The poem that many of us know as “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” was originally called “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” It was written by Clement C. Moore and first printed in a newspaper in 1823.
Hear it read aloud in a video.
There are plenty of picture book versions of this poem, including beautiful ones by Jan Brett and by Mary Engelbreit, and the entire text is readily available for reading aloud. There are things you can do with this in the classroom for all grade levels:
- This poem has spawned many, many parodies and variations. Here is a list of links. Have students choose favorites to read aloud to the class, and then challenge the class to write their own, either together as a class project or individually. The basic rule (though not all the examples here follow it) is that the poem has to begin with “‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the…” A notable exception is “The Legal Version,” which is pretty funny. James Thurber wrote a version “after the manner of Ernest Hemingway,”
- Here’s one specifically for teachers, with accompaniment from “The Nutcracker Suite.”
- Here is a printable ornament from Jan Brett’s version of the story, just for fun.
- Here is a printable coloring book version. This page brings up the controversy about the authorship of the poem, but there isn’t enough controversy to make it an interesting discussion, especially not at the grade levels for which this book is intended. Read more about Moore here.
- Make a blends word wall for the poem. ’twas, twist, twinkling, twinkled; stump, stirring, stockings, obstacle; sleigh; spoke, sprang; smoke; clatter; straight; creature; threw; Prancer, prancing; plums, plump; from; Blitzen; snug; drove, dry, drew, dread,drift; broad, breast
- Practice guessing words from context and dictionary work with this poem.
- “A Visit from St. Nicholas” is the source of Santa’s eight tiny reindeer and their names, and an important document in the development of our current image of Santa Claus (for example, this is where we got a fat Santa). Have older students research images of Santa Claus and create a timeline showing his development as a character. Washington Irving is an important player in the saga. The illustration by Thomas Nast is another major influence that should be included in any such project, as is the Coca-Cola Santa Claus. With these starting points, students should be able to track the folklore successfully.