We all know the challenge of keeping students busy during the days leading up to the holidays. Whether they celebrate Christmas or not, they know a nice long break is looming, and they get a little hard to engage. But there are ways to keep the learning at the forefront, ones that students will enjoy. Here are 5 ways to keep students engaged before the holidays.
One thing to remember, is that it’s a time of year when we need to be aware that our students all come from different backgrounds – including ones that celebrate Christmas. These are activities that can be used in a way that is generic enough to respect all of the unique traditions of your students.
1. Try some short writing assignments that give a nod to the season
If you’re in the middle of reading a text, ask students to imagine what gift giving would look like in that world. Whether it’s for Christmas, Kwanza, Hanukkah, or a birthday, a well chosen gift to a particular character can illustrate a student’s understanding of what’s happening in the text.
You could have students read what they wrote without telling their classmates who it’s for; then, they will need to guess which gift is for which character and why. Make it a challenge, awarding points for each guess.
You can try the same thing with New Year’s Resolutions: get your students to choose on or more characters and have them write a list of resolutions. Be sure to ask them to support their reasons for each one, so you can also assess how well they know these characters. And, like the above activity, they can share and guess who has written which resolution.
2. Get students to reflect and set goals before the holidays
The end of the year and the start of a new one is the perfect time to get students to be reflective.
This is especially true if you’re ending a semester before (or shortly after) the holiday. A reflective activity will allow students to think about how they’ve been doing as a student (or human) thus far and to make plans for improvement in the new year.
I have a resource that provides you with a series of short activities that you can use for that that will also help you build your students’ skills as writers. There are three different topics: gift giving, setting goals and New Year’s resolutions, and the tradition of Hygge.
For each topic, students will have options to do three of the following forms of writing: opinion, expository, narrative and/or descriptive. There is also an option for them to do some research, should you like to take the time. Check it out here.
If your students are finishing a semester before or just after the holiday, another way you can get them to both reflect on the course and prepare for upcoming assessments is with stations.
The stations keep them focused, organized, and moving – which is something the need to stay engaged before the holidays. No time to prep all that? No worries: I’ve got you covered.
So, think about stations as a great way to keep students busy in the days before the break.
3. Use some writing challenges to keep students busy before the holiday
No matter the season, be it the weeks before a break, or a Friday afternoon, games and challenges are the perfect way to keep distracted students engaged and learning. I have yet to meet a class that didn’t respond with excitement to any type of challenge.
The best part about these is that students are learning and building skills without even knowing it!
Ones that you can easily adapt to keep students engaged before the holidays:
🎁 Any of the figurative language challenges
🎁 The word choice challenge
🎁 Any of the short writing activities in this bundle
4. Read some short stories about the spirit of giving
Number four of my 5 ways to keep students engaged before the holidays is all about holiday short stories.
Whether or not your students celebrate Christmas, gift giving will likely be part of their traditions. And, understanding what it truly means to give and sacrifice is a universal theme that all humans can learn from.
Two short stories that are perfect for this are The Necklace and The Gift of the Magi. You can get a full unit that compares and contrasts both stories here. Or you can also find them in my unit on symbolism.
5. Research a holiday tradition different than your own:
If students are in the holiday distraction spirit, it’s a great time to focus that energy into learning about other traditions – while they hone their research skills.
Group students and assign them (or let them choose) a holiday that’s different from their own experience. Make the assignment short, sweet, and focused:
✅ Create an introductory slide with images
✅ Add a slide with a brief history of the holiday
✅ Add another with a short explanation of traditions associated with it
OR, students could do the same with chart paper (and omit the images).
When they have finished, groups could give a short presentation. Or you can do a gallery walk with each group presenting what they learned about the holiday when other groups visit.
So there you go. I’ve given you 5 ways to keep students engaged before the holidays. I really hope you found something that can help or that gave you some inspiration for an idea of your own. All the best – and let me know if you have any questions!