adapted from an article by Rachel Stepp, M. Ed.
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It’s the most wonderful time of the year…and also the most distracted! Enter any classroom between now and the holiday break, and you’ll find students who are a little more fidgety and a little less interested in long division and the exploits of European explorers. But, have no fear, all you brave and determined educators out there. Here are a few easy activities you can incorporate into your December lesson plans to help channel (and burn) your students’ extra energy.
Okay, this is an obvious one that you’re probably already doing, so we’ll just mention it quickly. Plan festive crafts that allow your students to engage their holiday excitement in a productive way. Here’s a site to check out if you’re searching for original ideas: crafts.kaboose.com.
Curriculum Tie-In: Crafts build hand-eye-coordination, encourage creativity, and promote fine motor skills. Not to mention that they’re just plain fun.
Do a “Walk and Talk”
This activity allows your students to talk (probably one of their favorite activities), walk, and be outdoors. So, during regular school-day transitions (like between subjects or after lunch), bundle up and go get some fresh air. During a walk and talk, students go outside to a track or playground where they can walk while talking with their classmates or grade level. This allows them to socialize and get a little low-key exercise.
Writing Tie-In: This activity can easily be turned “academic” by calling it a “Winter Nature Walk.” Instruct students to notice their five senses during the walk: certain sounds? sights? smells? feelings? Then, come back inside and do a little creative sensory writing using their observations. The paragraphs can be posted on cut-out snowflakes and hung around the room.
Head to the computer lab! Something as simple as having “history” class in the lab and exploring relevant websites together will have your students saying, “Santa who?”–at least for the next 40 minutes.
Curriculum Tie-In: Come up with a list of websites for students to explore that relate to a topic at-hand (like those European explorers), or ask your school’s computer teacher to help you select games that align with your current curriculum. You may want to create an Internet scavenger hunt, where you give students a list of fill-in-the-blank sentences or questions that they complete by finding the answers on various websites you provide.
Or, if you have a little extra time on your hands (stop laughing), you could just give your students 20 minutes of free time in the lab. School computer programs offer many possibilities, but due to time restraints, students don’t always get to use their favorite programs. They’ll enjoy exploring their favorites during a little pre-holiday free time.
Read Around the Room
Allow your students to bring one thing to school that will make reading more enjoyable for them. These things could include a beach towel, a stuffed animal, or slippers. Allow your students to have time during one day to read around the classroom with their favorite thing. You can up the anticipation-ante by bringing in a special snack like popcorn to munch while reading.
Language Arts Tie-In: Use this idea during regular reading class, when students are reading novels or nonfiction. Or, go to the library as a class first, and allow students to check out any book that interests them. Pleasure reading is still educational, you know!
Create an Obstacle Course
If your class needs to get out some energy, ask your physical education teachers to set up an obstacle course on the playground or in the gym (or get their feedback on how to do it, and have your students help you set it up themselves). Allow your students to complete the course in teams. Running, jumping and competing will help them use energy that they have (hopefully) been controlling.
Curriculum Tie-In: Obstacle courses help promote social skills, build physical abilities, develop coordination, and enhance motor skills. All good things!
Schedule Some “Me Time”
Finally, let’s just be real for a minute. Students aren’t the only ones who have trouble focusing before the holidays. Don’t forget to treat yourself to some free time after a long day of herding cats…er, I mean educating precious angels.
Tips to Try: Don’t grade papers at your desk after school. Take the stack home, put a log on the fire and slippers on your feet, and curl up on the couch to do your grading. And indulge in little pick-me-ups, like bringing your favorite warm beverage into school with you in the morning. Or plan an after-school outing or shopping trip with some of your favorite teaching peers for a Friday afternoon. Recharging your batteries will ensure that you can go the extra mile with your students before the break.