High school students may not believe in the magic anymore, but they are just as unfocused and frenzied as the younger ones. They don’t want to be in class anymore, and they certainly don’t want to do anymore work. And guess what? Neither do the teachers!
The problem with all this holiday hooplah is that immediately after we return, another countdown is happening: the one to final exams. Because of this, we can’t just pack it in during those last days before the holidays; in fact, many of us are frantically trying to get through the curriculum, knowing that there are only a few weeks left to get it all done.
So how do you get yourself and your students focused enough to finish the material? And, more importantly, how do you do so without becoming The Grinch who stole the holiday spirit?
1. Lighten up and negotiate:
It’s ok to build some fun activities into your lessons, and it’s doable, even when you’re trying to get some work done. You just need to take a careful look at how much you need to do before the end of term, and make a plan to get there. Then, think about ways that you can build in some fun around the important stuff. Share that plan with your students and tell them that, like them, you want to have some holiday fun but the reality of exams is there and has to be faced. Tell them that if they work hard and focus on what needs to be done, then you can build in some holiday activities as well. Let them help you make a schedule, so they feel like they’ve had a say in the process. My class has agreed that if we get through my teacher “wish list” we will have a class party and exchange gifts on the last day before the holidays. We also play holiday music when students are doing their group activities.
2. Find ways to sneak holiday fun into the work:
My students are studying Animal Farm right now, and we focus a lot on the pigs’ use of language and propaganda. I want students to be able to recognize when they are being manipulated by leaders or advertisers, and I want them to learn rhetorical techniques that they can use in their own writing and speaking. The political climate is providing us lots of material these days, but the holiday season does as well. We will look at holiday ads for propaganda, and students will give informal speeches around holiday themes, using their own rhetoric and propaganda . I will also have them write Christmas wish lists or New Year’s resolutions for the characters in the novella. This activity requires that they illustrate their understanding of character and theme, but still allows them to have a little fun at the same time.
I also have a lesson that has students compare O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi” with Guy de Maupassant’s “The Necklace”. It’s a lesson plan full of rigorous activities that are perfect for the season of giving. You can check it out here.
So, go ahead. Celebrate the season and prepare your students for their final assessments. Most importantly, enjoy the ride and the last few weeks of the semester with your students.
Note: it’s important to be aware of your class composition. Not everyone celebrates Christmas, of course. I use this as an opportunity to have a class discussion about the fact that our society inundates everyone with Christmas and that we need to be more aware of the other holidays celebrated by our students. It’s the perfect time for a debate and/or a research project.
If you’d like more activities that allow you to focus on ELA skills and have some holiday fun, check out my Christmas and Winter Holiday Activities Pack , Short Writing Activities for the Christmas & Winter Season and my Christmas Coffee House freebie.
Do you have any great ideas for surviving the countdown to the holiday? Let us know about them in the comments!