For lots of us, December brings holiday excitement, and that means while kids may be in the classroom physically, their minds are often someplace else entirely. Those extra wiggles in seats and staring hard out the window for the first signs of snowflakes are symptomatic of the distraction that the hectic holiday season can bring – regardless of what holidays your little ones are preparing to celebrate.
Face it – getting kids to sit quietly and work independently can be a challenge even when they aren’t daydreaming about reindeer on the roof or eight nights of family and friends. Instead of trying to fight the visions of sugarplums, use the holiday season to get creative and engage the imagination and minds of little ones in activities that will grab their attention and keep them learning.
Try these 10 classroom activities to keep the holly jollies at bay:
- Write a poem as a class – Try simple rhymes in a holiday theme using as many vocabulary words; it’s a great way to get kids spelling, and sounding out words, and actually thinking about what they mean and how to use them. This whole-class activity encourages participation, creativity and collaboration, and you can post the class poem in the hallway or print it on coloring sheets for children to complete bring home to mom and dad.
- Bury a New Year’s Resolution time capsule – As a group, talk about what New Year’s Resolutions are, and brainstorm some ideas for things children might want to try to keep up or do better in 2020. Then, help children write their resolutions on individual slips of paper (or draw a picture if they aren’t writing yet), and “bury” the time capsule on a shelf in your supply closet until the end of the school year.
In the spring or just before the school year ends, hold a class celebration, open the time capsule, and have children talk about how they did keeping those resolutions.
- Plan an experiment with New Year’s Resolutions – Make a list of classroom habits that students could benefit from cleaning up, then make cards for each resolution. Create a long poster or bulletin board with a calendar, and move each card to the next day as long as it has not yet been broken. Once a resolution is broken, it stays put.
Track how long the class is able to keep each one day by day, and use this as a fun project to see which get broken first, which last the longest, and the average number of days the class was able to keep all the resolutions.
- Hold a “cookie” decorating party – Create a few holiday-themed cookie cutouts, and have children choose which one they would like to decorate. Be sure to incorporate all of the holidays children celebrate, or if you would prefer to keep this activity neutral, use seasonal-themed winter cutouts like snowmen, snowflakes, and pretty birds.
Provide art supplies, like crayons, colored pencils, markers, stickers, glitter and more, and let their imaginations take over as children decorate their “cookies.”
- Get the giggles out with DIY MadLibs – When things get silly, sometimes it’s better to roll with it than it is to fight the giggles. Create a holiday-themed MadLib or two, then have children select vocabulary words or sight words from jars labeled “Noun,” “Verb,” “Adjective” and “Adverb.” Read each MadLib story as a class, and when the laughter subsides, work together to rearrange the vocabulary words to so the story makes more sense. This is a great opportunity to talk about which words fit better and why.
- There’s no business like “snow” business – If you’re in a location where the white stuff is already a December staple, you know how hard it is to keep eyes on blackboard (or smartboard, if you’re lucky enough to have one) instead of out the window. Try using snow to your advantage with a class experiment that challenges students to come up with the best way to insulate snow.
Use four tupperware containers and fill them with snow. Then wrap them in three insulators, leaving one container as the “control.” You can use bubble wrap, saran wrap, aluminum foil, cotton batting, etc., then every 30 minutes, remove the lids from each and measure how much has melted. The last one to liquid is the winner!
- Try an “ornament drop” experiment – Speaking of adding a little science to the mix, you can add some holiday flair to the old “egg drop” experiment. Break the class into groups, and challenge them to come up with the best design to protect a small glass ornament.
Provide each group with a supply kit that contains popsicle sticks, glue, paper clips, rubber bands, tissues, etc., and give them an hour or so to come up with a way to keep the ornament protected. At the end of the day, drop the devices from the top of a ladder (eye protection is a must here), and see how many ornaments survive the fall.
- Host a holiday-themed “book club” – First, talk about grownup book clubs, and explain how they work. Select a few holiday favorites for the class to read together (or sections of a larger book if it’s too long), then circle the chairs to talk about it.
Pose a few discussion questions about the books and let the discussions begin: What challenges did the main characters overcome, what choices were made that the students would have done differently, and how did the characters change from the beginning to the end? Did you spot any of this week’s vocabulary or sight words? How many color words were used?
- Hold a scavenger hunt – Use a holiday theme with hidden objects that are easily identifiable, like holly, ornaments, candy canes, etc. Not into the holiday theme? Just keep it simple with vocabulary words, book characters, etc. This classic distraction can take place outdoors or indoors, and it will have children working together using clues and collaboration to find the hidden objects. After the exercise, talk about the clues for items that were a bit harder to find, and reveal where they were.
- Time for a gift-wrapping lesson – Provide children with a large blank sheet of paper and a pile of art supplies to decorate their own custom gift wrap with crayons, markers, glitter, glue and more. Next, watch a silly video like “How to wrap a cat for Christmas,” and have children use their handmade artisan gift-wrap to wrap animals of their own – stuffed ones, that is!
There are lots more creative ways to keep excited little ones engaged during the hectic holiday build up, including dance parties, art projects, story time, and the age-old traditional but successful coloring activities. Embrace the excitement, and use it to fuel fun, unique ways for your class to continue learning in every season.