May Holidays and Special Days: Elementary Classroom Activities, Ideas, and Lesson Plans
Mix up your curriculum by celebrating a few of the special May days and holidays. Even though many of them are pretty trivial, the variety will mix up the regular routine and increase student interest. Some simple modifications will make it easy to work many of these holidays right into the regular curriculum. Other holidays can provide a break in the routine with a special snack or lesson. Finally, you can adapt a number of the suggestions for the holidays here for any grade level. For example, while older elementary students will write sentences or paragraphs, younger elementary students can draw pictures.
If you prepare or serve any kind of food or drink for a May holiday, check student allergies beforehand and make adjustments accordingly.
May 1st: Tuba Day
- If possible, attend a local orchestra concert that includes a tuba. Alternatively, invite a tuba player to come play for the school.
- Enjoy tuba recordings on CD and/or online. Play recordings during independent student work time. Have students search for tuba recordings on YouTube. Challenge students to look for non-classical pieces, such as covers of pop songs.
- Learn about the history of the tuba.
May 3rd: National Two Different Colored Shoes Day
- Invite students to wear two different colored shoes today.
- Discuss the pros and cons of this fashion choice. For example, is it comfortable? Is it distracting?
- Have students draw pictures of and/or write sentences about the shoes that they chose to wear and why they chose them. For example, did they pick two of their favorite shoes? Were they trying to make the craziest combinations that they could?
May 4th: Orange Juice Day
- Learn about the history of orange juice and the health benefits of oranges and orange juice.
- Make your own orange juice and enjoy it with lunch or a snack.
- Do an orange juice taste test. You can use homemade juice in the comparison or stick with store bought juices. Graph and discuss the results.
May 6th: No Homework Day
- Give your students a break today and don't assign any homework.
- Have a discussion about the pros and cons of homework. Do your students think that it does have any merit?
- Have older students complete a writing prompt about homework. This is a great topic for persuasive essays. Brainstorm reasons why teachers should or should not assign homework.
May 9th: National Miniature Golf Day
- While I am not a big advocate of non-academic field trips, an end of the year miniature golf outing can be a fun option. For older students, there are numerous teaching opportunities for math and physics that can be tied in to miniature golf. Take advantage of them.
- Research miniature golf courses online and watch videos of difficult holes. Have students consider what makes some holes much tougher than others.
- Have students work individually, in pairs, or in groups to design miniature golf holes. Consider aesthetics as well as difficulty. Have older students incorporate math skills into this assignment to create realistic dimensions for their holes.
May 11th: Eat What You Want Day
- Work as a class to design a lunch or a snack that appeals to everyone in the class. Consider fun food and beverages that you can make as a group. Carry through with this later in the week or month.
- Have students draw pictures and/or write sentences about what they would eat for a day. Consider breakfast, lunch, dinner, desserts, and snacks. Encourage students to be as detailed as possible and to consider why they would or would not choose certain foods and drinks.
- Discuss food moderation and why the occasional indulgence is okay. This is a perfect topic to include in a nutrition lesson plan or unit.
May 13th: I Just Called to Say I Love You Day
- Even if students are not able to call family members or friends from school, they can brainstorm people that they will plan to call in the near future.
- Have students draw pictures and/or write letters to their loved ones. Students can include details about why they love these people and/or information of a more conversation nature (i.e. discussing recent things they have been doing).
- Create greeting cards or simple art projects to accompany the pictures and letters. Consider art projects that won't get easily damaged through hand delivery or shipping.
May 14th: National Dance Like a Chicken Day
- Have a little dance party at the end of the day and bust out your best chicken dance moves. Make sure that everyone feels comfortable without letting things get too crazy.
- Learn about the history of the chicken dance.
- Share stories about previous experiences with the dance. Has anyone been at a wedding or a party where people went crazy dancing?
May 15th: National Chocolate Chip Day
- Do you have a favorite chocolate chip cookie? Discuss or complete a writing prompt about the best chocolate chip cookies out there. They can be handmade or store bought and can include other kinds of chips or add ins (i.e. M&Ms). If students prefer other recipes with chocolate chips (i.e. layer bars, cakes, ice cream flavors), they can share those, too.
- Get permission to use the school's kitchen and make your own chocolate chip cookies.
- Have a chocolate chip cookie taste test. If you made your own cookies, include them in the testing. Graph and discuss the results.
May 28th: International Jazz Day
- If possible, attend a jazz concert or invite a jazz band or trio to play at your school. Is there a local high school with a great jazz band? That's a great place to start. Consider local college bands as well.
- Whether or not you attend a concert, spend some time enjoying jazz music recordings throughout the school day.
- Have students complete a writing prompt about their favorite song, musician, or instrument that they heard at the concert or on a recording today and why they made those choices.
May 28th: National Hamburger Day
- Conduct a survey of favorite restaurant hamburgers or favorite hamburger toppings and discuss the results.
- Learn about the history of the hamburger.
- Have a class cookout and enjoy your own hamburgers with lots of toppings.
May 30th: Water a Flower Day
- Talk to the school custodians about watering the school's flowers and/or other plants. If they are okay with it, take a walking tour of the school property and discuss the types of plants and flowers there before watering them. Additionally, pursue other opportunities to water flowers in the community, such as in parks or at local businesses.
- Discuss why we need to water flowers and tips for watering them properly.
- Learn about your state's flower.
Drinking Water Week (3-10)
- Research the recommended amount of water people should drink every day and the health benefits of drinking enough water.
- Discuss ways to increase how much water you drink everyday, such as drinking water instead of juice or soda with meals and carrying a water bottle with you. Consider ways to make water more interesting to drink that don't add lots of calories (i.e. adding lemon).
- Create a class challenge to drink a certain number of glasses of water during a week. Create a tracking system and record the results every day.
National Backyard Games Week (18-25)
- Learn about the wide variety of backyard games available with everything from horseshoes to croquet to Red Rover. Have students research a game of their choice and present it to the class or write a short report about it. They can complete this in pairs if they like.
- Do students have neat backyard games that they can teach the class? Throughout the week, give different students a chance to share their skills with their peers.
- Pick a backyard game that many students may not know how to play, such as croquet or badminton, and teach it to them.
More holidays and special days teaching resources from the author.
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