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How to Motivate Students Before Christmas

Janelle Cox

With the anticipation of Christmas break right around the corner, you may be wondering how to motivate students and focused on their schoolwork. Here are a few tips and ideas on how to keep students focused.

Make all Lessons and Activities Holiday-Oriented

With a little thought you can find a way to make each and every lesson and activity correlate with the holidays. Turn math into calculating how fast Santa's sleigh can ride, or use Christmas cookies to teach geometry. For spelling use words like Christmas, Mistletoe and Kwanza, and for social studies teach the origin of Christmas. Get your students excited for the holidays by incorporating Christmas into all lessons.

Create a Countdown to Christmas Break

A fun way to learn how to motivate students is to give them something to look forward to. As a class create a calendar countdown! To make each day even more special create a holiday reward, so when students come to class they will be extra excited to see what they get for that day. Some ideas for rewards can be no homework for the day, extra time at recess, a special candy cane treat, or even a treat bag to take home. You can start your countdown at the beginning of the month, or the week before break, just make sure you come up with enough exciting ideas to keep students motivated until the last day.

Write about the Holidays

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Channel all of your students’ hyped-up energy about Christmas into a creative writing lesson. Students will be eager to talk about what they want for Christmas, their holiday traditions, or how they will spend their Christmas break. Take this enthusiasm and challenge them to answer any of the following writing prompts.

  • What is your favorite holiday tradition and why?
  • What is the one thing you want to do this Christmas break that you didn't get to do last year?
  • Design a new sleigh for Santa that includes modern technologies that we use today.
  • It is said that it is better to give than to receive. What will you do this holiday season for someone other than yourself?
  • The day I met Frosty the snowman …

Put Your Elves to Work

With the excitement of the holidays brings a lot of energy, some may be more than you would like to handle. To help ease this extra energy and keep students focused on school, assign students special Christmas jobs. For instance, one person can be "Santa's secret helper" and is in charge of collecting holiday cards and gifts as they come in. Another student can be the "elf on the shelf" and is charge of making sure everyone is doing their work. Be creative and ask the students to help you come up with special Christmas-related jobs.

Read Festive Holiday Favorites

As a child I remember looking forward to going to school just to hear my teacher read all of my favorite holiday stories. I didn’t realize it then, but it was a great way to keep me motivated to learn in school until Christmas break. Here are a few fun read-alouds for the holiday season.

  • “The Polar Express” by Chris Van Allsburg
  • “The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus” by L. Frank Baum
  •  “The Gingerbread Boy” by Richard Egielski
  • “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” by Barbara Robinson
  • “The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey” by Susan Wojciechowski

How do you keep your students motivated and focused on their schoolwork before Christmas break? 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.

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