On the one hand the holidays are “the most wonderful time of the year,” on the other hand I cannot think of a more slow, dragging, excruciating chunk of weeks in the school calendar than the weeks between Thanksgiving and the winter break. With just a few low-effort tweeks you can keep the cold out and bring in the cheer for your students (I’m riding the cheese-ball today folks!). Here are my ideas for making your classroom a little more jolly:
- Keep the season open to everyone: Inclusive language is much more than simple political correctness for teachers; it is the cornerstone of a safe classroom. It takes a conscious effort on my part to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” but it makes a big difference to my students who come from other faith traditions.
- You cannot have too many twinkle lights: The are cheap and so pretty; get a couple of boxes and line your bulletin board, encircle your white board or classroom door, and put a few around your window.
- During work time, play the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack: This recording is perfect for the classroom because it is largely instrumental, not overtly religious, and so, so, so good. Every year students ask what I’m playing or, if they know it, are super excited I have it on. It’s up beat and classic. I love it. I am listening to it right now . . .
- Get a Santa Clause hat and/or beard. Wear it non-stop and without apology: This will make students smile every time they look at you. Alternately, get a one of those flashing light necklaces for a less hard-core-holiday look. “Come on Abby,” you say, “If I do this, the kids won’t take me seriously!” On the contrary colleague, my experience with dressing up is that students appreciate and respect the effort you are putting in to your job and reciprocate in kind. If you do this, please send me a picture.
- Give your students the gift of cheap candy paired with meaningful words: I like to buy a couple of bags of holiday candy (Not candy canes because who actually likes those? I’m talking Snickers.) and either 1) write a Holiday letter that highlights fun times in your class since the beginning of the year and then make a copy for each kid. Don’t forget to write a quick personal note on each student’s letter. Then attach a piece of candy to the letter and hand them out before the break. Or 2) during group or independent work call up students one by one. Hand them a piece of candy, look them in the eye, and tell them why you are thankful they are in your class. I like to quickly jot a word or two for each student before I do this so that when I am looking at the student the words come quickly and easily. I have had students tell me that this gesture was one of the most significant and meaningful things I did in my classroom.
- Focus on the giving part and avoid the getting: Planning a classroom party? How much more meaningful would it be to set up a volunteer experience? Pick up trash, collect cans for a local shelter and then deliver them, or write letters to soldiers stationed away from their families. There are so many programs designed to make this experience really easy to execute – do a quick search online.
How do you celebrate the holidays in your classroom?