Are you looking for a middle school Kwanzaa lesson? This blog post shares some information about why Kwanzaa is celebrated, as well as a non-fiction Kwanzaa lesson that will help your middle school students learn about this celebration.
Middle School Kwanzaa Lesson
Kwanzaa is an important annual celebration that celebrates and affirms African culture, family, and heritage. Its name comes from the Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza,” meaning “first fruits of the harvest” or “first fruits”. Kwanzaa is celebrated for seven days from December 26 to January 1. It was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga, with the first Kwanzaa being celebrated in 1966. Kwanzaa is celebrated for seven days, from December 26 to January 1.
Its name comes from the Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza,” meaning “first fruits of the harvest” or “first fruits.” An extra ‘a’ was added to Kwanza to make it parallel to the 7-day celebration and the 7 values those days recognize.
It is an important time of year for those who celebrate Kwanzaa as they take time to reflect on the seven principles of Kwanzaaknown as Nguzo Saba.
What are some of the traditions of Kwanzaa?
Kwanzaa is an important time of year for those who celebrate as they take time to reflect on the seven principles known as “Nguzo Saba.”
These principles are:
- (Umoja) unity
- (Kujichagulia) self-determination
- (Ujima) collective work and responsibility
- (Ujamaa) cooperative economics
- (Nia) purpose
- (Kuumba) creativity
- (Imani) faith
Some other traditions include:
- Wearing traditional African clothing and decorating homes with the Pan-African flag.
- Joining with family for a special feast on December 31st called “karamu” that serves traditional African dishes.
- Exchanging gifts on January 1st, the last day of the celebration.
- Lighting a candle every day to represent each of the values and traditions of Kwanzaa. There are three red candles, three green candles, and a single black candle.
Middle School Kwanzaa Lesson Suggestions
Finding engaging middle school lesson plans about this topic can be very difficult, meaning that many of our students might not be familiar with this holiday. You can help your students develop an understanding of this seven-day festival by reading non-fiction texts. Helping students to build background knowledge and understanding of world cultures is an important goal no matter what religion your students follow.
I use the Article of the Week format to help my students build their background knowledge. To help with this knowledge building, you can use this middle school Kwanzaa lesson plan that is focused on a nonfiction article. In it, students will learn what Kwanzaa is as well as this important celebration’s history and traditions.
- First have students work on a K-W-L chart to demonstrate then knowledge of this topic.
- Then have students learn some background information about this holiday by watching these videos – What Is Kwanzaa and How Is It Celebrated? and Kwanzaa is an African-inspired holiday | CBC Kids News.
- After the videos have students read a non-fiction article about Kwanzaa.
- It is important to have them reflect on their learning with comprehension questions and a journal entry.
- Have a class discussion about the new learning that has occurred while students complete the final column of their K-W-L chart.
Middle School Kwanzaa Lesson
This Kwanzaa non-fiction article resource contains 1 non-fiction article and 3 post-reading activities to assist with reading comprehension, standardized test prep, and cross-curricular learning. Find this resource on Shopify CAD or Teachers Pay Teachers USD.
- Teacher lesson plan
- Pre-reading K-W-L chart
- 1 Non-fiction article (regular and modified versions)
- An audio file (mp3) of each article (regular and modified versions)
- 3 Post-reading activities: comprehension questions, grammar questions (2 options: paper and self-grading Google Forms), long answer writing response
- Individual PDFs of student pages to assist with online learning i.e. Google Classroom
- Google Slides formatted lessons for 1:1 school
Click here to learn more about this lesson.
How can I celebrate Kwanzaa in my Middle School Classroom?
- Read Books – There are so many wonderful books that show the meaning of Kwanzaa and will help your students learn more about the holiday. Similar to the books I shared during Black History Month, these books are by Black voices, and one of the best ways you can support Black voices is by checking out some Black-owned bookstores. Penguin Random House and Second Story Press have great lists of Black-owned bookstores.
- Use Engaging Kwanzaa Lesson Plans – This Kwanzaa lesson contains 1 non-fiction article and 3 post-reading activities. Find this resource on Shopify CAD or Teachers Pay Teachers USD.
Books to Celebrate Kwanzaa in Middle School
There are lots of books out there to help your students understand Kwanzaa; this is just a selection.
- Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story by Angela Shelf Medearis, illustrated by Daniel Minter – This folktale is about seven brothers who must learn to come together and turn seven spools of thread into gold after the passing of their father.
- Together for Kwanzaa by Juwanda G. Ford, illustrated by Shelly Hehenberger – This is a story about Kayla’s favourite holiday – Kwanzaa. But her brother, Khari, might not be able to make it to the celebration because of a snowstorm. This book teaches children about the traditions of Kwanzaa.
- The Story of Kwanzaa by Donna L. Washington, illustrated by Stephen Taylor – This book not only dives into the history of Kwanzaa, as well as the seven principles but also has an activity at the end of the book and a recipe.
If you’re looking for even more books about Kwanzaa for your middle schoolers, check out some of these lists:
- 9 Books About Kwanzaa: Feminist Books for Kids
- Top 10 Children’s Books about Kwanzaa
- 5 Books to Celebrate Kwanzaa
For more information about Kwanzaa, visit:
- The Canadian Encyclopedia
- The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa
- Kwanzaa — celebrating Pan-African culture, community and history
Other Lesson Plans
I hope you can use some of these resources for your middle school Kwanzaa lesson.