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Top 10 Holiday Learning Activities

Kim Haynes

As December approaches, the holiday hype has most likely invaded your classroom. The energy of your students is on the rise as they  shift  focus from their science homework to their holiday break plans.

Why not capitalize on your students’ holiday spirit with these Christmas and winter holiday activities!

**Of course, you'll need to be sensitive to your school's holiday policy. You can adapt these activities to be multicultural or more winter-themed.**

 Dream About a White Christmas Scientifically

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Take advantage of the winter weather to teach a science lesson. Younger students can study the forms of precipitation, while older students may enjoy snow-themed science experiments like this.

More Snow and Winter Lessons

The holidays can also be a terrific time to explore the science of cooking – what temperature do you need to melt enough sugar to make candy? Why doesn’t a lower temperature work? What chemistry is involved in baking bread? What happens if you leave out the yeast? 

Analyze Poetry with Holiday Classics

Whether you opt for The Night Before Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, or another holiday favorite, these poems can be a great way for students to learn about (or review) concepts like rhythm, rhyme scheme, figurative language, and more.

For a secular approach, try winter songs like Jingle Bells, Frosty the Snowman or Winter Wonderland

Explore the Many December Holidays

While many of your students are celebrating Christmas, some may instead observe Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or the Winter Solstice.

Have students complete a Venn diagram or other compare/contrast worksheet that helps them to recognize the similarities and differences between these special occasions. You may be able to include details about traditional celebrations, the history behind each holiday, foods commonly eaten, what cultures celebrate the holiday, and more.

Research Holiday Traditions

Pose a question about the holidays, such as:

  • *Why do we hang stockings by the fireplace?
  • *Where did the idea of Santa Claus come from?
  • *How did someone invent the candy cane?

Guide students through a research project to find the answer. To be more inclusive, include questions regarding several December holidays in addition to Christmas traditions. 

Practice Math with Holiday Word Problems 

Collect newspaper ads from toy stores, video game stores, clothing stores – wherever your students like to shop. Use these to create holiday “word problems.” For example, “Mrs. Jones has seven children and a budget of $200 for holiday gifts. She wants to give each of them a video game. Each game needs to be different, and each game needs to be the same price. What games should she get, and how much will each game cost?” For older students, add in paying for sales tax or shipping costs to increase the difficulty. This allows you to shift students’ eagerness for presents into a teachable moment. 

Review Your Semester with Holiday Decor

Many schools have a semester ending in December or January. Why not create a “Review Tree”? Create a poster or bulletin board display of a Christmas tree. Ask students to create “ornaments” that reflect what they have learned so far this year – for example, an ornament for every book they read or an ornament for every unit they completed. Students can draw a picture of their ornament and then write a short description of what it is and what it represents. This “tree” can stay up as you review for semester exams. For an extra special twist, consider having students create actual ornaments that you hang on a fake Christmas tree!

Snow Ball Fight Review Game

Themed reviews can translate to snow balls with review items on your bulletin board or other holiday-neutral themes. To be interactive, you could create a Snow Ball Fight review game. Students can write review questions on fake snowballs or paper rolled up in a ball. Divide into two teams and "throw" one review question at a time. The teams get a point for each question answered correctly. 

Write Your Own Holiday Story

Many popular Christmas stories are old and may not be relatable for students. Why not have students write their own holiday tales? They could update a classic or create a totally original story that celebrates something they love about the holiday season.

Create children’s books of these new stories, complete with illustrations, and “publish” them. Consider having students read their published books to a class of younger students as part of a holiday party or celebration. 

Discuss The Gift That Isn’t There

Ask students to write about a gift they want, but won’t be receiving this Christmas. This can challenge students to move beyond their traditional ideas of “presents” to consider intangible things that are also important. For example, if a student is dying to make the baseball team, he won’t find that under the tree. How will that affect his holiday celebration? If this is too difficult for your students, consider having them do the activity for a book they are reading, again focusing on intangible “presents.”

Many great works of literature are based on someone longing for something they cannot have, from Great Expectations to The Great Gatsby. By connecting this to something familiar (what students want for Christmas), you may be able to spark a deeper conversation about literature.

Foster Generosity by Being Santa for Someone

Explore ways you and your students can “be Santa” for your local community. Is there a retirement home nearby? Have your students create ornaments and then decorate a tree for the residents, or have them interview the residents about their Christmas memories and create a “Christmas through the Years” book for residents to enjoy. Also check with your local humane society or animal rescue group – can you gather food, blankets, or toys for the homeless animals? Taking time to encourage students’ generosity can be a great way to emphasize the real meaning of the season. 

Whatever you choose, have a happy holiday classroom and a happy holiday season!

What are your favorite holiday and winter activities you use in your classroom? Share in the comments section below!

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