I remember my first year teaching like it was yesterday. It was about mid fall when I felt like we hit our stride in my humble little 3rd grade classroom. It was good – really good! Then . . .the holidays came! Could I survive the holidays in the classroom?
I remember my confusion when one day classroom management worked and the next day it didn’t. I remember my questions when my once “perfect” students were anything but. And I remember my tears when I didn’t know what to do next. We made it through the holidays that year, but barely. By the time we got to our break, I had earned it. I was exhausted, not really in the Christmas spirit, and doubting whether this was the job for me.
Over the years, the holidays have become my favorite time of year in the classroom. Now that’s quite a turn around! Here’s my 3 best tips for maintaining your teacher sanity during the holidays.
Survive the Holidays Tip 1: Have Fun with Your Students
I wish I had learned this one sooner. The holidays are a fun time and it’s OK to be excited. And . . . it’s OK for your students to see that you are excited for the holidays too. Do a fun activity or two to bring the holiday spirit into the classroom.
One year I have my students this Christmas light pattern (grab it for free) and let them decorate their desk with Christmas lights. You can let them trace and cut from construction paper or color them in. Then add to a piece of yarn and hang around the desk. This works great when you students have their own desk.
Decorating a tree together is another great way to have fun and bring in the holiday spirit. Our school colors were blue and white so I opted for the bright blue tree and my students loved it!
Another year we worked together to turn the outside of our classroom into a gingerbread house. I did the main shape of the house and then the students created candies and decorations for the house. I projected a couple of pictures onto our white board and then let them get busy. No templates, no guides – just pure creativity and construction paper.
But my favorite was when I turned all my students into elves with my Elf Yourself resource. The students LOVED seeing themselves and me as elves and we used it as a starting point for some fun Christmas writing too!
Another year, we used these elves to turn our buddy class into elves. We worked on the in secret and then went and decorated their door and hallway while they were at recess. They were so surprised when they returned and loved seeing the elf creations! It was a fun way to spread some holiday cheer within the school.
It doesn’t have to be big, messy or time consuming. Just have fun and enjoy the holidays with your students.
Survive the Holidays Tip 2: Change it Up
When it comes to classroom management, this is the perfect time to change it up. Your classroom rules and procedures are already in place and your students know the expectations. So why not add a new flair to help balance their extra energy and excitement due to the holidays.
I’m sure you know about the very popular Elf on the Shelf. I used this with my kindergarten students and it was very effective. My students loved coming in each day to see what our elf was up to. Since they were so engaged in the elf, we used to do some writing too!
Actually my entire team did and this and some days all of the kindergarten elves would get caught together.
If you need Elf on the Shelf ideas check Pinterest – there are tons of them.
With my third graders and middle schoolers I used something more age appropriate. Some years we worked towards a class surprise right before the break and other years we did daily challenges.
A class favorite was playing Tic-Tac-Toe against the teacher. I would start the day with a blank Tic-Tac-Toe grid on the front board and underneath I’d write a daily reward like (5 minutes extra recess or no homework pass). Then when the class had great behavior they would earn an X. I would call on a student to place the X and then I could mark an O. The game would continue through the day until we had finished a game of Tic-Tac-Toe. The students were so engaged in doing the right thing that they often reminded each other what to do. Super easy yet super effective.
There’s something about just doing something different that really helps to re-engage the class and pull things back together.
Survive the Holidays Tip 3: Embrace the Holidays
Your students are excited about the holidays, so instead of fighting against it use it to your advantage! Use the automatic engagement of the holidays to engage your students in learning too! By just using holiday themed activities you can actually get your students really excited.
Below are some of my favorite holiday and seasonal resources that my students loved. I loved that the learning activities continued and that all of these activities are NO Prep or LOW Prep! Definite time and stress saver.
My Christmas Wish For You
However you choose to do it, my wish is that this year you will be able to enjoy the holidays more and have less holiday stress.