Selecting the right December classroom activities is essential to thriving during December in the classroom. Let’s face it, December can be high-energy. In fact, as the school days move toward winter vacation, that pre-Christmas energy can get downright crazy and teacher energy can plummet.
Over the years, I’ve learned a few things about surviving December and keeping students productive. Here are my favorites:
1. Keep December classroom activities low key
The more you have Christmas parties, plays, and unusual activities, the less consistency the kids feel, which can lead to behavioral issues. Continue to create challenging curriculum, and keep your expectations high. Save the party until the last day before the break. Check out these 3 calming December activities that are no prep!
2. Plan engaging December classroom activities
My favorite December activity is literature circles. It takes about 2 1/2 weeks to complete, and once students understand your expectations and how the process works, they are focused on preparing for their upcoming literature circle meeting. When I run literature circles, I plan so we’ll finish two days before the break. I serve tea and dessert during their meetings, but I also teach etiquette and I’m firm with my expectations. Read this blog post for more on how to implement literature circles in your classroom.
Consequently, kids are more focused during these two weeks than most of the rest of the year. I’ve created a unit to help reduce the time it takes to prepare and run literature circles. It’s made my life easier.
3. Save curriculum-related films for December
In addition to teaching language arts, I also teach social studies. For the week before break, I save a 20 minute video on a civilization we’re studying. I have students take notes during the film and then we may do a scavenger hunt game for information from the film. Keeping it calm, with the focus on academics, is a win-win.
4. Seasonal December classroom activities can relate to your content
Somedays teaching in December just calls for a calm activity. For this reason, Color-By-Code activities are my go-to. They are no-prep and ready to go. Since grammar is a subject we all weave into our curriculum, I have 2 or 3 different color-by-code pictures copied and ready. I can do a quick mini-lesson before handing out the activity page. I also have definitions and examples for each part of speech. Find a Christmas-themed color by code grammar resource here. It includes everything you’ll need.
5. December in the classroom is perfect for The Hour of Code
Also, I challenge the kids with The Hour of Code (check out the link). This high-interest activity can be done alone or with partners. Kids learn the basics of computer coding, but the approach is geared toward the kiddos. I use Chromebooks, desktops, and/or laptops. There are instructional videos available on the site for you and your students. They LOVE it! They are focused! They are learning something new! I couldn’t ask for anything more the week before winter break.
6. Play a special game the day before break
Here’s an easy December classroom activity that you’ll LOVE! Students bring in a wrapped candy bar. I buy several extra because there are always a few kids who find themselves in a pinch on game day. Then I use the Right/Left game (see the link below). It’s a fun-filled 30 minutes of passing the wrapped candy bars back and forth around the circle of kids sitting on the floor.
Once I read the script, they want to do it again and again. I speed up each time. Laughter ensues. Finally, they get to unwrap and eat their treat. This activity is contained, relatively short, inexpensive, and fun. It’s perfect for that last 40 minutes before the bell rings for break. Check out the Right and Left Christmas scripts online here. Sometimes I re-type the script to emphasize the winter season instead of the religious holiday.
Well, those are some of the ways I survive this season in the classroom. I’d love to hear a few of your favorites.
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