What holiday (or holidays) are you celebrating in December? There are plenty of classroom activities that can you do with your students regardless of whether they typically celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, more than one holiday, or nothing at all.
In a season marked by singing cheery songs, eating sweets and treats, wrapping gifts, and doing fun crafts, check out our list of ideas below to ensure your students have a great send-off before winter break.
Holiday Classroom Games, Activities, and Craft Ideas
1. Holiday Crafts
There's so much you can do when it comes to easy holiday classroom crafts—the list is endless. You can start by searching social media or consulting with your teacher BFF for ideas, but here's a list of some traditional school holiday craft ideas to start you off:
- Making snowpeople out of cotton balls (and other supplies)
- Making snowflakes out of popsicle sticks or paper (as seen below)
- Designing their own holiday ornaments
- Designing their own Christmas stockings
- Writing and illustrating a book or story based on whatever holiday they celebrate
2. White Elephant, Secret Santa, or Book Exchange
This holiday classroom activity—which can be adapted across grade levels—can take different forms. For a secret Santa, you can have students randomly pick one of their classmate's names out of a hat. Make sure they don't reveal the classmate they selected! That is the student for whom they will have to buy a gift—you can set a spending limit (such as $5), or require students to bring in a book for another student if you want to do more of a book exchange (as the teacher below did!).
In a white elephant, students can bring in wrapped gifts for their classmates and place the gifts in a central location in the classroom. You should then determine the order by which students will choose a random present to open. The first student selects and opens a random gift (make sure everyone can see what it is!), and then each student can subsequently either unwrap a new gift or "steal" one from another participant. The participant whose gift was stolen can then open a different wrapped gift or, again, steal one from somebody else. Continue until all the presents are unwrapped! There are many variations of this game, but you can read about your options here.
3. Create Holiday Cards
It's time for your students to get creative! Have them create holiday cards for their loved ones—their parents or guardians, family members, or close friends—using construction paper, glue, glitter, markers, and any holiday decorations you can find.
For older students, you can consider even turning this into a writing assignment. Perhaps they can write short poems about the holiday they celebrate in their cards; draft a letter to somebody in proper paragraph form wishing them a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, or Happy Kwanzaa; or thank someone for something kind they did in the past year.
4. Make a Multicultural Calendar
For this activity, download the printable PDF below. Students will research the traditions of different cultures and create a multicultural calendar. You will need to divide your students into groups, with each one assigned to a specific culture they would like to learn more about. They will then choose a month where at least one holiday is celebrated in that culture, research those holidays, and complete the assignment below.
5. Collect Food Donations
This can be done on a schoolwide or classroom level. If the former, perhaps you want to hold a competition between classes to see who brings in the most items to donate to a charity or another cause for the holidays. Consider collaborating with other staff to make a schoolwide effort a reality, and eventually share the number of items you donate with your peers.
6. Keep It Traditional With Gingerbread-House Making
For this activity, Katie Risolo Radovich, a first-grade teacher at the Diocese of Rockville Centre in Long Island, New York, explains that she spends a few days collecting milk cartons from her lunchroom and then washes them out so they can be used to build gingerbread houses. This is a great way to foster student collaboration (social-emotional learning!) and get your students to be creative. Radovich says:
We have white icing and graham crackers to help give the milk cartons a gingerbread house look. Then, the students get to work with decorating. They use all kinds of candy and snacks--peppermints, marshmallows, pretzels, M&Ms, Skittles, gum drops, and so on. It is a great way to bring families into the school to build that home-school connection and to celebrate the holidays. We do this the day before break starts as a wonderful send-off!
Another option is to decorate gingerbread cookies! You can invite parents into the classroom to participate and read a holiday book aloud.
7. Have a Classroom Holiday Celebration!
Another great activity to celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, and/or Kwanzaa in the classroom is having some sort of holiday party. You may want to have students bring in food related to whatever holiday they celebrate or simply bring in desserts (holiday-themed cookies, anyone?). You can even invite parents to the classroom and have them read picture books to the kids and discuss the importance of each holiday. Get creative—how you structure this activity will depend on many factors, including student guest policies, food allergies, and classroom limitations.
8. Modern-Day "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" Poem
Download the activity below and have your students write a version of the famous poem "'Twas the Night Before Christmas." When the poem was written in the early 1800s, the details in the poem (sugar plums, stockings, nightcaps, chimneys) were all modern. Have them update the poem to align with the technological advances and societal shifts that have taken place since then.
9. Decorate the Classroom
You can have your students help you decorate your classroom so that it's themed for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or winter (or all of the above!) and so it can serve as an ideal environment to host your winter holiday party! Check out what one teacher did below—students wrapped their desks and created their own decorations to be hung up on the walls and ceilings.
10. "Warm World Wishes" Writing Assignment
Jade Mackney, a teacher at P.S. 43 in the Bronx, New York, recommends that rather than focusing on what your students want for themselves for the holiday season, have them consider and share their wishes for the world. This writing assignment can be a good opportunity for them to write about something they are passionate about and want to see change in the new year—world peace, a cleaner environment, or virtually anything to better their community and society. Have them share with their classmates when they finish!
11. Polar Express Party
Consider activities related to the book The Polar Express and/or the 2004 movie! You can have your students participate in a Polar Express pajama party, where the week before winter break, they (and the staff) come to school in their pajamas. The teacher can read the book to the class (or the students can read it themselves, depending on their age) and then watch the movie in the classroom or the auditorium. You can even serve hot chocolate and cookies. If you want, consider assigning students to complete a writing piece explaining what they would do and where they would go if they had an opportunity to travel on the Polar Express.
12. Play Holiday Word Games
Just as this teacher did in his classroom, you can also use holiday-related phrases to play fun holiday word games. See how many words students can make out of the phrase "Happy Holidays" (or another word or phrase related to the holidays or a specific winter holiday). Turn this into a competition by dividing your students into groups and seeing who can come up with the most words!
If you want to do something a bit more advanced in terms of fun holiday word games, create a word search, word scramble, or crossword puzzle using holiday words with tools such as Discovery Education's Puzzlemaker. Be sure to tailor the words and clues to the appropriate grade level. If you teach English language arts, get creative using vocabulary words tied to the curriculum.
Share Your Favorite Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa Classroom Activities
Have any examples of holiday classroom games or activities that we missed? Share your favorites with us on Twitter (@LeadAndLearn)!
With that, we hope you and your students enjoy the winter holidays this year. Whether you decide to host a classroom holiday party, swap gifts, or do simple crafts, 'tis the season to celebrate and recharge for the new year!
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