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Classroom Holiday Celebrations: a How-To Guide

It’s always challenging to find the time, energy, and appropriate amount of crafting material to put together a respectable (if not Pinterest-worthy) classroom holiday party. We’ve compiled a list of low-stress activities that you can do with your elementary students to bring a little holiday cheer without burdening your overtaxed schedule. 

Diverse Holiday Books 

Reading holiday books is one of the easiest ways to celebrate the season. Every culture and every family has different traditions they look forward to at this time of year, and books can provide a fun insight into how different people celebrate. 

Reading Rockets has assembled an excellent list of holiday books for elementary students. Here are a few of our favorites: 

  • Carlos, Light the Farolito by Jean Ciavonne: Help your students understand and celebrate Latin culture as they learn about what life is like for Carlos as he tackles unexpected responsibilities.
  • The Tomten by Astrid Lindgren: Give your students a taste of Swedish folklore with this classic story of the tomten, a gnome who watches over a family of farmers and their animals during the cold winter nights.
  • The Tree of the Dancing Goats by Patricia Polacco: This book tells the story of Trisha, a young Jewish girl whose Christian neighbors fall ill with scarlet fever, and how the two families come together to celebrate the holiday season despite their different religious traditions.
  • Tree of Cranes by Allen Say: American and Japanese culture weave together in this beautiful story of a young boy’s first Christmas celebration.

Awards Ceremony 

The holidays mark the mid-year point for schools. Mid-year assessments are finished, and everyone is ready for a break. It’s nice to end the fall semester on a positive note, and an awards ceremony is an excellent way to do that, whether you’re in person or remote. Although you don’t have to make your awards holiday themed, here are some ideas for yuletide accolades: 

  • Santa’s Science Award
  • Grinch’s Grammar Award   
  • Heatmiser’s History Award  
  • Snowman Social Studies Award  
  • Rudolph’s Reading Award  
  • Frosty’s Funniest Student Award 

Also, don’t forget to spice up your ceremony by creating customized certificates

Yuletide Games 

What’s a celebration without some opportunities for play? Here are some ideas for holiday-centric games, many of which you can do in a remote or socially distanced classroom. 

  • Christmas Charades: This free printable is full of fun and silly ideas for holiday-themed charades, featuring acting challenges such as “Santa going down a chimney” and “sledding down a hill.” You can easily play this game while socially distanced or with cameras turned on. 
  • Dreidel: Hanukkah already has a game built into its tradition: the dreidel! A great way to introduce Jewish culture and the Hebrew language, this game is easy to play with common household items (the link even tells you how to make a dreidel out of paper and pencil). Note: You may want to hold off on this game until social-distancing recommendations are lifted, or play an online version
  • Pin the Nose on the Snowman: Another spin on a classic game, “Pin the Nose on the Snowman” is a social-distancing friendly game (though you may not be able to adapt for distance learners). Depending on your favorite holiday stories, you could do many variations of this game, such as “Pin the Heart on the Grinch” or “Pin the Antler on the Reindeer.” 
  • Santa Says: Your students have probably played “Simon Says,” but you can easily Christmasify the game by playing “Santa Says” instead. Whoever is giving directions might wear a Santa hat, and you can give Christmas-themed commands like “Santa says run in place like a reindeer.” Doable with social distancing and even remote learning, “Santa Says” can be a great way for your students to practice their listening and coordination skills, and you can play it in short bursts throughout the day to get students’ holiday energy out. 

Get Creative with Crafts 

Crafts can be a pain to put together…but that’s where Teachers Pay Teachers comes to the rescue! Here are some inexpensive craft activities you can do with your students to teach them about the season and help them exercise their creative skills: 

  • Christmas Around the World ($8.00): Christmas traditions look very different around the world, and of course some people don’t celebrate Christmas at all. This TpT bundle provides up to four weeks of activities introducing students to holiday traditions around the world. 
  • Help! Santa is Stuck in the Chimney…What Will We Do? ($2.00): Looking for a fun creative writing activity? Great for a classroom display or just a funny remote learning activity, this craft challenges students to make up a story for how they’d help Santa get unstuck from a chimney. 
  • Hanukkah Activities and Crafts: 3 Agamographs ($5.25): Hanukkah is rich with symbolism and historical significance, and this craft will teach your students all about the holiday. The packet includes patterns to make agamographs of dreidels, a menorah, Star of David, and more, plus stationery sheets where students can write about the meaning of Hanukkah. 
  • Lights of Kindness ($4.00): The holidays are a time of kindness and goodwill. In this activity, students will list acts of kindness on decorative Christmas lights, which you can then use to string around the classroom or decorate a Christmas tree. 

Your class can easily do all these activities while socially distanced. If your students are remote, consider creating packets that parents can pick up on behalf of their children, or if your families have the appropriate resources, you can simply have them print the necessary material at home. 

Strategies for Year-Round Interactive Learning 

The holidays aren’t the only time of year you can incorporate play and fun activities into learning. If you’re looking for some hands-on strategies to use with your elementary school students, check out these professional development courses from Advancement Courses: 

  • The A in Steam Stands for Art: Learn how to bring the arts into your STEM lessons! You’ll use collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and communication to engage your students and instill key 21st-century skills. 
  • Arts Education for Early Learning and Emergent Literacy: Regardless of what subject you teach, incorporating sounds, images, movement, and stories can help students engage and retain content in a more meaningful way. Use arts-based educational strategies to foster creative thinking, literacy skills, and cognitive development. 
  • Teaching Science to Elementary Students: Develop new resources and techniques for teaching science to elementary students based on Next Generation Science Standards. Create hands-on in-class activities, rigorous research assignments, and interdisciplinary learning opportunities to facilitate excellent science instruction. 
  • Facilitating Communication: Accountable Talk for Elementary Students: Through an interactive, hands-on approach, investigate accountable talk and how to facilitate meaningful and purposeful academic conversations with elementary students. Develop a classroom-ready set of activities, scaffolding devices, and graphic organizers to use with your students today. 

Advancement Courses offers more than 280 online, self-paced PD courses covering both foundational topics and emerging trends in K–12 education. Courses are available for both graduate and continuing education credit for your salary advancement or recertification needs. 

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