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We are in the month of December, and the holiday break is quickly approaching. As teachers focus on final assessments, finishing grading that giant stack of papers, and inputting grades into the computer, students are looking forward to taking a break from school and spending time with their families. The last thing on your students’ minds is being attentive at school, but you know it’s important that they remain focused until that final bell rings in a few weeks. Instead of trying to pretend like the holidays don’t exist, embrace them! You know it’s all your students are thinking about, so why not include some holiday-focused activities and lessons these last few weeks of school? Be sure to check with your school administration regarding what’s allowed to be included at your particular school when it comes to the holidays, but get creative with these holiday lesson activities and join in on your student’s excitement about the upcoming school break and celebrations.
Create Holiday-Themed Charts and Graphs
Making charts and graphs can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it, and it can be done with kids in kindergarten all the way up to your high school seniors. The sky is the limit on what you can chart or graph this time of year. Get some ideas from your students or come up with some on your own, and they lay out the specifications for how they need to be done. Maybe you do a class poll about what holidays are celebrated, what traditions are done, or how far students are traveling over the break. Have the students compile the data (or do their own surveys outside of class) and then create a pie chart, bar graph, or another type you’ve been studying and present it to the class.
Explore Weather Patterns
Any time of the year is a good time to learn about the weather, but why not add a fun touch and do it in December? People everywhere hope for a “white Christmas,” and your students can research weather patterns to determine if your local area will or won’t be adorned with snow this holiday season. To make the lessons even more fun and educational, have your students track weather from previous years and compare historical weather data with this year’s weather data to help add to their prediction.
The Science of Baking
Kids of all ages love to bake, especially when they get to taste the yummy treat at the end of the lesson. Do an activity on chemical reactions, reversible and irreversible changes, and how heat impacts different things. Let students research what certain ingredients do in particular recipes, such as baking soda or baking powder. You could even push the experiment further and make some baked goods without one specific ingredient to see what happens and how the final product is different with the absence of just one thing.
Holiday Song/Poem Analysis
Take some popular holiday poems, stories, or songs and analyze them as you would a regular piece of literature. Have students research the writing, including when it was written, who wrote it, why it was written, and so on. You may wish to have students present their analyses and listen to the piece of writing they chose. If you assign the pieces they have to analyze or if your students select diverse pieces, you may even get a history lesson and a more thorough understanding of various holidays and traditions as well.
This one is pretty straightforward, but it can be hugely meaningful for students and teachers alike. Have your students do some writing exercises about the holidays. Maybe you want them to write about the best gift they’ve ever received, their favorite gift that they’ve given, their favorite holiday memory or tradition, or a difficult holiday memory. You may learn a lot about your students through this exercise, and it can be cleansing and helpful for students to reminisce and reflect on past memories, whether happy or sad.
Researching Holiday Traditions
This may be better suited for older students, as it is primarily research-based. Have students research holiday traditions and where they came from, such as why stockings are hung on the fireplace, why we decorate pine trees, and what the significance of a candy cane is. You may wish to have students pick just one tradition to really look into thoroughly, or you may have each student pick a few traditions to explore and learn about. You can also have students research different December holidays, such as Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, and so on. Have them write a paper or create a display of some sort to share what they’ve learned. If your classroom is diverse in its winter celebrations, you may wish to have each student learn about a tradition associated with a different holiday than the one they celebrate.