5 Things to Teach in Your The Best Christmas Pageant Ever Literature Unit

Christmas is coming! It’s the season of giving and spending time with family and friends. However, you can also use many fun activities to keep students engaged before the holiday break. One of these activities is a great novel study. Today I wanted to share how I target skills in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever Literature Unit.

Skills to Teach with The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
5 Things to Teach in Your The Best Christmas Pageant Ever Literature Unit 11

If you haven’t already done so, now is the perfect time to start planning your seasonal novel units. In this article, I’ll share five reading skills you can teach using the book The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.

Quick Note: Some links in this post are affiliate links, meaning I earn a small commission if you make a purchase, at no extra cost to you. This helps support the blog and allows me to continue sharing content. I only recommend books I love. Thanks for your support!

An Overview of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Maybe you’ve read this book or perhaps it’s new to you. Either way, you’re probably looking at it from a different lens now that you’re looking to use it with your class. This one makes my December book list, but with a few caveats; you’ll want to check it out.

Let’s start with a quick plot summary, reading levels, and where to find the book.

Summary of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is the first of three books by Barbara Robinson that features the Herdman family. It is the story of a town whose annual Christmas nativity reenactment is taken over by their rowdy family.

As the narrator points out, the six Herdman children are the worst kids in history. She then goes on to explain their crimes. In addition to smoking, cursing, bullying at school, and stealing, they even set fire to an abandoned toolhouse. 

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, The best christmas pageant ever literature unit, the best christmas pageant ever book

After making a quick visit to the local church to get some free snacks, the Herdmans decided they’ll stick around and participate in the upcoming Christmas pageant.

Then the pageant’s director ends up in the hospital. The narrator’s mom steps in with a cast of rowdy Herdman kids in all the major roles.

Despite being unfamiliar with the story, the Herdmans quickly learn and have some serious questions. For example, who brings oil to a baby? 

Although there is a bit of an uproar about the unusual casting, the narrator’s mother is determined to make this the best Christmas pageant ever. Will she succeed? 

What reading level is the text?

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is 40 pages long and is listed as a Guided Reading level K. The book is listed as appealing to K-2. However, some behaviors and themes make the story more appropriate for 2nd-4th graders. 

The story is a comedy. Your learners will enjoy all the hijinx the Herdman family causes around town and during the Christmas pageant.

You’ll want to be sure you’re prepared for some of the less socially acceptable pieces of the story – including smoking, vandalism, and other behaviors – that the Herdman kids engage in. (The book was written in 1972 when some of these topics were less taboo in children’s literature.)

Girl reading The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
5 Things to Teach in Your The Best Christmas Pageant Ever Literature Unit 12

The story has some religious connections, as it does take place in a church. Therefore, teachers should know any rules about this before utilizing the text to teach.

That being said, if you need a more general holiday novel unit that doesn’t touch as deeply on the religious aspects of Christmas, I recommend Horrible Harry & the Holidaze by Suzy Klein

Purchase the book here: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

5 Skills to Teach with The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Now that I’ve given you an overview of the text, let’s dive into the important part. What can you teach using this book?

Skills to Teach with The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

The great news is that Barbara Robinson’s writing is incredibly rich. It offers several connections to skills that students need to master. The novel’s brevity is helpful because you can fit them all into a week of instruction with careful novel study planning.

Let’s dive into my favorite reading skills to teach with The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.

1. Character Traits

Teaching character traits is an ongoing process, and while many books illustrate positive traits so well, the characters in this story capture both positive and negative traits.

In addition, there are opportunities to see the shades of some traits displayed by characters in this story. This makes it great for helping students recognize that some character traits they’ll identify could be positive or negative based on context.

This is also a great opportunity to emphasize how important it is to cite text evidence that illustrates the points students are trying to make in their reading responses.

list of character traits

There are so many great ways you can address this. I recommend giving students access to a character traits list. I also plan on working on character analysis through mini-lessons as part of this unit.

Enter your email to grab some of my favorite graphic organizers for teaching character traits and development. Use this download’s free list of character traits to help you get started.

    2. Point of view

    The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is told from the first-person point of view. It offers great opportunities to introduce the narrator’s important role in shaping the reader’s experience.

    You can introduce the idea that stories can be told from multiple perspectives. Students can examine point of view and consider how it influences their views of the characters. You might even push students to get creative and rewrite the events from another character’s perspective.

    The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
    5 Things to Teach in Your The Best Christmas Pageant Ever Literature Unit 13

    However, if you haven’t introduced point of view yet, you’ll want to start there. Use this great interactive point of view anchor chart as part of your mini-lessons. It’s a wonderful visual tool shared by The Elementary Nest

    3. Story Mapping

    Similarly, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is a great book for teaching story mapping. Of course, this probably comes as no surprise considering it’s such a great story for problem and solution.

    When introducing the story mapping process, it can be overwhelming to use long texts. However, students are often ready to move on from picture books and need a good starting point with a short, clear-cut chapter book. This is it!

    As you finish reading, you can create an anchor chart that outlines the characters, setting, and has a short retell.

    4. Author’s Message

    Finally, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is an amazing story for introducing the author’s message. The narrator introduces the Herdman family as trouble-making antagonists. Yet by the end, it becomes clear that many of their behaviors are not purposefully naughty.

    The Best Christmas Pageant Ever Comprehension Questions
    5 Things to Teach in Your The Best Christmas Pageant Ever Literature Unit 14

    Finding opportunities to introduce this skill and connecting with social-emotional learning can add to this unit’s lasting impact.

    While books are great for teaching SEL, we often miss these connections within the novels we read. However, this book lends itself to this topic because it is critical to the author’s message.

    5. Vocabulary

    Okay, this is more obvious because I think you should target vocabulary in your instruction with every book you use. However, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever has some strong vocabulary for a short book.

    Personally, I like to avoid long lists of vocabulary words. Instead, I target one word per chapter, and I teach it in-depth so that students get more than a surface-level understanding. That’s one thing I love about this book! It has such great words to choose from.

    Text-based vocabulary words, like sentiment, lend themselves to deep discussions and quick writes. Plus, some of the great choices in the book are also good Tier 2 academic vocabulary terms. Confer, for example, is the focus word for the final chapter because students need to know what that means beyond just this text.

    The Best Christmas Pageant Ever Literature Unit - Holiday Novel Study
    5 Things to Teach in Your The Best Christmas Pageant Ever Literature Unit 15

    For those concerned I only focus on one word. Don’t worry!

    I might stop and talk about several vocabulary words within the chapter’s context. However, my expectations on these are surface-level. I wouldn’t expect a student to master them from this context-based exposure.

    Conversely, I expect that my students will have mastered the focus word at the end of our lesson. If they haven’t, I need to improve my instruction and spend more time. This is the word I hold myself accountable for teaching to mastery for the chapter.

    Find no-prep activities for The Best Christmas Pageant Ever Literature Unit.

    The Best Christmas Pageant Ever makes a great seasonal novel unit. I’ve put together a bundle of the resources I’ve used to teach it in an easy, no-prep format that you can use to help your students build reading comprehension and vocabulary skills.

    Like many of my other novel study units, this one offers some differentiation options to allow you to accommodate the work to best fit the needs of your learners.

    The Best Christmas Pageant Ever Literature Unit
    5 Things to Teach in Your The Best Christmas Pageant Ever Literature Unit 16

    What’s included in this literature study guide:

    • The Best Christmas Pageant Ever Study Guide for teachers with instructional materials, comprehension objective, key Tier 2 & text-based vocabulary, and tips for using the print or digital version
    • Comprehension activities are provided in three formats – trifolds, reading journal prompts, & Google Slides
    • Word of the Day text-based vocabulary flipbooks
    • Answer keys for easy grading
    • Access to the Google Slides version of the daily assignments for use in digital classrooms
    The Best Christmas Pageant Ever Study Guide

    Where to get the activities:

    You can findĀ The Best Christmas Pageant Ever Literature Unit in my TPT store – available in print, digital, or bundle. Grab it today to start planning your holiday novel study with Barbara Robinson’s hilarious series.

    Find more fun December learning activities here.

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