Great Joy: Activities for a Christmas Literature-based Unit Study

Enjoy the literature of the season, while sneaking in some learning during your Christmas break with these Great Joy activities!

Enjoy the literature of the season while sneaking in some learning during Christmas break with these Great Joy activities.

Today’s book is written by the author of such well-loved books as Because of Winn Dixie and The Tale of Despereaux, and this book doesn’t fail to deliver a heart-warming story that Kate DiCamillo is known for. As usual, she deals with hard topics like homelessness and strangers with grace and compassion in this book.

The story begins a few days before Christmas when Frances notices a monkey and his organ grinder owner playing on the street corner. She wonders where he will go tonight, and stays up until midnight to find out. She reaches out to him with kindness and makes one man’s Christmas a little more joyful.

This is a sweet story set in 1940’s New York City, and it is a wonderful way to help children understand poverty and homelessness without overwhelming them. Absolutely a beautiful book and a wonderful addition to your Christmas reading list!


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A Christmas Unit Study

Character Qualities

  • Kindness to Strangers – Frances wants to invite the organ grinder to dinner, but her mother tells her no because he is a stranger. Is this a good reason? Should we be careful around strangers? How can we show kindness to strangers and stay safe? Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Hebrews 13:2
  • Generosity – Frances wanted to help the organ grinder in some way, so she gave him a nickel and invited him to the pageant. How else did Frances show her generous heart? How can we show generosity to those around us? Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Matthew 25:40
  • Bonus Activity: Do a Random Act of Christmas Kindness to someone near you. Kim at Not Consumed has a great printable to help you with that!



  • How much does it cost? – Calculate what it might cost to feed a person for a week? A month? How about other living expenses? How much would he need to make to have a place to live and food to eat?
  • Multiplication Tables – Frances said her multiplication tables to help her stay awake. Can you say your multiplication tables?


Language Arts / Creative Writing:

  • The Rest of the Story – This story ends without telling what happened to the organ grinder after the pageant was over. Write what you think happened next.
  • Kind Things I Can Do – In the story, Frances shows kindness to the stranger in several different ways. Write about something you can do to show kindness to someone in need.


History / Geography:

  • New York City – This book would be a great starting point for a study on New York City.
  • World War II – In the book, we see a picture of a soldier sitting on the dresser, possibly Frances’ father or brother? Find out more about World War II and how it affected people who were still at home in America.
  • Capitals – Frances recites the capitals to stay awake. Play this US Capitals game.



  • Monkey Lapbook – Do a study on monkeys. Do they make good pets? Can they live in places where it snows?
  • Snow – Learn more about snow and have some fun with a snow unit!




Just for Fun:

  • Dress up as an angel and tell the Christmas story
  • Popeye and the Organ Grinder – Video below



I hope you have enjoyed this Christmas Literature-Based Unit Study! Today is Day 1 of 5 Days of Christmas Book Unit Studies.

Christmas is my favorite time of the year, a season of giving! These Christmas Book Unit Studies will help your kids to focus on the reason for the season!

Get more Christmas Book Unit Studies here —–> 

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