What Is Kwanzaa?


Our What Is Kwanzaa lesson plan teaches students all about the holiday of Kwanzaa, including its origins and the ways in which it is celebrated. Students will learn about its creation in 1966 and the symbols associated with it. They will also learn about the seven principles of Kwanzaa, each of which guides their celebrations.

Included with this lesson are several optional additions or adjustments, found in the “Options for Lesson” section. One of these is to invite someone who celebrates the holiday to your class to speak about why the celebrate it and how!

Buy Now For $1.95


What our What Is Kwanzaa lesson plan includes

Lesson Objectives and Overview: What Is Kwanzaa teaches students all about this important and interesting holiday, including its origins and how people celebrate it today and in the past. At the end of the lesson, students will be able to explain the secular origins and traditions of Kwanzaa and identify the various symbols and meanings related to the holiday. This lesson is for students in 3rd grade, 4th grade, 5th grade, and 6th grade.

Classroom Procedure

Every lesson plan provides you with a classroom procedure page that outlines a step-by-step guide to follow. You do not have to follow the guide exactly. The guide helps you organize the lesson and details when to hand out worksheets. It also lists information in the orange box that you might find useful. You will find the lesson objectives, state standards, and number of class sessions the lesson should take to complete in this area. In addition, it describes the supplies you will need as well as what and how you need to prepare beforehand. For this lesson, the only supplies you will need are the handouts. To prepare for this lesson ahead of time, you can group the students for the activity and copy the handouts.

Options for Lesson

Included with this lesson is an “Options for Lesson” section that lists a number of suggestions for activities to add to the lesson or substitutions for the ones already in the lesson. One alternate activity, which may be better for younger students, is to have them write an acrostic poem using the word Kwanzaa. You can also have them create a poster advertising or publicizing the holiday. An addition to the lesson could be to have a local community member who has knowledge of or celebrates Kwanzaa to come speak to your class about the holiday. You can also plan an entire Kwanzaa Day where you serve food, play music, and display some of the symbols and colors of the holiday.

Teacher Notes

The teacher notes page includes a paragraph with additional guidelines and things to think about as you begin to plan your lesson. This page also includes lines that you can use to add your own notes as you’re preparing for this lesson.


What Is Kwanzaa?

This lesson includes four pages of content. The first section of this lesson describes what the holiday of Kwanzaa is and where it came from. Students will learn that Kwanzaa is one of the newest celebrations. A professor and chairman of the Black Students at California State University named Dr. Maulana Karenga created it in 1966. He saw this holiday as a way to bring African American people together during a time of turmoil. He created this holiday by combining aspects of African harvest celebrations with other events and guiding principles.

Students will learn that, while every family or community might celebrate Kwanzaa differently, most celebrations include a few things. Songs and dances, African drums, storytelling, poetry, reading, and a large meal are all typical parts of a Kwanzaa celebration. Families also light candles on a Kinara, or candleholder, one each of the seven nights of the holiday. Each of these represents one of the seven symbols of Kwanzaa. People then typically follow lighting the candle with a discussion of that symbol and what it means.

Symbols and Principles of Kwanzaa

Students will then learn about some of the symbols that are an essential part of the holiday. The holiday has three colors: red, black, and green. Red represents the blood that is shed in the pursuit of freedom, black represents the color of the people, and green represents the fertile land of Africa. These colors are very important during the feast of karamu. People celebrate karamu on the night of December 31st. This feast includes many traditional dishes and traditional ingredients, like sesame seeds, peanuts, sweet potatoes, and more.

Next, the lesson includes a table with the seven symbols of Kwanzaa. It lists the symbol, the meaning, and the action. The symbols are Kikombe Cha Umoja, the unity cup; Kinara, the candleholder which holds seven candles; Mazao, fruits, nuts, and vegetables; Mishumaa Saba, the seven candles; Mkeka, place mat; Vibunzi, ear of corn; Zawadi, gifts. Each of these symbols is paired with an action or actions, outlined in the table.

Students will learn that the candles that they light have meanings as well! The green candles represent the future, while the red candles represent the fight to get out of slavery. While celebrating the holiday, people often wear the traditional colors in their clothing.

The next page includes a similar table for the seven principles of Kwanzaa that lists the principle, meaning, and action. The principles are umoja, or unity; kujichagulia, or self-determination; ujima, or collective work and responsibility; ujamaa, or cooperative economics; nia, or sense of purpose; kuumba, or creativity; imani, or faith. Students will learn that these are all values of African culture which contribute to a strong sense of community and unity. Millions of people celebrate Kwanzaa every year, starting on December 26th and ending on January 1st.

Key Terms

Here is a list of the vocabulary words students will learn in this lesson plan:

  • Kwanzaa: one of the newest holidays celebrated in the United States; a seven-day non-religious celebration for African Americans founded in 1966
  • Kinara: candleholder used in Kwanzaa celebrations; holds seven candles, one of which is lit every night of the holiday
  • Karamu: a great feast held on December 31st; usually celebrated at home, church, or a community center


The What Is Kwanzaa lesson plan includes three worksheets: an activity worksheet, a practice worksheet, and a homework assignment. You can refer to the guide on the classroom procedure page to determine when to hand out each worksheet.


Students will work with a group to complete this activity worksheet. The worksheet lists the seven principles of Kwanzaa along with some targeted questions about that principle that students can use to think about how they might apply to their own communities. Students will think about their communities and will discuss their answers with their group members. They will then write their answers on the worksheet and have a class discussion.

Students can also work either alone or in pairs, rather than in groups, for this activity.


For the practice worksheet, students will read actions and pair them with the correct Kwanzaa principle. For example, they will have to figure out which Kwanzaa principle corresponds to “Local businesses hire local people to work at their stores.”

Students will also answer questions about Kwanzaa, like what year it was created and what various colors represent during this celebration. This will test their knowledge and understanding of the lesson material.


The homework assignment asks students to use words from a word bank to fill in the blanks in a number of statements and paragraphs. Next, they will draw a picture that could be used for a Kwanzaa celebration. This allows them to use both their creativity and their knowledge of the holiday!

Worksheet Answer Keys

This lesson plan includes answer keys for the practice worksheet and the homework assignment. No answer key is provided for the activity worksheet as each group’s answers to the questions will vary. If you choose to administer the lesson pages to your students via PDF, you will need to save a new file that omits these pages. Otherwise, you can simply print out the applicable pages and keep these as reference for yourself when grading assignments.

Additional information


Social Studies, Video


3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th Grade, 6th Grade

State Educational Standards


Lessons are aligned to meet the education objectives and goals of most states. For more information on your state objectives, contact your local Board of Education or Department of Education in your state.

Customer Reviews
4.5 Based on 2 Reviews
5 ★
4 ★
3 ★
2 ★
1 ★
Write a Review

Thank you for submitting a review!

Your input is very much appreciated. Share it with your friends so they can enjoy it too!

Filter Reviews:
United States United States

I used the lesson in conjunction with another lesson plan.



This was the most thorough tracking for kids material I could find on the topic (at least without cost)