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5 December Holiday Activities for the Secondary Classroom

December Holiday Activities in the ELA ClassroomThe month of December is a time of excitement and joy outside of the classroom, so why not invite some of those good vibes into the classroom to increase student engagement and motivation?!

On this note, I’ve teamed up with other awesome teacher bloggers in the 12 Days of December Blog Hop and Giveaway, so be sure to check out their posts, as well, especially the other blogger today, Informed Decisions, and leave some love!

Holiday Activity #1: Send Kudos Cards

Instead of giving gifts, have students create Kudos Cards for each other. You’ll need at least a couple of days for this activity because you’ll want to have students draw 1-2 (or more!) of their classmates’ names from a hat.  Their assignment for the span of 2 or more days will be to be on the lookout for at least one thing to give kudos for (big or small).  You’ll want to model this for the students, giving them examples of specific, effective kudos notes.  I tell my students that they need specific description of an action/contribution during class and/or a quote of what this person said, as well as a follow-up reaction/praise statement.  I even give them sentence starters on the kudos cards to give them kudos writing power.  Although the most important aspect of the kudos card is the specific note of affirmation, you can also give stu

ELA Classroom Community Builder

dents time in class on the “turn in” day to decorate their cards with whatever trimmings you want to make available: glitter, ribbons, bows, stickers, etc.

You can make this a consistent routine in your classroom, too!  You can make kudos notes available for students to write at any time, drop them in a mailbox, and share the kudos notes by reading them aloud to the whole class when you collect a group of them. Or, you can take a more structured approach by continuing to assign kudos friends to each student.  If you go this route, an easy way to manage this is to keep a master envelope with each student’s name in it and use these names weekly or bi-monthly to have students select who they will kudos next.  To omit the paper sorting and organizational chaos that this might create for you, an easy way to navigate the distribution of kudos notes is to give students time in class to write their note at the beginning of a class period, turn them in to you for a quick skim over, and then pass them back (or have a student pass them back) at the end of the hour.  

To grab my holiday and regular kudos cards freebie, click HERE.

Holiday Activity #2: Motivational Mondays

I’ve made it a routine this year to do “Motivational Monday” each week.  I like this because it allows me to build in student reflection and different growth mindset/real world discussions as we go.  Sometimes I’ll give students a set of quotes centered around a certain theme and have them write or discuss connections/disconnections with their small group.  We also watch video clips and discuss.

Here are six of of my favorite motivational videos.  The first one is a “10 Rules of Success” video.  If you haven’t checked some of these out, you’ll want to bookmark Evan Carmichael’s channel and come back to it later.

Motivating High School Students

The “10 Rules” videos are not a quick show, but students will resonate with them and you can use them as a springboard to have students come up with their own “10 Rules for Success” or “10 Rules for Success in ___________” as a fun writing and reflection assignment.

Holiday Activity #3: Mini-Units!

Moving on, the month of December is a great time to build in a stand-alone mini unit, or have students work independently on a project.  Here are a few of my no-prep favorites that ask your students to: 

Holiday Activity #4: Build Public Speaking Skills

Slam Poetry Makes a Great Holiday Activity!

Slam poetry in the classroom is a ton of fun and one of my favorite ways to bring comfort and joy to my classroom (not just during the holiday season).  I’ve put together my most successful resources into one comprehensive, no-prep bundle.  You can also grab some slam poetry freebies HERE and HERE and at the bottom of this post!

Impromptu speeches are a great way to have students practice on-the-spot speaking in small groups or in front of the whole class.  I usually start by making the rule that students must talk for at least 30 seconds, and then increase the time to one minute for the next round.  There are a lot of great lists online for public speaking topics, but I grew tired of sifting through those, so I made my own, optimized for my digital classroom and for teen audiences. Check them out HERE

Holiday Activity #5: Make Time for Creative Writing Fun

I always have a couple of lesson ideas up my sleeve in case student motivation wanes or as a pre-break activity.  Here are two of my favorites: 

Shake Up Learning has designed a great digital magnetic poetry activity. Have students create their own poems about winter and/or the holidays and share them with each other.

Holiday Writing Activity for Secondary ELA Students

I also love using this mix-and-match holiday writing activity as a fun individual or partner writing activity before winter break.  Students use their creativity and practice important skills at the same time!  

Check Out Other 12 Days of December Bloggers

Thanks for checking out my tips for an engaging holiday season with your classes!  I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.  

I also hope you’ll take the time to visit all of the other blogs with tips for comfort and joy this holiday season and beyond, and be sure to enter our sweet giveaway early and often. Cards will be raffled off on December 1st, 4th, 8th, and 12th.  Good luck!

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