The week before winter break is no doubt one of the busiest times of the school year. This can lead teachers to experience extra stress and overwhelm trying to keep their students on task. Read on for 6 ideas to help you survive (and thrive) during the week before winter break.
6 Tips for Surviving the Week Before Winter Break
The holiday season is always hectic but that doesn't mean you have to experience overwhelm as a teacher. Instead, focus your energy on what you can control so you and your students can enjoy the season, especially the week before winter break.
Tip #1- Stay on track
Kids can get pretty amped up before the holidays, especially the week before winter break. There are so many fun events and activities going on and a lot to look forward to, so who can blame them?
However, just because the holidays are near, doesn't mean learning can come to a full stop. In fact, this time of year can bring some of the most fun and engaging learning opportunities and themes.
While it may take a little extra patience to keep your students on track, it's important that you don't let all rules, procedures, and schedules go out the window.
Keeping your students on track and giving them a sense of normalcy everyday is key. A great way to set your students up for success is by starting each day with a consistent morning routine.
Take a few minutes each morning to go over the basic rules and routines of your classroom community. As a class, set your intentions together to have a productive learning day.
You can incorporate hands-on and engaging holiday-themed morning tub activities into your morning routine. This gives students an easy way start to their day while practicing key math and literacy skills.
Morning tubs give students something fun they can count on each morning to start the day right. Kids love predictability just as much as we do as adults!
Best of all there are NO worksheets included in this resource, so it is great for morning tubs, early finishers, or anytime learning activities during the last week before break.
You can get a sneak peek of the December Morning Tubs in this blog post.
Tip #2- Turn learning into a game
The week before winter break is not the time of year to have students sitting in place for extended periods of time. Get them up out of their seats and actively learning and collaborating as much as possible!
You can harness the pre-winter break excitement and energy by incorporating learning activities that are disguised as fun games into your lesson plans.
For instance, to practice word families, play a game of four corners. Name each corner with a different word family. For example you might use short a word families: -am, -ab, -at, -an. Instead of calling out “corner #1”, call out a CVC word, such as “ham”. Everyone from the -am corner sits down.
Another idea is to use hands-on activities and learning games. These Christmas and Gingerbread themed Plans in a Pinch quick prep activities and games are perfect for December in Kindergarten.
This lesson planning kit includes a ton of print-and-go math, literacy, writing, science, and social studies activities along with activity mats and time-filler games.
These are perfect to use on those off-schedule days during the week before winter break. They're also handy for substitute teachers to use as sub plans. They even come with sub forms and class information sheets.
Tip #3- Read stories with a holiday theme
There are so many wonderful children's stories to share this time of year. The week before winter break is a great time to read and discuss holiday books as a whole group.
You can tie in learning to your holiday read alouds by having students draw a picture of their favorite character or part of the story. They can turn and talk to a partner about the story and share what they enjoyed about it.
You can even get students up and moving by acting out certain parts of the story. This time of year, if you sense your classroom is getting chaotic, stop and read a story. It can be the perfect way to calm your students and get them back on track.
You can check out a few of my favorite Christmas read aloud books in this blog post.
Tip #4- Take them outside
I know the winter months can be cold and bundling everyone up takes a little extra effort, but getting outside is often the perfect way to get out those pre-holiday wiggles and give everyone a little reset.
Sometimes, all it takes is changing up the scenery and getting some fresh air to get back on task and reset your mind.
Take a winter-themed nature walk around the playground and look for animal tracks. Check out the weather in the winter sky. Collect pinecones or branches for craft activities, or go on a class scavenger hunt.
Once you return to the classroom, you can discuss everything you saw outside and tie in thoughtful conversations and learning.
Tip #5- Avoid Downtime
Have you ever heard the saying, “If you don't have a plan for your students, they'll have a plan for you?”
This is so true in the kindergarten classroom! As a teacher, especially the week before winter break, you want to avoid downtime and always make sure you have something for your students to do.
This will help you avoid off-task behavior and keep your students on track. To do that, keep quick and easy activities and time-filler games on hand that you can easily pull out at a moment's notice.
Students can practice their math and literacy skills, play a fun game of “Would You Rather,” or write about a holiday picture that they colored.
You don't have to pack your schedule with new skills or complicated activities, and in fact, you shouldn't! Focus on keeping your students engaged and giving them a fun way to review skills they've already learned so far this year.
Tip #6- Have a party!
The best way to wrap up the week before winter is break is with a classroom party! And what’s a party without food, games, and crafts?
You can check out my blog post, 3 Rules for Stress-Free Classroom Parties for more tips on planning a fun holiday party for your students (without the overwhelm for you). Here are 4 fun party ideas that kids love!
Decorate a tree
Decorating an edible tree is a kid-favorite holiday party activity! All you need is sugar cones, green frosting, and sprinkles or chocolate candies.
Students turn the sugar cone upside down, cover it with green frosting, and decorate it.
This is a great activity if you can enlist a few parent volunteers to help you out. It's a little messy, but your students will love creating their own edible work of art.
If Christmas isn't celebrated in your classroom, you have students decorate plain sugar cookies with frosting and sprinkles.
While students are snacking on their crafts, you can read a festive holiday book or a favorite from your classroom library.
Play holiday-themed games
One of my favorite games for a holiday classroom party is “Don't Eat the Gingerbread.” It's perfect for small groups and the prep work is easy. All you need is the game board and small candies or mini marshmallows.
You can click here to grab a free copy of the “Don't Eat the Gingerbread” game board, directions, and a non-food version called “Don't Grab the Gingerbread”.
For this version, you can use gingerbread mini erasers, pom-poms, or whatever you have on hand!
Do a Gingerbread House Craft
Nothing says holidays more than making a gingerbread house! However, making edible gingerbread houses can get pretty complicated and messy.
Instead, you can make a fun, DIY gingerbread house craft that only uses basic craft supplies like construction paper, scissors, and glue. You can find the step-by-step directions in this blog post.
Each student can let their creativity shine as they decorate their gingerbread house. Each house will look different, which is really the beauty of it.
These gingerbread houses are perfect to send home to families to show off their student's creativity and bring home the holiday spirit!
Make holiday cards
If you need another quick craft idea for your class party, you can set up a card-making station for them to make personalized holiday cards for their family, local first responders, or military service members who are away from their families during the holidays.
Lay out sheets of construction paper folded in half and craft supplies such as stickers, crayons, markers, glue sticks, and all those scraps of colored paper that have accumulated throughout the semester.
Just by adding a few special things like stickers or shapes from the die-cut machine, students can let their creativity run wild with them!
I hope these tips and ideas for surviving the week before winter break are helpful for you as you navigate this holiday season.
With a little bit of patience and a lot of purposeful planning, not only will you and your students survive the week before winter break, you'll thrive and make a ton of sweet memories!
Do you have a special holiday tradition that you do in your classroom during the week before winter break? Comment below and tell me all about it!