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engage students during the holidays

Holiday Project Ideas to Keep Students Engaged

December is the time where all of our beloved classroom management strategies and routines seem to fly right out the window. The back-to-school hype has faded and exhaustion has set in for both our students, and for us. So what can we do to keep our students productive and keep ourselves sane during this time of year? Let’s get into some tips and fun holiday project ideas!

engaging students during the holidays

Set Realistic Expectations

First and foremost, we need to make sure our expectations are set correctly. December is NOT the time to start an intensive and gruelling unit, or a generally boring one. You and your students will end up tired and frustrated, so make sure your long range plans include some flexibility around this time of year. 

Some units that could be fun in December are:

  • Math: money, measurement
  • Writing: descriptive writing, procedural writing, letter writing
  • Reading: making connections (read stories about different holiday traditions)
  • Science: snow experiments
  • Social Studies: holidays around the world

Meet Your Students Where They Are

I have said it before and I will say it again, once you start approaching classroom management with a “if you can’t beat em, join em” mentality – it will start feeling a lot less stressful. No, I don’t mean screaming or throwing things across the room. I mean, if your students are chatty… give them academic opportunities to CHAT. If they are active/busy, give them academic opportunities to MOVE. 

If you are seeing students act on their impulses more often, come up with a new classroom management strategy that is special to the month of December. I always have a little “party” with my class before the break (e.g., movie & PJ day) so I create a reinforcement system/game to go along with it. For example, if you play Teacher vs. Students they have a goal of winning ⅘ days a week until the last day to win the PJ party. You could also do a bingo card, marble jar, point system or anything else that works for your students.

Fun Holiday Project Ideas

Project-based learning is my favorite way to keep students engaged during the more challenging times of year (think December & May/June). One of my favourite projects for December is my Holiday Elf Writing Project. Students will see “Help Wanted” signs throughout their classroom that tell them the North Pole is looking for a new elf. They will then go through a slideshow of the jobs that are available, fill out job applications based on what they think they are best suited for and finally write a letter to the North Pole explaining why they feel they are the best fit. 

This may not fit your classroom demographic (e.g., students who don’t celebrate Christmas) and if that is the case, I encourage you to take a look at different Holidays around the World projects on TpT!

Spend Time on Review

If your students aren’t able to take on new curriculum, don’t be afraid to spend time reviewing concepts from the beginning of the year. I love doing class games for review and even having the students come up with games of their own. My students love Jeopardy, but you could also do scavenger hunts/around the room activities as well.

Hopefully you have found some comfort in these tips and knowing that December doesn’t HAVE to be stressful. If none of these feel like they will work with your students, I encourage you to drop your guard and have a conversation with them. Ask your class what THEY want to do in December and what they feel like can be fun and academic. Good luck!

If you are looking for some engaging ELA activities for virtual classrooms, click here!

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I’m Katarina and I teach elementary students in Toronto, Canada. I’m passionate about creating authentic learning experiences that students will love and remember. If you are looking to improve your classroom management and engage your students with easy-to-implement resources and tools, you’re in the right place!

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