by Tzuri Hason, adapted from the original Hebrew –
Often, as educators, we set out with a curriculum and goals that must be covered. We build our lessons around achieving those goals, and we add some enjoyable activities that will ensure our students are not bored and remain connected to our lesson. If everything goes according to plan, we come out feeling like we had a great day.
However, what if our primary goal was to have fun? Well, with Chanukah, we have the perfect opportunity to just have fun! Below, I have compiled different activities that we can enjoy with our students on Chanukah without giving up on educational goals.
A wonderful friend of my wife’s, Bazy Rubin, has been creating fantastic games and uploading them on her website and Youtube channel. When I first saw her Chanukah games, all I could think about was how much I wanted to play the games with my students! I was sure my principal would let me play the games, but, as a responsible educator, I felt they needed to be tied to learning, at least a little bit.
Below, I’ve looked at a few of Bazy’s games and given some ideas on how to play them in the classroom.
In the “Balloon Cup Challenge” players need to build a pyramid by moving cups using a balloon inflated inside the cup. Watch the video, it’s really not as confusing as it sounds. For an educational twist, tell your students to “build” the temple, and afterward they will make the pyramid fall in representation of its destruction. Either before, or after, use this as an opportunity to discuss the desecration that took place in the Temple.
Bazy has two games involving chocolate coins, Chanukah gelt. The “Gelt on the Belt” game is great for smaller children or with high schoolers (separated by gender). It’s an amazing game and so much fun. The whole class will be roaring with laughter!
I also used Bazy’s “Gelty Pleasure” game with a group of fifth graders last year, and they absolutely loved it. Without a doubt, it was one of the best classes I had that year.
Both of these games use Chanukah gelt, which gives us an opportunity to teach students about the fascinating history of these chocolate coins. While, admittedly, the most powerful promoters of these delicious coins were the chocolate companies, they are in fact based in tradition. There are sources that state that it was a custom to hand out coins to Torah teachers so that they too would have money for the oil and wicks necessary to observe the central mitzvah of Chanukah, the lighting of the menorah. Today, that tradition has been reversed with children becoming the recipient of those coins.
“Marble Bowling Mania!” includes the use of candles, giving us the opportunity to discuss one of the great Chanukah mahklokets (disagreeements) found in Tractate Shabbat. Through this game we can discuss the mahkloket between Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai, asking the question of whether we should add or reduce the light throughout the eight nights.
Is “Dreidel Drop” a bit too simple? Perhaps many students already know about dreidels, but do they know about the miracle that occurred? Was it simply the oil that lasted eight days, or perhaps there was something more? If you want to give your students a deeper look, you could study the words of “Hallel” that are recited during Chanukah, or you can examine the additions to the Amidah or Birkat HaMazon. There are plenty of texts that can be used alongside the game to give the students a deeper understanding of the miracle of Chanukah!
Last, but not least, we have sufganiyot!
Now, you’re probably asking yourself, “Isn’t eating them enjoyable enough!?” Of course, eating them is great, but you can also take a deeper look with a baking workshop, decorating them, or playing the above game. Besides sufganiyot, there are plenty of other fatty foods that can be eaten, such as latkes, and they too can be used to make fun activities.
No matter what games you choose to play or lessons you share, I wish you a happy, meaningful, and, most of all, fun Chanukah. Happy Chanukah!
If you enjoyed Bazy’s videos you can find even more content and games, for Chanukah and other holidays, on her Facebook.