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This unit study includes lessons and activities based on the book Trees of the Dancing Goats by Patricia Polacco.

Trisha loves the eight days of Hanukkah, when her mother stays home from work, her Babushka makes delicious potato latkes, and her Grampa carves wonderful animals out of wood as gifts for Trisha and her brother. In the middle of her family’s preparation for the festival of lights, Trisha visits her closest neighbors, expecting to find them decorating their house for Christmas. Instead they are all bedridden with scarlet fever. What can Trisha’s family do to help their neighbors?

Trees of the Dancing Goats summary from amazon.com

This special story is based on one of Patricia Polacco’s childhood memories. It will inspire you and your student to be good neighbors and to love others well.

Trees of the Dancing Goats Unit Study Lessons

Our Trees of the Dancing Goats unit study contains lessons that tie into this amazing story.

Here is a sample of the lessons found in this Trees of the Dancing Goats unit study:

over their Syrian rulers more than 2,000 years ago. Although Hanukkah is technically a minor Jewish festival, it is the only holiday for which Jews exchange gifts. It is celebrated in the Jewish month of Kislev, which usually falls in December. Hanukkah is not “the Jewish Christmas”; it is a festival with a rich history and tradition of its own.

The celebration of Hanukkah goes back to 165 B.C. At that time, the Jews of Judea had lived for many years under the oppressive hand of Syria, whose rulers outlawed Jewish worship and desecrated the temple in Jerusalem. Even though they were outnumbered, the Jews took up arms to defend their lifestyle and religion. They overwhelmed the Syrians in two decisive battles. Their leader was Judah Maccabees, whose mythic strength earned him the nickname “The Hammer.”

When the Jewish army entered the temple to consecrate it, their first task was to rekindle the Eternal Light, a sacred oil lamp that was left burning continuously. The Maccabees had only one jar of oil, enough to keep the flame lit only for a single day. They sent out a messenger to find and bring back more sanctified oil, and it took the messenger eight days to return. Miraculously, the Eternal Light continued to burn those eight days. Hanukkah, which also is called the Festival of Lights, celebrates that miracle.

Character Building: Sharing
Grampa had hand-carved wooden animals for Trisha and Richard including the dancing goats. Their mother suggested that they use the animals to decorate Christmas trees for their neighbors. At first Trisha was disappointed. Discuss the saying, “it is better to give than receive.” Is this true?

At the end of the story, what happens? The neighbors make a menorah for Trisha’s family complete with some of the wooden animals that were given away! So, in the end, Trisha did get some of the animals. 

Language Arts: Foreshadowing
Foreshadowing is when an author gives the reader a hint or suggestion of something that is yet to come. Grampa says, “Miracles can happen even today.” This is an example of foreshadowing; it gives the reader a clue that there will be a miracle in this story. Can your student recall the miracle at the end of the story? (The candles in the menorah haven’t burned down at all.)

You can grab a copy of the entire Trees of the Dancing Goats unit study in an easy-to-print file at the end of this post.

How to Get Started with the Trees of the Dancing Goats Unit Study

Follow these simple instructions to get started with the Trees of the Dancing Goats:

  1. Buy a copy of the book, Trees of the Dancing Goats, or borrow one from your local library.
  2. Print the Trees of the Dancing Goats unit study.
  3. Choose the lessons you want to use with your student (a highlighter works great for this).
  4. Enjoy a week of book-based learning with your student.

Download Your Trees of the Dancing Goats Unit Study

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Trees of the Dancing Goats Unit Study

More Patricia Polacco Christmas Unit Studies

Check out these other holiday unit studies based on Patricia Polacco books.

An Orange for Frankie Unit Study
Christmas Tapestry Unit Study