A Musher’s Night Before Christmas


Getting in the holiday spirit

Just in time for the holidays, I read Musher’s Night Before Christmas, by Tricia Brown, to my class.  The book is a fun version of the Clement C. Moore classic poem, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas written in 1822.


Musher’s Night Before Christmas by Tricia Brown

In this modern Alaskan tale, Santa asks the help of a champion musher and his dog team to bring Christmas presents to the children of Nome.  It seems Rudolph’s nose is not so bright, and the headlamp of Tom the musher is what Santa needs to guide his sleigh from above.

“In the wink of an eye, Tom was planning his scheme.

Quickly suited and booted, then assembling his team. 

From a kennel of champions, Tom chose his best eight:

Joe, Lance, Susan, Rick, Doug, Jeff, Martin, Kate.”

Vocabulary terms and information are woven into the story, and there is a glossary at the end of the book with facts and information for children about the Iditarod and mushing.

To make this lesson a little more fun and challenging, I read another book to my class based upon ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, but this version had a theme from the Lone Star State.


Texas Night Before Christmas by James Rice

In Texas Night Before Christmas, by James Rice, Santa arrives on the prairie with a wagon pulled by a team of longhorn cattle.

“He was dressed all in rawhide with a Stetson on top.

His big Texas boots hit the floor with a clop.

His eyes were both squinty and his skin was like leather

From too much exposure to the raw Texas weather.”

I covered our class tables with black butcher paper, and I handed out colored chalk to my students.  I drew giant Venn diagrams on the paper, and students were put into groups to compare and contrast the two Christmas tales.


Collaborating and comparing the holiday stories

When we were finished with our Venn diagrams, we had a class discussion and compared our collaborative efforts.  My students worked hard to find details that were unique about each version and what they both had in common.

When we completed our group work, I gave a Venn diagram worksheet to each student.  After the lesson, they filled in their worksheet as an independent assessment tool.

Venn Diagram PDF

A Musher’s Night Before Christmas Lesson Plan

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The 2016 Winter Conference for Educators is an amazing week for educators around the country to come together and learn best teaching practices surrounding the theme of the Iditarod.  Check out the Iditarod site for more information about this unique professional development opportunity.

I will be joined this year by a few talented teachers from my school, Eanes Elementary, here in Austin, Texas.  We will be sharing STEM and STEAM hands-on lessons based upon the Iditarod theme with conference attendees.  We hope to see you there!