Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Deck the Classrooms

Santa's little helper, Suzanne

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!  And now that's it's December, I'm officially okay with it. (Yes, I'm one of those pro-Thanksgiving people.)  

It's fun to celebrate holidays, particularly in the classroom, because it adds novelty to instructional strategies.  I ran by my local Dollar Tree and have some Christmas items and ideas for you.  If you don't have a Dollar Tree: 1. I'm sorry! and 2. Check out your nearest dollar store, and you can find something comparable.  

Ho, ho, here we go...
Come up with six questions (review, related to literature, literary terms, etc.).  Type them up and hide them inside various Christmas wrapping- gift bags, fun boxes, and stockings.  I have my students fold (red or green) paper into thirds (it will look like a brochure) and then in half.  They should then have six squares.  Have them label them with each wrapping type- Snowman Stocking, Let it Snow box, Gold Glitter box.  If you have a classroom tree, you can put the gifts under it for students to choose from.  Otherwise, I've found Christmas tree clip art that twinkles and posted it on a Power Point slide.  I also include a helpful note: ___ more shopping days for Miss Langston's Christmas gift.  It hasn't produced great results, but it makes them giggle.  Students will choose a present, unwrap it to reveal their question, discuss and answer, rewrap, return it to the tree, and choose again.  Hint: your questions need to be ones that will take some time to discuss and answer.  Otherwise, you will run into a serious traffic jam. 

I thought these stickers were so cute!  Cut them up, put them in a small gift bag or Christmas cup, and have students draw one.  Now you have informal student groups for an activity or to share writing.  

Our school is lucky to have an instructional dean this year.  She presented an activity in a staff development where students interview one another to review information.  When she presented, she used Pez dispensers.  It was hilarious!  (Darth Vader explaining the three branches of government- that's funny!)  I found these cute tree toppers that could be used for the seasonal version of this activity.  It would go something like this:
Santa: Snowman, what's the difference between a simile and a metaphor?
Snowman: Well, they're both comparing two unlike things, but a simile uses like or as.  A metaphor just says it like a fact.
Santa: What?  I still don't get metaphors.  Can you give me an example?
Snowman: Sure.  The snow banks are piles of marshmallows.  See.  I just said it like it was a fact- snow is marshmallows.  If it were a simile, it would say the snow banks are like a pile of marshmallows. 
Santa: Ohhh... Now I get it!  

Student pairs should draw their topics in advance and plan their script before presenting.  This would be a great way to review for semester exams.  

These gift tags could serve as a great writing prompts.  Allow students to choose their own tag.  Ask them to think about a memorable Christmas gift.  It can be one they've given or received.  Have them fill out the label and stick it to the top of their paper.  They will then write a personal narrative or literary story about that moment.  


Gretchen Bernabei is great about having students write on stuff (for lack of a better word) that corresponds with their writing prompt.  Paper plate- story about an important conversation at the dinner table.  "While You Were Out" memo- write about an important phone conversation.  To make this holiday-y, allow students to choose a Christmas card.  On the inside, they can write about a favorite holiday memory- playing in the snow, visiting Santa, first Christmas with little brother/sister, baking Christmas cookies, caroling...  Giving them a knickknack to write on increases engagement.  No one wants to get left out of this activity.

Hope these ideas add some seasonal fun to your classroom!  AND don't forget to enter our first curly giveaway of the season!  

For more seasonal ideas, check out our Halloween post.

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