Please don’t throw rocks at me. I know it’s September. You’ve just barely finished setting up your classroom and teaching is just underway. You’re still getting to know your students and set up routines and procedures for the year. The last thing on your mind is the Holiday Season which is still months away.
I am a huge believer of celebrating each season as it comes and not letting certain holidays dwarf others. Autumn is actually my favorite time of the year! Watching a football game on a Saturday afternoon is a highlight of the fall! Picking apples and pumpkins with my family is pure joy! I adore apple cider donuts! I tolerate Halloween. 🙂 Thanksgiving is especially one of my favorite parts of the season-any excuse to make a chocolate pecan pie!
But, let’s face it, Christmas tends to get the spotlight when it comes to the last quarter of the year. Despite the holiday ads beginning in October, it somehow often manages to sneak up on us and the month is so full of shopping and baking and wrapping and holiday parties that Christmas comes and goes in a hectic rush and we’ve barely managed to enjoy any of it!
Managing the chaos is even more challenging for teachers! On top of our aforementioned congested personal lives, we are still tasked with teaching our excited and sometimes unruly students! The tinsel and twinkly lights mesmerize the young ones and you can nearly feel the anticipation in the air. Classroom management is a struggle and attention spans are shorter than normal.
It’s enough to drive anyone mad. I don’t know about you, but I would rather have fond memories of the holiday season instead of a blur of stress and anxiety.
Over the years I have learned a few tricks and practices that help make the holiday season more enjoyable.
Mrs. Nelson’s Top Tips for Maintaining Your Sanity through the Holiday Season
- Maintain Your Regular Schedule: Do you begin class with a journal writing! Keep starting class the same way! Do you usually have vocabulary tests on Fridays? Keep having vocabulary tests on Fridays! Do you have a handstand competition every Wednesday? Keep doing it! Maintaining your classroom schedule will help create a sense of normalcy for your students and reduce some of the anxiety that arises when things feel out of the ordinary.
- Continue to Keep Students Accountable: Don’t let your kids slack off just because a holiday is around the corner! Continue to ask them to turn in assignments (even if some of them go straight into the recycling bin the minute students leave the room). For graded assignments, find a way to quickly provide feedback so they know you’re still engaged and expect them to be as well. Maintain those high expectations for their work AND their behavior.
- Focus on Curriculum: Keep the learning going! Maybe this feels like a no-brainer, but don’t be afraid to keep teaching and introducing new content to students. Sure, they may forget some things over the long winter break, but you can always review with them later! At the very least, they will have something on which you can build when you reteach in the new year.
- Plan Ahead and Be Organized: Being prepared and organized for the month of December is vital to maintaining your sanity! Know ahead of time (like WAY ahead of time) what you plan to teach in December. Map out your daily lessons and then prep! Anything that you can do ahead of time, do ahead of time! Make copies; gather resources; schedule the library; schedule the computer lab; check out materials; etc. Bottom line: be ready. This way, you can stay up way to late at your partner’s company holiday party on a Wednesday night and still roll into class Thursday morning with everything ready to go smoothly!
- Be Flexible: Even after spending large amounts of time preparing your lessons, be prepared to change things up when circumstances change (as they invariable will). Maybe your principal schedules a last-minute assembly (okay-probably not in 2020, but maybe in another year?). Maybe there’s a blizzard and your district calls several snow days in a row. Maybe the district asks you to administer a test on which you hadn’t planned. Whatever happens, know that your schedule will be disrupted. Understanding this beforehand will help you handle the changes when they arise.
- Have Fun! Embrace the chaos! Managing your own expectations will help you find joy in this festive season. It won’t be perfect; it may be messy; you will make mistakes. That’s okay! Take time to enjoy the busy, crazy holidays
- Leverage the Holidays to Your Advantage: One thing I love about Language Arts is that we can teach skills applied to such a wide-range of content. This allows us to tailor our curriculum to our students’ interests. If the students are focused on the Holidays, let’s let use that to teach required skills! Below are a few of my favorite ways to teach ELA with a holiday twist.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens – Guided Reading Activities
What better way to keep students focused that with a quick novel study? Many students will be familiar with the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, but few have actually read the short novel. Many middle school literature books even have a dramatized version of the story which is fun to read aloud as a class. I have use this unit with both the novel and the drama–both worked very well! This unit requires very little prep; simply print, copy and go! As a bonus, after reading the story with your class, you can pop some popcorn, make some hot cocoa and end the calendar year watching a film adaptation-which is still part of the curriculum!
How to Write a Business Letter (to Santa)
Writing a proper letter is a skill that students will want to have when they enter the real world! The number of circumstances in which a person may want to write a business letter are endless: as a cover letter for a resume, a scholarship application, a business proposal, to request assistance, contacting government representatives, etc. Arm your students with these skills AND have fun at the same time! Teach students the format of a block business letter and then ask them to write a proper business letter to Santa Claus telling him what they’d like for holiday gifts.
Celebrating Diversity: Comparing Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Christmas
Create an inclusive classroom by exploring diverse winter holidays with your students. Practice reading informational texts with students with articles on Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Christmas and then ask them to compare / contrast the holidays. Students can also practice their writing skills by writing and reflecting upon what they’ve learned. It’s great to help broaden students’ awareness and understanding of people different from themselves!
I wish you all the luck in the world as you strive to maintain rigor and relevance (and maintain your sanity) throughout the Holiday Season!
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
Brenna (Mrs. Nelson)