Keeping your students engaged when winter break is just around the corner can be extremely challenging. Kids may be running out of steam, feeling antsy and restless, or getting excited about family vacations. Fortunately, you can bring a festive, cheerful, and engaging atmosphere to your classroom by building your lessons around holiday celebrations! No matter what subject you're teaching, you can get creative and make a connection to the holidays. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Social Studies – Holidays Around the World
Ask students to come up with a list of any winter holidays they can think of immediately. Then, add other holidays not listed (LearningLiftoff.org has an article on winter holidays around the world, including Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, St. Lucia Day, Three Kings Day and Winter Solstice). Next, organize students into small groups and have each group select and research a holiday. In the days before winter break, have students present their holiday and create a celebration for their classmates. Include elements like history, religion, music, foods, decoration, clothing, traditions, etc. For more ideas on holidays and social studies, visit commonsense.org Activities to Learn About Holiday Histories
Math – Budgeting for the Holidays
Learning about budgeting and finance can be a real snoozer for teens. But you can make the subject more engaging and relevant by teaching about budgeting for holiday gift-giving. Plus, you'll be helping students develop an appreciation for gifts they receive and for giving to others during the holidays. Check out CNN Student News Learning Activity: Holiday Budgeting. This lesson plan begins with a class discussion on holiday gift lists and budgets. Then, students create their own budgets and ideas for holiday gifts. Next, they track their actual expenditures and compare against their budgets. While this activity is designed for high school students (some of whom may have jobs or earn allowances), consider those who have limited resources and include creative ideas for gifts that do not cost money, like handmade art, video tributes, coupons for chores, volunteering, gifts of time, etc.
Reading – Stories About the Holidays
Reading stories is a great way to get your kids into the holiday spirit. Whether you have your students read aloud or listen to you, you'll be carrying on traditions passed down for generations across cultures. Commonsensemedia.org has an extensive list of Holiday Books for Kids that includes titles like The Sound of Kwanzaa, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, 'Twas Nochebuena, and All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah. Don't forget about classics like O. Henry's The Gift of the Magi and Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol.
Science – Holiday Experiments
Check out sciencelessonsthatrock.com for some fun Holiday Secondary Science Activities. The page has links to lessons on dendrochronology (make "tree cookies" from the trunk of your Christmas Tree and count rings to determine age), pH (use poinsettia petals to determine acidity or alkalinity), and circuits (create parallel and series circuits using holiday lights).
Get creative with your lesson planning this season! Capitalize on all that holiday energy and excitement brimming in the classroom. Your students will appreciate your efforts to make their final days before vacation merry and bright!
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