Do you feel it? That slump in energy leading into Christmas.
Are your students disengaged? Can you see the thought bubbles hovering above their heads, filled with chocolate, presents, and a break from school?
Are you checking out? Is your brain preoccupied with chocolate, wine, and a break from school?
Yep, I know I feel it about this time of year. I am ready for a break!
On top of that, you have the usual stresses of deciding what to cook for the holidays, deciding what presents to buy who, and then negotiating the perdition of parking lots during holiday time.
But hey, you’re a teacher, you still have to show up. You still have to do the educational things. But, honestly, you don’t want to plan, and mark, and engage because you need a break!
Teacher-friend, I hear you. So let’s take a look at five great low-to-no prep Christmas activities to do with your tweens and teens in the classroom. They’re still educational, but don’t require much effort on your part.
1. Watch a video
Now, if you’ve been here before, you know that I love me a video (click here to read my post on why videos are a great teaching tool).
Short version: videos help get your kids in the door, engaged, and on task. And they give you a chance you do the endless paperwork that is the bane of your teacherly existence.
Great videos to use at this time of year include:
- The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) is a great film to use at this time of year. Activities students could do include writing an argumentative essay about whether the movie is a Christmas or Halloween text, creating a Tim Burton-style artwork about another holiday text, doing a one-pager about the text.
- A Christmas Story (1983) is a classic Christmas movie that could be explored as a form of memoir. Activities students could do including creating their own series of holiday vignettes, storyboarding their own Christmas story, or justifying which of the vignettes should’ve been cut in the edit.
- A Christmas Carol (2009) is an adaptation of Charles Dickens’ 1843 novella of the same name. Activities students could do include: comparing and contrasting the two texts using a Venn diagram or visual note-taking, creating a choose-your-own-adventure version of the novella, and re-writing the novella in a different setting.
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (2000) is an adaptation of Dr. Seuss’s 1957 children’s book. Activities students could do include writing a Dr. Seuss-style rhyme review of the movie, comparing and contrasting the two texts using a Venn diagram or visual note-taking, creating a graphic novel/comic book-style storyboard showing the Grinch’s backstory (see here for a free blank comic-book page template).
2. Read a Christmas story
Now, we teachers know we can’t watch videos in all of our classes all of the time, as much as we think we would prefer that sometimes. So, when you’ve exhausted your video options, other great low-to-no prep Christmas classroom activities include reading short stories and poems.
Great written texts to use at this time of year include:
- Truman Capote’s A Christmas Memory (1956)
- David Sedaris’s The Santaland Diaries (1992)
- Dylan Thomas’s A Child’s Christmas in Wales (1952)
- Mary E Wilkins Freeman’s A Stolen Christmas (1887)
- Clement Clarke Moore (1823) Twas the night before Christmas
Great Christmas classroom activities to do with your tweens and teens at holiday time include:
- Using excerpts of holiday books, short stories, poems, or carols to create blackout poetry. See here for more information about blackout poetry, or check out my poetry Pinterest board.
- Asking students to do a one pager
- Getting students to create a comic book/graphic-novel style project on the text (click here for a blank comic-book strip)
3. Play a Christmas game
Who doesn’t love a game? Most students enjoy playing games in the classroom, and holiday time is no different.
Playing a Christmas game could be as simple as a pin the antlers on the reindeer, with the chance to take a turn requiring a correct quiz answer. Or it could be a round of Christmas trivia.
Or, if you need to cram in some more grammar, it could be a Christmas grammar escape room that reviews some part of grammar.
What? A game like that exists? A Christmas game that reviews parts of speech and/or sentence grammar? Why yes, yes it does. If you want to check it out for free click here to play the free demo for the parts of speech game and click here to play the free demo for the sentence grammar game.
4. Do some coloring in
Perhaps all those mindfulness coloring-in books have a point. Coloring in can be a sure way to beat the stress at holiday time – for you and your students.
In fact, join your students in coloring in, and stop stressing over the fact that you are secretly a Grinch that hates Christmas, are terrible at buying presents, and would rather skinny dip at the North Pole than set foot in the parking lot of your nearest Target at holiday time. Wait, is that just me?
There are loads of great grammar and parts of speech coloring in worksheets on TPT. Some fun-looking ones include:
- Figurative language coloring sheets click here
- Parts of speech coloring sheets click here
- Color by number reading passages click here
- Parts of speech pop art coloring sheets click here
- Differentiated color by code holiday analogy sheets click here
There are also many great Christmas coloring-in pages online, although they may not have such an educational slant.
- This website has coloring pages of general holiday-themed images such as stars, turkey, stockings, decorations, and Christmas trees
- For coloring pages of Christmas trees, Christmas decorations, reindeer, and other Christmas imagery this website is great
- This website has coloring pages for Christmas, Kwanzaa, Thanksgiving, and New Year
5. Choose your own assignment
A choose-your-own assignment choice board is a great way to bring rigor to the wind-down activities students complete. If students engage with several holiday texts, a choice board is great way to prompt students higher-order thinking skills.
Adding a mandatory task such as a spoken or written explanation or justification for the choices the made in their ‘best’ task is a great way to increase rigor.
A choose-your-own assignment choice board could include options such as:
- Venn diagram comparing and contrasting different holiday texts
- Comic-book/graphic-novel style one-pager (want that link again?)
- Blackout poetry
- Explorations of themes in the texts: nostalgia, poverty, the spirit of giving, personal connection, and the ‘real’ meaning of Christmas
- A collage about what the holidays mean to them
- Creating a choose-your-own holiday poster/story/comic etc with all the best aspects of the holidays
- Creating a poem from random holiday-themes words that the teacher provides
The holiday slide is real . . .
And it’s not just the kids who feel it. We teachers feel it to.
So tackle it head-on and do yourself a favour. Do some Christmas activities in your classroom: throw on a video, hand out a story or poem, and give them a Christmas picture book.
Then give students a choice board of activities. Include the more demanding tasks, but also add a few fun (but secretly educational fillers) such as coloring in or a Christmas escape room game.
And once you’ve done that, set them loose and get your grading done, write your holiday to-do list, and dream about that giant glass of wine you’ll have when school breaks for Christmas.