift.
  • Joy is... bundling up and tromping through fresh snow.
  • Joy is... movie night with my family and a big bowl of popcorn.

I have students start writing down their ideas, and eventually they pick their best to include in their book. I pass out the half-sheet book pages for students to fill out. On each page, students complete the "Joy is..." sentence and draw an accompanying picture.

And then we get a little crafty.

We tie yarn into bows and glue them to each of the gift tags throughout the book.

We use two half-sheets of dark blue construction paper for the front and back cover. We take a separate half-sheet of white construction paper and rip it length-wise, maybe with a little curve, to create a snowy hill. This gets glued to the front cover.

The title of our book is "Joy," and I give students a few options to make it stand out. If they want, students can take a piece of colored construction paper and cut out their own J-O-Y letters to glue onto their cover. Making their own letters is often frustrating for students, so I also lay out pre-made letter templates. They tape each one onto their construction paper, and then cut out the letters, discarding the template.

We glue the letters onto the cover in a way that looks like they are resting in the snow. Then we add details like stars or snowflakes in the background.

Another option I give students for their title is to use pipe cleaners. I give them a template, and three silver pipe cleaners, and students bend the pipe cleaners to match the cursive J-O-Y letters. Where the pipe cleaners cross, we wrap them around each other for strength. To glue it to the cover, we put several drops of glue on the back of the finished word, set it in place, and then put a heavy book on top until it's dry.

Using colored foam for the title letters is also fun and really pops. The title in blue you see below uses foam letters cut from the same templates that we used for the green construction paper.

Last, we stack our pages together with the front and back cover, and staple it into a book!

If you would like to make Joy books with your students, click the image below to download the resource for FREE. It comes with all of the book's interior pages, a brainstorming page, activity description, and the instructions for the crafty details.


Whatever activities and crafts and projects you decide to do with your students this season, I hope it brings joy to you and your kids.

If you need some more resources for December, feel free to check out the ones below!

  https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Story-Starters-DECEMBER-Not-Your-Ordinary-Writing-Prompts-2216064    https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Story-Starters-DECEMBER-Not-Your-Ordinary-Writing-Prompts-2216064https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Snowmen-At-Night-Literature-Unit-My-Favorite-Read-Alouds-475169

And be sure to read my post about Compliment Presents for another holiday activity and freebie!