Christmas Survival Guide for Teachers
I remember it all too well. Those few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas can be a bit overwhelming. You're desperately trying to keep holiday-crazed kids focused and learning all while trying to maintain your sanity both inside and outside of the classroom
There's Christmas shopping to do for family and friends, holiday parties, papers to grade before the long break, and about 100 other things to check off of your to-do list. You want to incorporate holiday fun into your classroom, but you barely have time to eat during this time of year let alone plan holiday activities for your students.
Well, breathe, friend, breathe...
As we enter this crazy time of year, I want to help you feel less stressed and more prepared for the hectic weeks ahead.
And I think I have juuuust the right resources to do the trick. Below you'll find my top tips for making it through December alive and well.
Read on and carry on :)
SURVIVAL TIP: DON'T CREATE IT IF SOMEONE ELSE ALREADY HAS!
My first survival tip is to collect tons of freebies and already-done-for-you resources to save you time and energy this month. This is especially helpful this time of year when you're already trying to fit in extra stuff (both personally and professionally). If someone else has already done the work for you, then you can sit back and take more time for yourself.
I've done the leg work for you by putting together my FREE planning guide: Christmas in a SNAP. It's loaded with tons of resources for all content areas that are ready to print and use right away! You can download it by clicking below:
But wait - there's more! I also wanted to share some other easy holiday survival tips that I did in my classroom over the years that helped making celebrating the holidays a little more meaningful and stress-free.
SURVIVAL TIP TO KEEP STUDENTS LEARNING:
This popular activity was always a huge hit in my classroom and was the PERFECT way to sneak in some research skill practice. I had my students pick a country from a selected list that I created and research ways that they celebrate Christmas. Students would research online and use books in our classroom and school libraries.
After researching, students would complete a "Christmas Around the World" flip book that made a great display in the classroom! The activity took little prep (just print out the flipbook) since they used mostly online resources to complete their research.
One of the easiest ways to incorporate a little holiday fun is to take your normal teaching tools and give them a little holiday makeover. This allows you to still teach the same content you were planning to teach in the first place, but make it a little more special for this time of year.
Resources like my graphic organizers, writing templates, and game pieces would get a little Christmas makeover, and it didn't really take much effort at all. I didn't have to change the content I was teaching, I just changed the way it looked. Just add a little festive clipart to these resources and you're good to go!
Who said that a main idea/details graphic organizer can't have a cute snowman? Or that a Venn Diagram can't have some gingerbread men on it? Not me!
asily swap out your regular dice, spinners, hundreds charts...etc.. (like these from my Holiday Survival Kit) for ones with a little holiday theme. The impact of these minor changes will be MUCH greater than then effort it takes to make them!
At your writing centers, you can easily slip in some holiday themed writing stationary and writing prompts to spark some new stories from your students.
SURVIVAL TIPS FOR SIMPLE HOLIDAY DECORATIONS:
If you're like me, you like the idea of a festively decorated classroom for the holiday season, but don't like the work that comes with it. That's why easy decorations that can go up in minutes and add a LOT of sparkle are my jam!
There are two holiday decorations that always made an appearance in my classroom. The first staple was holiday-themed pennant banners (just print, cut, and hang - bonus points if you laminate it and save it for next year!) Here's a closer look:
These are simple to make in PowerPoint and can be hung on a string. They can be hung over a door frame, the the corner of a bulletin board, or on top of a whiteboard for an instant pop of holiday! Use a variety of holiday colors and phrases and string them through the room for an effortless holiday look in your classroom. (Want to make it even easier? I have several holiday pennant banner varieties, both ready-to-go AND editable available in my holiday survival kit!)
The second decoration I would use was made possible with a little help from my students: Christmas Lights Writing. It's so easy and students do the majority of the work! You can use it with any writing assignment. You'll first need to create a writing template in the shape of a Christmas light (like below).
You'll want to copy the template on a variety of colors. Then, have students complete their writing on the template. Once all of the students' stories are complete, string the "lights" together and hang them up in your room! Do this activity early on in the month so that you'll have the decoration up all month long!
SURVIVAL TIPS FOR KEEPING STUDENTS MOTIVATED:
It never fails - from Halloween on, students enter in to some sort of alter-ego that changes them into crazed tiny humans. It starts with the sugar-high from the Halloween candy and doesn't end until the holidays are over. Student motivation can be at an all-time low.
Luckily - it often doesn't take more then a little holiday magic to bring them back on track. Something simple like "reindeer rewards" with no-cost-to-you incentives can hold their attention just long enough until the bell rings on the day before Christmas break (After that, they are their parents' problem!).
Rewards like sit at the teacher's desk, eat lunch in the classroom with a friend, free homework pass, choosing a class game...etc...can keep your kiddos focused until the bitter end. The cards above are also available in my holiday survival kit.
SURVIVAL TIP FOR CREATING GREAT STUDENT HOLIDAY GIFTS:
I was always on the hunt for a Christmas gift for my students that a) didn't cost me a lot of money & b) was something that my students actually wanted. I'd cringe every time I'd give my students a gift only to find it in bits and pieces on the floor after they left for the holiday break.
I finally came up with a gift that was cheap AND something students couldn't WAIT to bring home: Take-Home Math and Science Kits. (PS - parents loved them, too!)
These take-home kits were Ziploc baggies with either math games or science experiments that they could use at home. Inside the math kit were 10 different math games and all of their materials and game pieces. These games covered a variety of skills to keep students' minds sharp over the long break.
The science kit had directions and materials for 5 different science experiments. The experiments used common materials that were easy to find (cotton swap, balloons...etc...). While completing the experiment, students would record their learning inside an observation log.
I also included a sheet with an explanation of the science behind each of the experiments so that both students and parents fully understood the concepts of each experiment.
Both kits come with a variety of bag topper themes so that they can be used year after year for different occasions. Some teachers have used one of these kits for holiday gifts and the other kit for end of the year gifts. Others have used one kit for holiday gifts and the other for birthday gifts. They work great for a variety of occasions!
SURVIVAL TIP FOR A STRESS-FREE RETURN IN THE NEW YEAR:
One other little thing that I learned to do during this crazy time was to prep one or two activities for my students to complete after they return from the long break BEFORE I left for the holiday. That way I had at least a bit of my first day back planned - less to do over the holidays!
I wanted these activities to be simple for both me and my students while our brains were warming back up.
One activity was a simple goals sheet (like the one on the left from my holiday survival kit) that I had students complete as they thought about their hopes for the new year. Here they'd plan school and personal goals, new things they wanted to try, things to improve on...etc.. for the coming year.
Another hit in my classroom was New Year SCOOT. This game was easy to prep and was a fun fast-pace game to get the juices flowing again.
You can grab your FREE New Year SCOOT game inside our Member’s Resource Library!
If you’re already a member, head there now and find this resource under: “HOLIDAY RESOURCES” inside the library.
Not a member yet? It’s FREE to join and you’ll have instant access to an ever-growing library of teacher resources and classroom printables INCLUDING this New Year SCOOT game! Fill out the form below and I’ll send you all the details on how to become a member!
Finally, I prepped a few New Year's themed centers that reviewed some of the math and literacy concepts that we typically covered in the first half of the year. Concepts like:
basic measuring (centimeters and inches)
telling time word problems
cause and effect
If you'd like to check out these centers in more detail, head here. You'll even find a FREE New Year door display just by checking out the preview.
Here's to a less-stressed holiday season!