It’s not just the elementary kids that are climbing the walls before the holiday break; secondary students have a hard time focusing too. And who are we fooling? The teachers would rather be home nestled by the fire, sipping cocoa, as well.
It’s going to be a long week because exams are shortly after we return from the break, and there’s curriculum to be covered. However, we can keep teaching and learning and still embrace the festivities. All week I’m going to be sharing the tricks I’ve got up my sleeve. I can’t promise they’ll keep my kids on track, but at least I’m trying!
DAY ONE: Today, my students are starting Act IV of Macbeth, which I plan to finish before we leave on Friday. However, when they do their independent reading at the first of class, and while they’re doing their work, I’m going to create a cozy atmosphere by projecting a crackling fire on the board. I plan to tell them that it’s the “launch” for the week and that I’ll build in a little holiday fun each day — as long as they keep doing their work.
DAY TWO: We’re still finishing up Macbeth, so I’m going to put students in groups and assign each one a major and minor character. They will be instructed to write a Christmas wish list for one and New Year’s resolutions for the other (you can just use resolutions if you want to avoid Christmas references). Students will be instructed to demonstrate their knowledge of both the play and the assigned characters in their lists. After, each group will present to the class and we’ll have a discussion, if need be, about what we might add or take away to make it a more accurate representation. It’s a great way to add a little festive flavour to the review of the play!
DAY THREE: If like me, you’re sliding into the holidays with a test, or will have exams in January, you can let your students review by adding a textual twist to some holiday songs. Distrubute copies of lyrics to groups and let them change the words so the song matches a character or theme in the work you are studying. Students could do this on their own as well, if you’re doing Reader’s Workshop. If you want to avoid references to Christmas, you can try “Winter Wonderland”, “Jingle Bells” or “Frosty the Snowman”.
My kids used “Winter Wonderland” to make some connections to Macbeth. Here are some examples: The witches sing/Are you listening?/On your blade/Blood is glistening/A horrible sight/You’re guilty tonight/Walking through the heather stained with blood.
It’s the fourth day of the week before Christmas and we are going to look ahead to the new year. After the break, my kids are going to start debating, and I want to start honing their skills. Kelly Gallagher’s latest article of the week looks at which type of tree is better for the environment. I know that this activity is more directly related to Christmas, but the environmental spin can make it more relatable to everyone.
DAY FIVE: We made it!! It’s the final day of school before the holidays. We’ve done our reviews and it’s time to relax a bit, reflect on successes during the semester, and set some goals for our return in the new year. I’ll turn on the fireplace and play some holiday tunes while my students write a letter to themselves. I’ll ask them to acknowledge their victories as well as their struggles this semester. Then, I want them to set goals for a successful end of the course when they return after the holidays. I don’t have time to use it today, but I’ll be using The Superhero Teacher’s New Year’s Workbook in January to get them more focused on visualizing an amazing 2018 for themselves. It’s chock full of activities to get kids to inspire kids to set goals!
I hope you have an amazing holiday!