This time of year is challenging for so many reasons; from the looming horror of final exams to the downright awful cold weather (remember, Chicago girl here!), December is a teaching challenge of focus, measuring learning from the entire semester, and finding ways to authentically remember the heart of the season in our classrooms.

This month, I've taken on the challenge to be part of the 12 Days of December Blog Hop and Giveaway!  I teamed up with some incredible secondary teachers to write about "comfort and joy" during the holiday season in our classrooms. 

When I think of “comfort and joy” in my classroom around December, what I look forward to most is getting my YouTube fireplace crackling on the screen at the front of my room!

 

This one comes with Christmas music:  

And this one just crackles:

But as we all know, there’s a lot more to teaching in the month of December than just cute holiday sentiments.  This time of year is challenging for so many reasons; from the looming horror of final exams to the downright awful cold weather (remember, Chicago girl here!), December is a teaching challenge of focus, measuring learning from the entire semester, and finding ways to authentically remember the heart of the season in our classrooms.  

Here are SIX ways I tackle the challenges of this tricky teaching month (and keep things warm and cozy, too!):

 

1:  Plan a White Elephant Holiday Party!

If you’re like me, you’ve been saying “no” to class parties all semester.  This is the one time of year that I give in!  We usually have an awkward calendar day right at the end of the semester, and so I seize this opportunity to let the kids have a party.  And not just a sit around, eat, and stare at each other party...a White Elephant Party!  By having a specific kind of gift exchange, it keeps the class moderately sane (students have to pay attention in order to play the game!) and keeps any socially awkward classes from getting too...socially awkward!

 

2:  Fun, but meaningful, end of semester review for finals

You’ve covered so much material since August, and finals are right around the corner.  As much as we’d like to just wrap things up and be done, students are going to be anxious about their final grades and getting prepared for their exams.  In the English classroom, there are TONS of fun, warm, and joyful ways to do this!  Consider:

  • Create Character Stockings:  In this easy “craftivity”, students choose a character of significance from the semester and design a stocking that fully represents him or her.  The stocking should include both textual evidence and symbolic imagery that encapsulates that character’s most important contributions to the work of literature.  Have students give brief “presentations” of the stocking before you hang them up by the fireplace in your classroom.  This will serve as both a review of important character moments and a speaking and listening grade before the end of the term!

  • Try a new techy review game that you haven’t had time to play this semester.  Platforms like Kahoot!, Quizziz, and Quizlet Live are easy to use and energy boosters during the winter blues.

 

3:  Thematic, argumentative writing

Some of you might not have finals until after winter break.  This means that you have to fill all of December with meaningful, rigorous work to keep your kiddos from going bananas.  Why not try out this mini-unit in argumentative writing?  Pose the question:  do the holidays make people more generous or greedy?  Then, using the lesson plan, send students off to search through ten different articles and videos looking for evidence to support each side of the argument.  After a few days of reading and notetaking, challenge the students to write an essay taking a side embedding and using the evidence they’ve found from the provided nonfiction resources.  This could easily take you anywhere from two to six class periods and is sure to keep them both academically focused but also enjoying some humor and seasonally related discussions.

 

4:  A Decor Update

This is a great time of year to warm up your room with a few simple decor ideas.  Have you seen some of these before?

 

5:  Service Learning Project and/or Field Trip

If you have some time to spare and need to fill it with something meaningful, this is a great time of year to start a service learning project or take a service learning field trip!  I have a great way to get started on a project with Be the Change!  Thinking about a field trip instead?  How about taking your crew to Feed My Starving Children?  This organization is perfectly set up for school trips, they spend time educating students about what they’re doing and why, and they make the volunteering time a blast!

6:  Random Acts of Kindness Challenge

To really get into the spirit of joy and giving, why not challenge your students to complete this Random Acts of Kindness Challenge?  Have students work together as a class and use a class hashtag to share photos on Twitter or Instagram completing each challenge.  Take all of those pictures and throw them into an Animoto video to show at your White Elephant party!  This free download is editable and ready for you completely customize for your own students and school.

Don't forget to check out all of the other amazing secondary bloggers sharing their ideas for creating comfort and joy in your classroom all winter long and be SURE that you enter our amazing giveaway!  We are raffling off gift cards on December 1st, 4th, 8th, and 12th, so be sure to enter early and often to get your shot at some seriously crazy prizes!

 

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