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Handling the Holidays in School

Janelle Cox


In the weeks and days leading up to winter vacation, you may find behavior management a challenge in your classroom. Blame it on the Christmas cookies or the anticipation of Santa Claus coming to town, but you may find even your most well-behaved students a little more distracted this time of year.

As the holidays swing into full gear students may be more fidgety, testy, or seem more distracted than usual. As excitement runs high, these changes may be due to the disruption of routine (school assemblies, plays, special after-school events). These changes in their classroom routine can throw off a child's behavior and leave you feeling overwhelmed and stressed out. Here are a few strategies to help you handle the holidays, maintain behavior management and keep your students on track.

Review Class Rules and Routines

It's December and you would think that your students would have the rules and class routine down pat by now. However, it's December, and with the excitement of Christmas students will need a quick review of your expectations. For younger students try reading "The Elf on the Shelf" and remind students that your classroom elf is always watching, and returns back to Santa Claus each night to report their behavior.

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Adjust Rules and Routines if Needed

If students are really getting out of control before the holidays try adjusting the rules and/or classroom routines. If you find students chit chatting a lot more than usual, make an example out of them, and change their seats to the front of the classroom. If you notice that students are having a hard time staying focused, then try a mini lesson versus your usual timed lessons. If you discover that students are having a hard time settling down at the end of the day for your usual book time, then change it to after lunch when you know they will be tired. These little adjustments may just make your life a little less stressful.

Reward Positive Behavior

You may notice that some students may be feeling a little more anxious or tired during the holidays. This may be due to the stress they are seeing at home, or because their parents are allowing them to stay up late to participate in holiday activities. Look for opportunities throughout the day to praise these students on their positive behavior, instead of punishing them for being distracted. If you notice they lined up quickly and quietly, then say to all of the students, "I saw a lot of friends lining up quickly and waiting patiently, that means we have more time at recess today." These positive words will resonate with the students and in turn prevent many behavior problems in the future. 

Try a Morning Meeting

If you notice the noise level in class is about ten octaves higher than usual, or students are not following the rules, then try having a daily morning meeting. This is a time when the class can all meet together and freely discuss anything that is going on in class, or any concerns that you or your students may have. To help get your class off to a great start each day before vacation, try having a new theme each morning. For example, at Monday's morning meeting, the first topic on the agenda can be "Holiday traditions." Each student can discuss one tradition that they do with their families. The second topic of the morning can be "Review classroom expectations," then each student would name one classroom expectation. A quick morning meeting can set a positive tone for the rest of the school day.

How do handle the holiday stress in your classroom? Do you have any behavior management tips that work well for you during the holidays? Please share with us in the comment section below! We would love to hear your thoughts!

Janelle Cox is an education writer who draws on her 15 years of professional experience in the education system. Janelle holds a master's of science in education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for, where she provides educational information and lesson plans for teachers around the globe.