You know it’s coming. That dreaded “week before Christmas break.” It’s a time when it’s every teacher for himself, and most educators believe that just for a few days, entire schools should be crop-dusted with ADHD meds.
What do you do? Half of your class has checked-out mentally and the other half have checked-out physically. If you are on a block schedule, then odds are that you have a few days sandwiched between end-of-course tests and Christmas break. If you only have a day or two, by all means, give your kids a break and watch a movie. You all deserve it. But don’t check out and just show something with zero educational value like Elf. Make sure it is a movie with historical content, and write a few class discussion questions on the board while you’re at it.
Sidenote: I recently was somewhat horrified to hear that some teachers the local area had students watch movies for the last TWO WEEKS of the semester because testing was over. I know that it’s hard to keep kids focused after testing, but if you automatically show movies to kill time you are telling your students several things:
- School is about testing, not learning
- Learning for learning’s sake is not valuable
- It’s ok to take the easy way out
Movies in the classroom are ok as an occasional reward (be careful with this one) or to reinforce content, but they should NEVER take the place of instruction just because you don’t feel like teaching. Rant over.
What if your administrators won’t allow movies or you have more than just a day or two to kill? What then? Well, the thing to keep in mind is that you want assignments that meet the following criteria:
- Creative (Kids are burned out from test or distracted by the coming break.)
- Adaptable (Kids will be sporadically absent. Do something that can work with any subject matter and any amount of students.)
So just what can you do when things are crazy? Here are my assignment ideas to help get you through the pre-Christmas craziness. (Keep in mind that these can be used at the end of the year in May/June as well.)
- Have students design a commemorative Christmas ornament about a historical figure. I just posted a very detailed version of this assignment on Teachers Pay Teachers. It will be free for a limited time. Get it while you can, and if you like it, please leave me a good review!
- Put students in groups and have them act out historical events for the class to guess. (Each group must provide 3 clues within their skit and must give you a hard copy of the clues before they perform.)
- Have students create a song in which they replace traditional Christmas lyrics with those about a historical event. Click here to download my stellar creation about Valley Forge called Deck the Tents…sure to be a blockbuster hit! 😉 If your students choose this option, take a picture of the lyrics and project them on the board. Have the class sing it together! Get into it and make it fun and silly.
- Have student write poetry, create raps, or make acrostic poems about historical figures.
- Have students plan a very brief presentation answering one of the following questions: What historical figure (that we have studied) would you like to meet and why? What historical event (that we have studied) would you like to have witnessed and why? Students should give 3-5 solid reasons for their feelings. Require students to make a bulleted list that they must eventually turn in to you, which will help them solidify/organize their thoughts. (You could make them write an essay, but the whole point of these activities is that they are low-stress for students. If you think your kids can handle it, go for it.) Then have students get in small groups and share their presentations.
The common thing about all of these activities is that they can be adapted to almost any subject, they allow kids to get creative, and they require very little planning on your part!
Good luck! You’re almost there!