Teaching Compare & Contrast with Christmas Stories

Teaching Compare and Contrast with Christmas Books

The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree and Silver Packages: An Appalachian Christmas Story are great Christmas stories for teaching compare and contrast. They have many commonalities. Both are a mid-third grade reading level; however, I have used them with students in 6th grade successfully.

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Christmas Stories – The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree

The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree Teaching Activities

 

by Gloria Houston

Pictures by Barbara Cooney

Lexile Measure®: 600L

Grade Level Equivalent: 3.8

Sample Questions from the Handout

When Mama and Ruthie went up the mountain to get their tree, Ruthie became frightened. How did Mama help her get over her fears?

Can you tell who was telling the story by the end of the book? Is it someone different than you predicted at the beginning? How do you know who is telling the story?

Besides being a gift to Ruthie, what part does her doll play in the story? (i.e., could it be a symbol for hope, love, tradition, faith, triumph, etc.) What does the family do with Ruthie’s doll every Christmas from that time on?

Christmas Stories – Silver Packages: An Appalachian Christmas Story

Silver Packages: An Appalachian Christmas Story Teaching Activities

 

by Cynthia Rylant

Paintings by Chris K. Soentpiet

Lexile Measure®: 830L

Grade Level Equivalent: 3.5

 

 

Sample Questions from the Christmas Stories Handout

The Christmas train is compared to —.

Although the year is described as a long time ago, the reader can make an inference as to the approximate year by —.

Write S for simile, M for metaphor, and H for hyperbole in front of each statement.

______ …feet freeze like the snow…

______ …fingers hardened to ice…

______  …the cold wind was cutting sharp as a blade…

Which idiom best describes the story?

    1. what goes around comes around
    2. fight a losing battle
    3. hit below the belt
    4. keep your nose to the grindstone

~~**^**~~ Venn Diagram Comparisons ~~**^**~~

Compare and Contrast Activities for The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree and Silver Packages: An Appalachian Christmas Story

Students will complete four Venn diagrams to compare The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree and Silver Packages: An Appalachian Christmas Story. The comparisons include the character’s wishes, settings, and themes.
Students will also complete a T-chart to compare points of view.

Characters

Ruthie longs for a doll. Her mother stays up all night creating both a dress for Ruthie and a doll from a pair of silk stockings she received as a gift from her husband and her wedding dress.

Frankie longs for a doctor kit from the Christmas Train. He is thankful for the toys and clothing he receives, but he never receives a toy doctor kit. Frank does grow up to become a doctor and uses his doctor’s kit to locate a Band-Aid for a young girl.

Setting

The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree is set in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina in the valley of Pine Grove near Grandfather Mountain. The story begins in the spring during the Armistice (World War I) and then moves to Christmas Eve of that year.

Silver Packages is set in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia. (Note:  Although the book itself doesn’t mention West Virginia, Chris Soentpiet, the illustrator of the book, based his painting on a West Virginian town.) The story begins when Frankie is a young boy and continues until he is a grown man. 

Theme

People without much money can be happy by having a positive attitude.

In The Year of the Perfect Christmas TreeRuthie and her mother must learn how to survive on their own with very little money because Ruthie’s father is away fighting in World War I.

Proof from Text

Ruthie’s mother knew how to “make do” with what they had by using honey instead of sugar, herbal tea instead of coffee, embroidering flowers over rips and tears, and lowering the hems of Ruthie’s dresses.

In Silver Packages, Frankie grows up in a coal-mining town. The reader can assume his father may be a coal miner. The family is very poor.

Proof from Text

Some clues in the story that the family has little money include the following:

Frankie is cold because he doesn’t have adequate clothing.

He plays with whatever present he receives from the Christmas train which the reader can assume is the only gift he receives for Christmas.

~~**^**~~ Appalachian Dialect ~~**^**~~

The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree Dialect

The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree uses a number of expressions that are regional to the Appalachian area. Students will tell the meanings of the following phrases:

  • The old woman in the sky was picking her geese.
  • Ruthie’s coal-black curls
  • the war across the sea or the Great War
  • St. Nicholas
  • hill and holler
  • heed my wish
  • Tom is as good as his word.
  • come in and spell yourself
  • treat poke

 

~~**^**~~ Comparing Trains ~~**^**~~

Tweetsie Railroad

Tweetsie Railroad

Ruthie is expecting Papa to come home from the war on the Tweetsie Train. Ruthie talks about how she anticipates the Tweetsie whistleblowing through the mountain after school each day. Mother and Ruthie go to the train station when they hear the whistle. Men from the war get off the train, but Papa isn’t with them.

 

Tweetsie, as the locals fondly called the train, began in 1866 when the East Tennessee & Western North Carolina Railroad Company was granted permission for the construction of a railroad. Operations for the railroad began in 1882 after 50 miles of track were laid. The train traveled from Johnson City, Tennessee to Cranberry, North Carolina. The first train carried lumber. In 1919, a new line extended to Boone, North Carolina, and passenger service was added. After severe flooding destroyed sections of the railroad line in August of 1940, the train ceased operations. On July 13, 1950, Tweetsie Locomotive No. 12 was purchased and became part of a Wild West theme park in the summer of 1957. Tweetsie continues to run today at the theme park.

Santa Train

Santa Train

The Christmas Train in Silver Packages is based on the Santa Train.

The Santa Special or Santa Train has run the weekend before Thanksgiving every year since 1943. This train travels through the Appalachian Mountains from Shelby, Kentucky to Kingsport, Tennessee. Santa and his helpers toss toys and candy from the open platform office car to the waiting children and their families.

The tradition started when a small group of Kingsport businessmen wanted to do something special for their customers. They made arrangements with representatives of the Clinchfield Railroad for the train trip.

Get all activities in printable format along with the link to the Google Slides version by clicking on this button.

 

GET ACTIVITIES HERE.

 

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