12 Ideas For Holiday Activities In The Classroom

by TeachThought Staff

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This time of year, students are excited about the holidays.

And they’re often excited for different reasons, of course. Elementary students are learning holiday traditions and enjoying festive songs and stories, while middle and high school students are eagerly counting down the days to vacation! And with Thanksgiving and Christmas break quickly approaching, you might be seeing less enthusiasm for classwork in your older students.

Holiday Activities For The Elementary School Classroom

1. (Kindergarten) Handprint Reindeer

An entire collection of reindeer activities with all the best reindeer crafts, learning activities, and even reindeer snacks.

2. (1st-2nd Grade) Santa Claus is busy

Practice verb tense in this simple holiday-themed activity.

3. (4th-5th Grade) Creative Writing Prompt

Have students write one to two paragraphs answering the question, “What does ‘holiday spirit’ mean to you?” Have them focus on correct spelling and grammar. For added difficulty, list specific parts of speech (adjectives, verbs, adverbs) for them to use, underline and label in their writing.

4. (3rd-5th) A Creative Christmas Wish List

Have students make a Christmas wish list but with some specific criteria. You could have them come up with a wish list for their parents–or favorite book character or sports team. You could even get creative and ask students to create a wish list for something academic. For example, what would a tree’s root system ‘want’ for Christmas? Inert gases–what do they ‘want’? Couplets in a Shakespearean sonnet–what might they ‘want’?

Holiday Activities For The Middle School Classroom

5. (6th-8th Grade) Holiday Math Word Problems

Create holiday-themed word problems that mix holiday festivities with your current math lessons.

6. (6th-8th Grade) Rewriting the Holidays PAFT-Style

Draw out your students’ creative writing skills with this fun writing project. Students choose any holiday tale and rewrite it using the PAFT format. Consider ‘Frosty The Snowman,’ for example.

Premise & Perspective: Frosty is told from a third-person narrative perspective

Audience: young children

Format: short fiction/cartoon

Topic/Theme/Thesis: loyalty/faith/friendship

In this activity, students would choose one or more of the above categories and alter it to create something new. The PAFT acts both as analysis and pre-writing. Here’s an example:

Premise & Perspective: the same story told from the point-of-view of the magician

Audience: teenagers

Format: flash fiction

Topic, Theme, Thesis, or Tone: sarcastic or humorously ’emo’

7. (8th Grade) Analyze Anything

This literacy activity can be done in collaboration in the classroom. The most obvious approach is to reach for low-hanging fruit like holiday traditions–stories like The Night Before Christmas are good examples for discussing the concepts of rhythm, rhyme scheme, and figurative language.

But you can also consider analyzing the effect of the economy on gift-giving, the impact of emerging technological trends on familial traditions in their own home. You can also use the TeachThought Learning Taxonomy to create critical thinking prompts around any holiday custom, song, movie, video, symbol, etc.

For self-guided homework, you can also choose a short holiday novel for students to read and have them paraphrase in writing what the novel is about. Paraphrasing is a great skill to practice for future research and writing projects.

Holiday Activities For The High School Classroom

8. Holidays Across the World

Students research holiday traditions from a different cultural standpoint. You can either assign the different cultures/countries of origin or have them randomly draw from a bowl.

From their research, have students write an essay explaining the holiday traditions observed in that culture. You can direct them to focus on whichever writing concepts they are currently practicing or simply for excellent spelling and grammar.

9. Critical Thinking About The Holidays Discussion Or Writing Prompt

Have students answer a thought-provoking question like, “Is Christmas too commercial?” They should write a brief, thoughtful answer to the question. Other choices?

What is the relationship between The Grinch and his dog? Who’s more important to the story and why?

Argue for or against the magician (Professor Hinkle) from ‘Frosty’ as an anti-hero. Put another way, who’s the hero of ‘Frosty’ and why?

Many people disagree about religion, consumerism, the ‘true meaning’ of the holidays, etc. Whose perspective about ‘the holidays’ is valid and why?

What are the ‘parts’ of the holidays? Analyze them from a given perspective. Factors could include culture, chronology, weather, economics, color, light, sound, food, etc. Be specific and give concrete examples.

10. Holiday Poetry Writing

Have students write a holiday-inspired poem. Students can draw from a mix of different types of poems (Ballad, Haiku, etc) and then write a poem using that poetry type. Then, students can present their poems to the class, publish digitally, or turn into something new using PAFT.

11. Genius Hour

This one isn’t expressly an ‘activity’ but could be used as one in short enough duration. The idea here is for students to simply choose a topic and learn what they want, how they want–and create what they want in response. The key is how to choose the topic (try brainstorming by category) and how to learn (consider using our Genius Hour framework or self-directed learning model).

12. QFT Time!

In addition to the Genius Hour approach above, another idea for a holiday activity for high school students is to use the QFT strategy for guiding student inquiry. The idea here is to identify a topic, then come up with a series of refined and improved questions. This critical thinking-intense activity isn’t the lightest approach to holiday classroom practice, but for certain classrooms (you know who you are), it’d be the perfect fit.

As always, feel free to modify the activities listed here to suit your content area, age group, lesson planning needs, or your specific teaching style.

Simple Holiday Activities For Students