Bringing 'A Christmas Carol' to Life in Middle School Classrooms

November 12, 2021

By Tara Thomas 



The Dickens Project welcomed a new educator to its 40th annual Dickens Universe this year. Attracted to the virtual “Christmas in July” because of his love of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, Teague Tubach from Charter School of Morgan Hill joined Nirshan Perera (Pacific Collegiate School) and Melisa Klimazewski (Drake University) in a roundtable discussion entitled ‘The lessons they teach’: Christmas Carol Pedagogies.”

Teague Tubach teaches seventh grade humanities through project-based learning at Charter School of Morgan Hill. During our conversation, I learned that he is also a banana slug: he graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a degree in philosophy in 2009. During his time at UC Santa Cruz, he volunteered in his daughter’s kindergarten and first grade classes, where he discovered his love of teaching. “A rambunctious group of six year olds convinced me to get into education,” he fondly recounts. After graduate school, he taught fifth grade humanities for five years before becoming a seventh grade humanities teacher, where he found his niche. Teaching the “sevies…is my jam”. 

“I genuinely love kids (yes, even middle school kids), and I feel as if my role as their teacher and mentor gives my life purpose. I spend a lot of time each year with really interesting young people, and they never cease to amaze me. Sometimes, while meeting new people I’m asked “what do you teach?” but the better question would be “who do you teach?”—that gets to the heart of my favorite thing about this profession: young people”.

Tubach is a passionate educator who uses Christmas Carol to engage students in important issues while teaching them the beauty of language. “Carol,” he says, “speaks to my soul, and I also think it represents the highest of his [Dickens’s] stylistic form. There’s verbosity, there’s brevity, and there’s some of the most beautiful sentences ever composed in the English language.” The focus of his seventh grade humanities class is social good; he teaches students knowledge, skills, courage, wisdom, and empathy to understand and improve the human condition. “What better story to encompass this objective!” Tubach declares excitedly. 

The project-based learning unit Tubach creates in his course brings Carol to life through an original adaptation. “My goal,” Tubach explains, “is to highlight all of their talents and bring others to fruition.” After reading and analyzing Carol, students write, organize, and perform their Christmas Carol adaptation. “They design the sets, build props, procure costumes, memorize lines and perform. Even the spotlight-reluctant students end up loving the experience.” It is, he describes it, truly “magical.” 

The unit also has a community-based component, with students and parents running a food drive. Parents dress up as Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Past for the performance, passing out candy and welcoming guests. Amazed and inspired by the scope of this annual performance, I asked Tubach if he had any advice for aspiring teachers who might want to replicate the project in their own community. “Just do it! Even if you’re up against a system that discourages creative projects. Even if it seems crazy and fool-hearted. Even if it takes “‘too much’ time and energy. Just. Do. It….If you truly want to encourage life-long learning and create memories that will resound for decades, dig deep and go big!” 

Inspired to recreate this exciting project in my next Victorian literature class, I thanked Teague for his inspiring story and welcomed him back to Dickens Universe again next year.