The few weeks between Thanksgiving and Winter break are always CrAzY in elementary classrooms. Am I right?!? And as soon as the calendar flips to December, teachers know it’s next to impossible to get your students to focus in class! How can I keep my students learning during the winter holidays? What keeps students engaged in my lesson plans in December? Whether you’re a veteran teacher or a new teacher this blog post will give you some classroom hacks to use during the chaos that is December in the classroom.
Here are a few tips to help you survive and thrive during this chaotic time in the classroom:
1. Keep your routines in place. Well… as much as you can anyway. Special events, like assemblies, music concerts, and parties are notorious for popping up this time of year. Keeping your daily routines in place as much as possible will help kids remember expectations. Morning meetings or other morning routines are the most important for setting the tone for the day.
2. Don’t expect perfection and give grace. It is definitely okay to keep kids accountable to rules and expectations, but plan on lots of redirection and lots of love during December. Kids are going to be easily distracted and do unexpected things due to stress you cannot see. Honestly, you can add grown ups to this list too. Everyone has other things on their minds this time of year. Kids are excited that Santa Claus is coming. Some kids are wondering if Santa is going to come at all. Some kids overheard mom and dad fighting over money last night. Some kids are curious why Santa didn’t send them an elf on the shelf when it seems like everyone else has one.
You can tell them things like, “I know that we’re all excited about (the assembly, the music concert this afternoon, etc.), but let’s talk about how to (act during math centers, treat each other at lunch, walk in the hallway, etc.)” Acknowledge their excitement and then go over the rules and procedures.
3. Resist starting a countdown too early. Honestly, I avoid countdowns until it gets to 10 ish. I’ve never had a class that didn’t get over-excited and I just don’t have the energy to manage it for days on end. Now, I may or may not have done a secret countdown to winter break at my desk. Shhhh!
4. Have your students earn holiday rewards. Remind your students of these fun little things often. Say things like, “When we get our work done, then we will earn a point towards _____ .” This helps motivate students to complete their work when they have an end goal in mind. Students can work towards small things like a winter or holiday movie or game, a festive dress up day, Winter or Christmas Escape room activity, or big things like a full blown Polar Express Day if you have the energy.
5. Keep your students active. Teachers know that unstructured time is when unwanted behaviors occur. I keep a few extra worksheets copied and ready to go at all times. You can also rely on brain breaks, boom cards, task card games, or other teacher tricks you have up your sleeves. The teacher across the hall from me has used December packets in her room successfully. She took several winter holiday themed worksheets and stapled them together for the kids to keep in their desks. She mixed in math, reading, grammar, a couple of coloring pages, and the kids loved it!
6. Plan review activities for the last week in December. This will help keeps students’ skills sharp without too much pressure on the students or you. I have found this helps with behavior outbursts from overwhelmed kids over the last couple of years.
7. Give yourself some grace, too. You deserve it. Teaching in December is tough. Perfection is not needed to be a great teacher or human for that matter! Taking care of yourself looks different for everyone. Maybe you’re the kind of person that can recharge and relax with a bubble bath. Maybe you need a few minutes in nature every day.
I hope this has help give you some ideas to manage your classroom until winter break gets here and keep some of your sanity! What are some ways you keep your class running smoothly before the holidays? Please share them in the comments!