As the holiday season approaches, many teachers are faced with the decision of whether or not to celebrate in the classroom. For some teachers, this is an easy decision, while others may struggle with how to celebrate in a way that meets the desires of their students and the demands of their administration. I know that I am a secondary teacher, and while I love celebrating holidays with my students, I also want to make sure that I am focusing on academics and being sensitive to the many cultures that are represented in my classroom.
Over the years, I have had administrators who were very supportive of diverse holiday celebrations and those who outright objected to any celebration. Regardless of the administrator’s position on holiday celebrations, I think it is important for teachers to find ways to bring a little bit of holiday joy- a little fun – to their classroom during the long weeks between Thanksgiving and Winter break.
The Good and the Bad
Let’s first look at some Pros and Cons of Holiday Celebrations in the Secondary Classroom. There are many things you should consider and not every activity is going to be appropriate for your student population.
The Good (Pros)
- Celebrating holidays can bring students together and help create a sense of community in the classroom.
- Students often enjoy holiday celebrations and it gives them something to look forward to each year.
- Celebrating holidays can be a fun and festive way to break up the repetition of day-to-day instruction.
- When done correctly, celebrating holidays can help promote cultural awareness and understanding among students.
- Holiday celebrations can help make lesson planning more exciting for teachers – an added bonus!
The Bad (Cons)
- If not handled correctly, celebrating holidays can lead to feelings of exclusion among some students.
- It can be difficult to find activities that meet the academic needs of all students and that are also age-appropriate.
- Some parents or community members may object to certain holiday celebrations taking place in schools.
- If expectations are not clear, you run the risk that some students will get too rowdy and disruptive during a celebration.
- Planning and executing successful holiday celebrations can take up a lot of time that could be spent on other things.
Before you Plan a Celebration
There are a few things to consider before planning any holiday celebrations in your classroom. Here are a few tips
Involve Students in the discussion
Talk to your students about what they want to do to celebrate holidays in the classroom. This is a great way to get buy-in from your students and to make sure that everyone is on the same page about what type of celebrations will take place. It also allows you to gauge whether or not your students feel comfortable participating in holiday activities.
Carefully choose activities
Be mindful of the types of activities you choose to do during class time. Some holidays lend themselves well to academic activities, such as writing poems about Christmas trees or designing Hanukkah cards or writing about a holiday tradition. It is important to consider both the holiday and your students when making decisions about how to celebrate in the classroom.
Make sure you are inclusive of all cultures when celebrating holidays in the classroom. This can be done by incorporating activities and traditions from a variety of cultures, especially those represented in your student population. By including activities from multiple cultures, you can make sure that everyone feels represented and included in the festivities.
Ideas for bringing joy into your classroom
Below are four ideas you can use with your class that will bring some of the holiday fun to your lessons even if you are not able to plan a full holiday celebration:
- 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. What better way to practice this than by having students write holiday cards or thank you notes to the staff at your school? This could be done as a whole class, in small groups, or even as an individual activity.
- Snowball fight – December often means finals and district assessment. Lighten the mood when reviewing for these tests by having a snowball fight. Write questions on pieces of paper, then wad them up and allow the students about 30 seconds to one minute to throw the “snowballs” at each other. When time is called, each student must have a “snowball”, they read the question aloud, and the class reviews for a test.
- Research a toy or game – Many celebrations in a variety of cultures include some type of gift-giving. Use this tradition to have students research a 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 a mainstream December holiday can conduct research about toys or a game.
- Set the mood – While your students are reading or working on a writing assignment project a fun winter scene on your board. This is an easy way to engage students by pretending to read by a cozy fire or work by the window while the snow gently falls. There are a variety of these types of videos on youtube.
It is important to be mindful of how you celebrate holidays in the classroom so everyone feels included and comfortable. By involving students in the planning process, carefully choosing activities, and being inclusive of all cultures, you can ensure that your holiday celebrations are enjoyable for all. Even if you can’t plan a full holiday celebration, there are a number of ways to bring some fun to your lessons during the long weeks between Thanksgiving and Winter break. By getting creative and thinking outside the box, you can make your classroom a festive and enjoyable place for all during the holiday season.