The holidays are in the air. Sure it is a time for kindness, family, and celebrations. However as a classroom teacher you know (and sometimes dread) that last week before a holiday break. Just face it, the kiddos seem to loose their minds over night. If you have seen this happen in your classroom, then this post is perfect for you. Below I will share 6 tried and true tips to help you navigate that last week (and perhaps the weeks leading up) to a holiday break:
Tip 1: Keep your students busy with engaging time on task. Make sure you have a several no-prep holiday learning games and activities on hand. With all the excitement blooming around the students outside of school, why not bring it inside the classroom also. keep in mind that you don't want the activities to just be "fluff". They should be engaging review lessons (and possible new skills) that the kiddos can complete independently or with a partner. This can even be done by playing games like Scoot, Quiz Quiz Trade, or Mix Pair Share but changing your normal classroom music to holiday songs. A super fun activity to do that can reinforce shapes and bigger than/less than is to give each kiddo a piece of large construction paper and create a snowman. All you need is shaving cream, Elmer glue, and glitter. Kiddos have to draw circles on their paper that are in order from bigger to smaller. Then they paint their circles and create a snowman.
Tip 2: Try to stick to your normal routines and schedules as best as possible. Even with all the extra excitement going on the littles need their routines to be successful. Also, upon coming back from a holiday break, you should take the first one to two weeks reviewing all of your classroom procedures and routines before diving right back in.
Tip 3: IF you do a gift exchange with your class, try doing one with books only. Send a short and sweet letter home to parents asking everyone to bring in a new book that is $5.00 or less in value. They should bring the book in wrapped with a label. On the label, instruct the parents to leave the "To:" part blank and to allow their child to write his or her name in the "From:" space. On one of the last days before break gather all the kiddos around your carpet area and play a little white elephant gift exchange game. Each kiddo choose a gift (one at a time) and unwraps it. I always do a boy group and a girl group. We all watch and admire the new books that we each get to take home. Its also a great idea to get your husband, dad, brother-in-law, or someone (that has had all the proper background checks required) to come in and play Santa. Let Santa read a book to your class and hand out those small candy canes.
Tip 4: Give your class a gift. I always give my class a book to take home over break. I purchase them from the scholastic website for about $1-$2 a piece around mid November to ensure that they arrive on time. Inside the cover of each book I write a sweet personalized note. Then I wrap each book so they each can open a present from me that will encourage them to read over the break.
Tip 5: One of my favorite events is my Polar Express P.J. Day. I am not going to lie, this takes some prepping so if you are looking for last minute ideas it may/may not work for you. First, I buy bell necklaces for each child in my class. I put them inside a small box that is also filled with iridescent packing paper. I use a water bottle to lightly spray each bell with water. Then I wrap the box in brown parchment paper, attach a huge red bow on top, and then write our school address and Santa's North Pole address in the appropriate spots on the box. About 2 weeks before I plan on giving the students the fake package from Santa, I take the box into our cafeteria. I take it to the deep, deep freezer and leave it there. (You may need to get permission from your cafeteria manager to do that part.) Then I prearrange for someone in the office to bring the box from the freezer to my classroom at a certain day and time. I send a note home for all of the kiddos to wear their P.J.'s to school on the day that I prearranged with the office to deliver our package. We start the day by making hot chocolate. (Super easy way is to pour a gallon of chocolate milk into a crock pot first thing in the morning. Turn it on high and it will be ready in 2 hours.) I then read them the Polar express and make sure that I finish the story by the prearranged time that I had set with the office. As soon as the story ends, in walks one of our lovely secretaries holding this FREEZING box from the cafeteria. The students eyes get so big as I make such a huge deal over how cold it is. Then we slowly read the address, predict where it came from and what we think is inside, and then open the package. Each kiddo then gets a small bell necklace that has frozen crystals on it (from the water I sprayed 2 weeks ago) from Santa. This activity goes miles on getting them to behave and listen! Then of course we enjoy our hot chocolate.
Tip 6: Last but not least, engage your kiddos in a countdown to the holidays. This can be done with daily minute to win it games, creating a chain link count down, using a different random act of kindness a day, or by having them earn a special something each day. For example, the last week before break I always give each kiddo a book (from above) but I also give them a little goody bag full of treats like a pencil, erasers, tatoos, etc. Eventually I got smart and thought, why not make them earn the gifts. Every year I purchase a holiday goodie bag of some sort, whether it be regular themed bags, small red stockings, or even Santa hats. Then I purchase five different class sets of small prizes from the dollar spot at Walmart, Target, or Dollar Tree. Everyday I show the kiddos the treat and tell them that they have to earn it throughout the day by following classroom rules and procedures and being kind to one another. Then at the end of the day I give each student the small trinket that they earned to place in their bag. By the end of the week they all have a goody bag filled with gifts from me.
Well, I hope you received a few good tips from this post and are able to use them in your class this year. Happy holidays and Merry Christmas everyone!!!