The weeks before Christmas break has always been a challenging one for me, as it is for most educators. But I think it can be especially tough on specials teachers. There are so many different activities going on from classroom parties, pajama day, assemblies, sing-alongs …The list goes on and on. And usually (at least in my school) specials time is never canceled. Teachers need this time to plan, prepare and go to the bathroom! Which I totally understand and agree with. But when you pick up a class right after their Christmas party I can pretty much guarantee that a quiet storytime is not going to happen!
I’ll be honest, there are times when I give in to the temptation of showing a Christmas movie. I think everyone has at one time or another. And that’s fine once in a while, but definitely not something you want to make a habit out of.
In this post, I want to share with you some of the lessons and activities that I have used with my students in the weeks leading up to Christmas break. Maybe they’ll be something you can incorporate in your own lessons over the next few weeks.
Favorite picture books
There are so many wonderful holiday books to choose from and more keep coming out every year. I could easily read them all year long. Below is a list of a few of my all-time favorites.
- A Bad Kitty Christmas by Nick Bruel
- Snowmen at Christmas by Caralyn Buehner
- The Gingerbread Man Loose at Christmas by Laura Murray
- Click, Clack, Ho! Ho! Ho! by Doreen Cronin
- The Gingerbread Pirates by Kristin Kladstrup
- The Great Reindeer Rebellion by Lisa Trumbauer
- Santa’s Stuck by Rhonda Gowler Greene
This is one of my favorite units to teach all year. I usually do a few activities with grades 2-5. Kindergarten and first grade have a collaborative unit that they do together. Read below to see some of the lessons I have done in my library.
- Recommended grades: 2-3
- 8 nonfiction reading passages about Christmas traditions in other countries
- One page reading response for each country
- Set of 24 task cards (color and b/w set)
- 10-page mini book for students to read and fill out
- 18 pages of writing prompts, a word search, Venn diagram, ABC order practice and more
I print out the reading passages and laminate them. I will give each table a passage and the comprehension page that goes along with it. After students have finished their country we will come back together and talk about what they learned. Sometimes this will last for two class periods. I do not give a copy of the minibook to each student since I usually have 80 or 90 students in a grade. But I will print out a copy and give a page to each of the groups to complete. Then I will put them together as a class book.
Print and Digital Breakout Activities
These two activities are almost identical to each other, just the format is different. I recommend using it with grades 4-5.
What is included in this product:
- Detailed instructions
- Brochure with short nonfiction passages (students will use this to answer the questions)
- Set of 3 challenges (color copies)
- Set of 3 challenges (black and white copies)
- Answer sheet and recording sheet
- certificate for completing the breakout (color and b/w)
Students will work together in groups to complete the activity. They will read the scenario and the brochure. Then they will work on solving each of the challenges.
- Challenge 1: Students will solve hink pinks (riddles answered by a pair of rhyming words.)
- Challenge 2: Mapping activity
- Challenge 3: Multiple choice ELA questions
The breakout is accessed through a Google Site. Students will go to the URL for the site to complete the breakout. On the Google Site is the scenario, student directions, links to each of the 3 challenges and a Google form for the students to enter the lock codes.
To learn about the different Christmas traditions students will first need to go to a Google tour builder that I have created. Here they will see an interactive map and read about the traditions in each of the countries. The countries discussed in this breakout: Sweden, Germany, France, Iceland, Australia, England, Italy, Iceland and Mexico.
- a matching activity in Google slides (students will match the country to a tradition)
- A multiple choice quiz in Google forms
- A jigsaw puzzle (once the puzzle is solved students will have to solve the riddle that is in the puzzle.)
If you are looking for a quick activity to teach about Christmas traditions I also have a free scoot game in my store. It is a set of 16 task cards that you can use in many different ways (scoot, center activity, fast finishers, bell ringers, brain breaks or transition time). If you have to bring a class to the auditorium for a sing-along you can pull these out and ask the kids the questions while you’re waiting. On each card is an odd Christmas or New Year tradition. Students need to read the card and decide if the fact is true or if it is a fib. They then circle their answer on the answer sheet. Some of the traditions I use are a little odd, but that’s what makes it so much fun. Kids love anything strange, weird or gross.
When I have a larger or more rambunctious class I will make a set of cards for each of my tables and have students work on them in groups. It’s a lot more printing and laminating but much more manageable depending on the class.