Author: Erin Ratchford

Grade Level: Early Elementary



Students will be able to explain some of the symbols of Kwanzaa.

Students will demonstrate their understanding of Kwanzaa by making a book about what they have learned.


Background Information


Materials Needed:

The Gifts of Kwanzaa by Synthia Saint James

Symbols of Kwanzaa: straw mat, candle holder (for 7 candles) and seven candles (1 black, 3 red, and 3 green), ears of corn, fruits and vegetables, and unity cup OR make a poster displaying the items to show students.

Paper for books



Freeman, D.R. and D.M. MacMillan. (1992). Kwanzaa. Hillside, NJ: Enslow Publishers.

Hintz, M. and K. (1996). Kwanzaa: Why We Celebrate It the Way We Do. Mankato: Capstone Press.

James, S.S. (1994). The Gifts of Kwanzaa. Morton Grove, IL: Albert Whitman & Co..



INTRODUCTION: Read The Gifts of Kwanzaa by Synthia Saint James out loud to the class. As you read, you may want to stop and discuss each of the seven principles in the context of how they play a part in the students' own personal lives. (For example, in talking about Nia, you could ask, "What are some goals you have?") Discuss the who, why, what, where, and how of Kwanzaa as they are covered in the book. (Make sure that students understand that Kwanzaa is not celebrated in Africa, but draws from its heritage.)

MINI-LESSON: Display Kwanzaa items on a table or have a poster to look at and explain the various symbols and the Swahili words for each. Have the students repeat the words until it seems they can match the symbols with the word and meaning. Label each symbol with the Swahili word. If you can acquire more literature or artifacts about Kwanzaa, you might want to set aside a center or table to display the symbols along with the additional resources that children can refer to in their free time for enrichment.

CULMINATION: Have students choose three concepts or symbols that they learned about Kwanzaa. On separate pieces of paper, have them draw a picture and write a sentence describing the meaning of each concept or symbol. These could then be made into personal books or a class Kwanzaa book. Gather the students and let them share their pages as a final summary and review.



Kwanzaa books will be evaluated. Are the sentences and pictures appropriate and correct?