I know without question that I’m a secondary teacher. I’ve taught high school for years and love my current middle schoolers, but when November and December roll around, I often think how fun it would be to be able to celebrate holidays in class. My former roommate was a first-grade teacher so I’m not blind to the work that goes into the parties and celebrations, but I want to find ways to bring a little holiday joy to the classroom.
Over the years I’ve had administrators that embraced that big kids love holidays too, and others that were adamant that we keep teaching standards (read that with a serious voice) no celebrations allowed. Whichever administrator you have, I hope you’ll find a way to celebrate the season and bring joy to your classroom. For some students, this will be their only positive recognition of the holiday.
HERE ARE 10 WAYS TO ADD A LITTLE JOY TO YOUR LESSON AND KEEP THE LEARNING THE FOCUS!
- Thank you notes (holiday cards) to staff – teaching students to be appreciative of the things others do for them is an important lesson no matter the time of year. Bookmarks make the perfect add on to a sweet note from and ELA student.
- Ugly sweater writing assignment – Have students write a story or create a poem with the focus on an Ugly Sweater. Easy to incorporate all students whether they celebrate holidays or not. Create a bulletin board or hold an in-class contest.
- Encourage students to share their holiday traditions and celebrations – we often assume that everyone celebrates the holidays in the same way. One year while working at a Christian private school, I had students write and share about their Christmas traditions. It was amazing to see the many ways students of the same faith celebrated Christmas. Imagine what it would be like to discover traditions in classrooms that are as diverse as many of our public-school classrooms.
- Snowball fight – December often means finals and district testing. Lighten the mood when reviewing for these tests by having a snowball fight. Write questions on pieces of paper, wad them up and allow the students a min or so to throw them at each other like snowballs. When you call time, each student must have “snowball”, they read the question aloud and the class reviews for a test.
- Share the legend of the poinsettia – Do you know the Legend of the Poinsettia? Bring in a plant and read the story to your students. You can check out one version here.
- Use a Holiday play or short story to practice readind skills – There are many holiday classic plays and stories to share with your students where you could can continue working on standards but add that little holiday touch. This holiday story, A Kidnapped Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum (author of The Wizard of Oz) has multiple themes throughout and promotes great discussion in high school ELA class.
- Analyze Christmas songs and look for common themes – Are you working on theme? If your students are anything like mine, theme is a concept we can revisit over and over again. Have handouts of multiple traditional songs and have students compare them looking for common themes throughout.
- Research a toy or game – Another great idea to incorporate research in to holiday related content is to have them research their favorite toy. Most students can remember a favorite toy or game they’ve received over the years. Ask them to research where the toy came from, who created it, how many were sold, etc…even students that don’t celebrate Christmas or Hanukah can conduct research about a toys or a games
- Research holiday traditions – Standards will tell you that you need to teach research skills, but they don’t dictate the topic, why not ask students to research a holiday tradition such as hanging stockings by the chimney, giving gold coins to children, or the significance of giving gifts. Students could do a writing assignment or give a short presentation to the class.
- Traditions around the world – The holidays are celebrated in many different ways and on different days throughout the world. Start each class period by visiting a tradition from another culture.
May your classroom be filled with “Comfort and Joy” this holiday season!