We all know that the week before winter break can be hectic! It’s so tempting to pop in a movie and call the last day or two a movie day. But in the middle school students often have 6+ classes and watching movies all day can create their own set of problems. Students get silly. Parents get annoyed that all their kids did was watch a whole bunch of random holiday movies. And we’re giving away a chunk of our limited instructional time. So, if you’re looking for an alternative to the Christmas movie, we put together this video to share 5 Christmas activity ideas to consider:
The video also includes free supporting resources for download including a handy one page reference guide for the video and this blog post. It makes a perfect handout you can easily refer back to or share with other teachers. Check it out on TPT.
Without further ado, here are 5 things to do instead of watching a movie during the week before Christmas.
#1 Use Seasonal Resources
One of the easiest things to do is to use resources with a seasonal flair. The addition of clipart or reference to holiday themes in the word problems really perks students up. I love using themed mazes to start class. They give students a chance to review things we’ve already learned, and they really dig the candy canes, elves, and other Christmas characters that show up.
Seasonal task cards, stations, etc. all provide students quality learning with a touch of whimsy and holiday fun. Festive coloring activities are a hit with my students too.
Middle school students love to share their opinions. Christmas themed debate topics can be fun writing prompts or discussion starters. A few years ago, my 7th grade language arts class wrote on the prompt “Is Santa Claus real?” They passionately argued their side and it opened up spirited debates with students defending their position. Some took the position that Santa is nothing more than a nice story, while others redefined Santa as the spirit of the holidays and argued that regardless of who actually puts presents under the tree, Santa is very real.
Students can write from these prompts, or they can have a class discussion. Here are just a few prompts to get your creative juices flowing:
#3 Greeting Cards
Greeting cards allow students to write for a specific audience without it becoming a huge, involved writing task. Plus, they can become a thoughtful gift students can create and give to friends, teachers, or family.
I love this adorable card set from B’s Book Love with literary themes. She’s got lines like “I Thoreau-ly Hope You Enjoy Your Winter Break” & “Poe, Poe, Poe!” How great are they?
And then there’s this set from Teaching High School Math with geometric shapes creating a great image.
I love to have students write cards for their other teachers. They express things that they don’t usually say to their teachers, and as you can imagine, they really make my colleagues’ day!
You could also tie greeting cards into the curriculum by having students write them to historical figures, famous authors, mathematicians, scientists, etc. Or, you could be really fancy and have them write the cards from the perspective of one of those people.
Students can also write cards for active military personnel. This requires a bit more advanced planning. Cards may need to be sent off before the week before winter break, but it’s a great way for students to reach out beyond their classroom walls and connect with the larger world. This website for Operation Gratitude is a great resource to make that happen.
#4 Integrate Art
This time of year can offer a great excuse to integrate art into the classroom. There are so many options out there. Here’s just a few that have caught my eye this year:
- Nutcracker Christmas Art Activity & Lesson, How to draw lessons
- PopArt 3D Ornament
- How To Draw Christmas Characters
Or there are art inspired craftivities. My students have been loving creating ornaments for our class display with these pennants from Scaffolded Math and Science. These circle shaped pennants reviewed area and circumference, and quickly became festive ornaments! A little math practice + a little artistic flair = a holiday hit.
Coordinate drawing activities also get students into the holiday spirit. Students enjoyed the Christmas Ugly Sweater Plotting Points- Mystery Picture from Amazing Mathematics in my class. They practiced working with plotting points on a coordinate graph (which they always need more practice with) and they enjoyed creating and coloring their masterpiece.
#5 Whole Group Games and Activities
Whole group activities keep the class structured and kids engaged. Plus, it’s a great way for them to practice those non-tested skills like cooperation and communication in a group.
One of my favorites is inspired by my own high school chemistry teacher. Every year, just before Christmas, his classes would play a Christmas trivia game. It was a spirited competition between classes that everyone looked forward to. I had such fond memories of the experience that one of my favorite things to do now is play a Christmas style trivia game in my own classroom. You can read all about it here.
You can also use a paper chain activity and print onto red and green paper. Here’s an example just in green of a whole class paper chain activity to review operations with scientific notation.
We hope these ideas inspire you to find a fitting way to end this month in your classroom. What are your go-to activities for this time of year? Let us know in the comments= we can’t wait to hear what strategy is the right fit for your class! If you found these ideas and resources helpful, please feel free to share with your colleagues. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Rachel & Theresa!
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