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Teaching in January: What Elementary Teachers Need to Know in 2023

The secret to teaching in January and keeping students engaged and learning is integrating holidays and special days into your instruction. There are so many holidays and special days in January to celebrate with your elementary students. Some of the more popular ones are New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr., and Poverty in American Awareness Month. You’ll find the full list of January events, holidays, and special days teachers can celebrate and use as teaching topics and themes below. Gets tons of January teaching ideas below!

January Holidays and Special Days

As you starting brainstorming January teaching ideas, add these January holidays and special days to your teacher planner.

Month-Long January Events

Below are month-long January events you can use as topics and themes for when you are coming up with January teaching ideas.

Poverty in America Awareness Month Activities

Poverty in America Awareness Month is observed during the month of January in the United States every year. This month brings awareness to poverty which is one of the largest and scariest problems in society. This month is the perfect time to take a moment with your class to learn more about poverty and explore the shocking data and statistics connected to the nationwide issue. If you need related resources, check out the activities below!

A Bike Like Sergio'sThose Shoes book companionLast Stop on Market Street book companionMaddi's FridgeThank You Omu

January Holidays

Below are January holidays you can use as topics and themes for when you are coming up with January teaching ideas.

Kwanzaa (12/26-1/1) Activities

Kwanzaa is a cultural celebration that goes from December 26th through January 1st in the United States. Activist Maulana Karenga created this holiday to celebrate African-American culture. Kwanzaa is a great day to feast and celebrate family along with taking the time to sit back and learn about your own, or other cultures and appreciate the history! If you need related resources, check out the activities below!

Holidays Around the World Unit

New Year’s Day (1/1) Activities

New Year’s Day is celebrated on January 1st every year in the United States and most of the world! This day celebrates the first day of the year which people signify as a fresh start with new beginnings. Leading up to this day is New Year’s Eve, which is celebrated the night before New Years day. People celebrate until the clock strikes 12. When the ball in New York City drops, this signifies that the new year has begun! This is the perfect opportunity to teach students about the tradition of New Year’s resolutions and explore the history of this festivity! If you need related resources, check out the activities below!

New Years writing and craft projectSquirrel's New Year's Resolution book companionFreedom Soup book companion

Epiphany (1/6) Activities

Epiphany, also known as Three King’s Day, is celebrated on January 1st every year. Epiphany is a Christian festival and celebrates the three wise men or kings who were led to baby Jesus by a star in the sky! This date is important in the Christmas story and is the perfect day to learn more about this religious story. If you need related resources, check out the activities below!

Holidays Around the World Unit

Martin Luther King Jr. Day (3rd Monday in January) Activities

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a federal holiday. It is celebrated on the third Monday in January in the United States every year. This day celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. ‘s birthday, who was born January 15, 1929. Martin Luther is a significant historical figure who was an activist in the Civil rights movement known for his “I have a dream” speech. This is the perfect day to explore the topics regarding racism, equality, social change, and history looking back at this important civil rights movement. If you need related resources, check out the activities below!

MLK book companionsMartin Luther King Jr. activitiesMLK Would You Rather activities
Martin Luther King Jr. Color by Code activityMLK non-fiction unitMLK activity packet

Authors’ Birthdays in January

Below are authors who have birthdays in January. This makes it so their books are great for when you are looking for January teaching ideas.

Drew Daywalt’s Birthday (1/5) Activities

Drew Daywalt is an American author and filmmaker born on January 5th. Drew Daywalt wrote many well known children’s books such as The Day the Crayons Quit, The Day the Crayons Came Home, and The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors. If you need related resources, check out the activities below!

The Day the Crayons QuitThe Day the Crayons Came Home book companionThe Legend of the Rock Paper Scissors

Vera B. William’s Birthday (1/28) Activities

Vera B. Williams is an American children’s author and illustrator born on January 28th. Vera B. Williams wrote many amazing children’s books including A Chair for My Mother. If you need related resources, check out the activities below!

A Chair for My Mother

January Special Days

Below are special days in January that you can use as topics and themes for when you are coming up with January teaching ideas.

World Introvert Day (1/2) Activities

World Introvert Day is celebrated on January 2nd. It is a day to celebrate being an introvert and to take the time to be alone and recharge! In society, everyone is either an introvert or an extrovert yet a small piece of every individual is an introvert and needs some one-on-one time to themselves. Today is the perfect day to do some introverted activities in the classroom or after school at home such as reading, watching a movie, baking, coloring, or any other activity that will help recharge your social battery!

National Drinking Straw Day (1/3) Activities  

National Drinking Straw Day is celebrated on January 3rd. It is a day to appreciate the invention of the straw! Created by Martin Stone in 1888, the straw helps reach liquids at the bottom of a cup through a long narrow rolled up piece of plastic, metal, or paper. This is the perfect day to think about the history and the significance of the helpful invention! If you need related resources, check out the activities below!

Straw book companion

National Bird Day (1/5) Activities  

National Bird Day is celebrated on January 5th every year. It is a day to celebrate and bring awareness to beautiful creatures known as birds! Birds are wild animals. Many are on the verge of going extinct. This is the perfect time to come together as a class and learn about a specific bird through videos and read alouds. You could also donate to an organization that helps and brings awareness to these species. If you need related resources, check out the activities below!

Bird HugsNerdy Birdy

National Dress Up Your Pet Day (1/14) Activities 

National Dress Up Your Pet Day is celebrated on January 14th. It involves putting cats, dogs and other pets in fun costumes! Pet’s are adorable on their own, but dressed up as a little firefighter, princess, frog, or celebrity makes them 100x cuter! This is the perfect day to go all out and dress up your little furry friends and have a photo shoot to celebrate National Dress Up Your Pet Day!

National Hat Day (1/15) Activities 

National Hat Day is celebrated on January 15th. It is a day dedicated to wearing and showing off your favorite hat! In 1797, the first top hat appeared in court and national hat day helps celebrate and remember this iconic day, while also encouraging people to wear this fun accessory! This is the perfect day to have you and your students find and wear their most unique and fun hat and wear it to school to celebrate National Hat Day! If you need related resources, check out the activities below!

The Hat book companionI Want My Hat BackWe Found a HatA Hat for Mrs. Goldman

National Thesaurus Day (1/18) Activities  

National Thesaurus Day is celebrated on January 18th. It celebrates the helpful book known as the thesaurus. The first edition of this book was created by Peter Mark Roget, who was born on January 18, 1779. He created this book to help people all around the world with finding, using and defining hundreds of words. This is the perfect day to pick up a thesaurus and explore all the words and definitions, while also appreciating the time and effort that went into creating it. If you need related resources, check out the activities below!

The Word Collector

Penguin Awareness Day (1/20) Activities 

Penguin Awareness Day is celebrated on January 20th. It is a day that celebrated and brings awareness to the adorable animal known as the penguin. These birds are flightless and live in colder regions. It’s important to bring awareness to the species because slowly they are becoming endangered. This is the perfect day to explore the adorable flightless bird in your classroom through videos and read alouds to celebrate Penguin Awareness Day! If you need related resources, check out the activities below!

Penguin-themed would you rather questionsPenguin book bundlepenguin activity packetpenguin reading comprehension activities
penguin color by code activityPenguin activitiespenguin close reading activitiespenguin printable activities

National Hugging Day (1/21) Activities 

National Hugging Day is celebrated on January 21st. Kevin Zaborney created this day. On this day, people show affection and love towards friends, family, and significant others through the action of hugging! Today is the perfect day to give each student a hug before entering your classroom to celebrate national hugging day! If you need related resources, check out the activities below!

I Need a Hug book companionNobody Hugs a CactusHug It Out book companionBird Hugs

National Pie Day (1/23) Activities

National Pie Day is celebrated on January 23rd every year. It celebrates the yummy dessert of pie! People celebrate this national day by eating and making yummy pies such as apple, lemon, pumpkin, and chocolate cream! Today is the perfect day to incorporate eating pies in your classroom to celebrate National Pie Day! If you need related resources, check out the activities below!

Enemy PiePiggie Pie book companion

National Compliment Day (1/24) Activities

We celebrate National Compliment Day on January 24th every year. Kathy Chamberlin and Bebby Haffyman from New Hampshire created this special day to spread smiles and make someone’s day! This day helps create a positive day and boost people’s confidence through little acts of kindness! Today is the perfect day to give someone a real and genuine complement and have your students celebrate through speaking kind words in your classroom community! If you need related resources, check out the activities below!

Kindness SEL Unit

Library Shelfie Day (4th Wednesday in January) Activities

Library Shelfie Day is celebrated on the fourth Wednesday in January every year! The New York Public Library founded this day in 2014. It helps spread an appreciation for books, reading and to encourage people to visit their local library! Today is the perfect day to have your class visit the school library and pick out a book of their choice and maybe (with parents permission) take a class shelfie! *(a selfie in front of a book shelf!).

National Chocolate Cake Day (1/27) Activities 

National Chocolate Cake Day is celebrated on January 27th in the United States. This day was created to show appreciation towards James Baker who discovered how to make the flavor chocolate out of cocoa beans which later turned into other creations such as chocolate cake! This is the perfect day to whip up a homemade chocolate cake or buy a store bought one and bring it to class to celebrate National Chocolate Cake Day! If you need related resources, check out the activities below!

Everyone Loves Cupcake

National Fun at Work Day (Last Friday in January) Activities 

National Fun at Work Day is celebrated on the last Friday in January. This day is dedicated to having fun at work! This day was created to increase productivity while also creating a positive and happy community for the workers to come together, take a brain break and create friendships and bonds at work! This is the perfect day to incorporate fun activities in your classroom, fun for both you and your students because being a teacher and a learner is a job and hard work!

National Puzzle Day (1/29) Activities

We celebrate National Puzzle Day on January 29th. Jill Jodi created this national day in 2002. She had a love for puzzles and wanted to spread that love by creating its own special day! Today is the perfect day to celebrate puzzles and to promote teamwork and problem solving skills in your classroom by bringing a variety of puzzles to school to have students work together to complete the image! If you need related resources, check out the activities below!

math number tile puzzles for addition and subtractionmath number tile puzzles for multiplication and division

National Hot Chocolate Day (1/31) Activities

We celebrate National Hot Chocolate Day on January 31st. The melted chocolate drink topped with marshmallows and cream is the perfect beverage to drink on a cold winter day and deserves appreciation! Today is the perfect day to mix up some yummy hot chocolate in your crockpot and serve it in little cups for you and your students to celebrate this national day! If you need related resources, check out the activities below!

project-based learning task

Popular Topics in January

Animals in winter, penguins, snow, and snowmen are all great topics to teach in January. They are great topics for when you are coming up with January teaching ideas.

Animals in Winter

animals in winter printable reading activitiesarctic animals printable activitiesanimal research project activities

Snowmen

Snowmen book bundleSnowmen Would You Rather activitiesSnowman Color by Code activitysnowmen graphic organizersSnowmen at Night bulletin board

Penguins

Penguin-themed would you rather questionsPenguin book bundlepenguin activity packetpenguin reading comprehension activities
penguin color by code activityPenguin activitiespenguin close reading activitiespenguin printable activities

Snow

snow would you rather questionsSnow non-fiction reading passages and activitiessnow activity packetsnow-themed color by code activitySnow book bundle

We hope you found this post with information and resources for teaching in January helpful! If you enjoyed this post, you may be interested in these other posts related to January teaching ideas:

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Winter Opinion Writing FREEBIE!

Grab this freebie and engage your students in a fun seasonal activity. It’s a great way to practice opinion writing.