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readilearn: Christmas classroom activities that focus on learning

  • Published on November 16, 2018

Christmas classroom activities that focus on learning

As Christmas draws near, keeping children focussed on their lessons can be a challenge for teachers. But it’s not impossible. It is not necessary to fill every moment with Christmas themed activities, but a few interspersed throughout the day can be motivating and lift everyone’s spirits. Activities that promote children’s learning should always take precedence over time fillers.

To assist teachers keep the focus on learning while children would rather be thinking of Christmas and holidays, I have prepared a range of lessons and suggestions for use in different subject areas. Many of the lessons and suggestions integrate learning across curriculum areas. All readilearn Christmas themed activities can be found under the Cultural Studies tab in the subcategory Christmas.

Focus on the children

A great place to start is always with the children and their family’s traditions.

survey to determine which children in the class celebrate Christmas

Begin with a survey to find out which children in the class do and do not celebrate Christmas. While you will already have an idea of which children do, it can be an interesting way to begin the discussion of different cultural traditions celebrated by children in your class.

respect sign made out of blocks

The main ingredient in any of these discussions should always be respect, and it is important to find ways of making classroom activities inclusive.

How many school days until Christmas?

Advent Calendars that count down the twenty-five December days until Christmas are great for families to use in the home but not so suitable for school. What about counting down the school days until Christmas? Twenty-five school days would mean starting at least five weeks before school finishes, which might be a bit soon, so choose another number which suits your program. Fifteen (three weeks) could be a good number. (Note: If, for inclusivity, you didn’t wish to count down to Christmas, you could count down to the holidays.)

A countdown calendar

Schedule opportunities for the children to present information about their family traditions as part of the countdown.

a count down from 15 days until Christmashow many school days until the holidays counting down from 15

Prepare a chart counting down the school days left until Christmas or the holidays.

Decide how many children will present on each day. This will depend on the number of children in the class and which days are available for presentations.

Place tiles numbered for each presentation day into a bag. You will need enough for the number of children presenting on each day.  For example, if two children will present on each of the days numbered from 15 to 5, then you will need two tiles for each of those numbers. If just one child will present on the days numbered from 4 to 2, then you will need just one tile with those numbers. (Note: a ‘tile’ could simply be a square of paper.)

As children take turns to draw a tile from the bag, write their names in the countdown boxes.

Prepare the schedule the week prior to the commencement of the talks to give children time to discuss their presentation with their families. It would be useful to send home a note explaining the process.

Social-emotional skills: getting along, being kind and cooperating with each other

While it may not be quite the same where you are, everything seems to happen at once in Australia. The end of the school year and all it involves with assessments, reporting, class allocations, celebrations and farewells, coincides with the lengthening of our hot summer days, the commencement of our long school holidays, and Christmas preparations. The combination of excitement, heat, and the culmination of a year working together can see some fraying around the edges. With all of these goings on, it is important to maintain the focus on being respectful, kind and cooperative, to teachers as well as to each other.

3D classroom tree display

One fun way of doing this is to make a 3D classroom tree display. Children work together to create the tree which becomes the focus of the classroom display. While children are proud of their individual contribution, they recognise the importance of everyone working together and the tree becomes a visible reminder of the importance of teamwork

How to make a friendship tree

Friendship trees is another great activity for the last few weeks of school. The activity helps to build self-esteem, confidence and friendship skills. Each child makes their own friendship tree (referring to them as friendship trees makes them inclusive for all children).

friendship message for friendship trees

Every day children write anonymous positive notes of friendship and affirmation to place in each other’s trees. When school closes for the year, children take home their trees filled with positive messages to read over the holidays.

A template for the trees, examples of friendship messages, and editable message strips for distribution to the children are also available.

Literacy activities
A selection of Christmas picture books by Australian authors
A selection of Christmas picture books by Australian authors

There are many wonderful Christmas picture books and stories available to read to the children. I’m sure you have your favourites and your librarian will be able to suggest others. New Christmas stories are added to our bookshelves every year.

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas anthology of short stories and poetry

I have recently purchased It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas, An Anthology of Christmas Tales which I’m certain will become a favourite of many. A collection of thirty short stories and poems, it is perfect for sharing in the classroom.

Another thing I love about this book is that the authors and illustrators have donated their talent to help ensure that trainee teachers in Tanzania have the chance to develop into outstanding teachers who can make a positive impact on the lives of children they teach in the future. What amazing generosity for a purpose that can only improve our world. The book is available from online bookstores.

who's hiding at Christmas an interactive Christmas story

Who’s Hiding at Christmas is an interactive digital story to read on the interactive whiteboard. The repetitive structure encourages children to join in with the reading.

Familiar Christmas characters are hiding behind the Christmas tree. Children select baubles to reveal clues and the star to reveal choices. When a correct response is chosen, the character responds with a brief action when tapped. Children can join with the characters in singing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” as a surprise on the final page.

who's hiding at Christmas template

The resource may also be used as a stimulus for the children’s own writing and a printable template to assist with formatting is provided.

There is a range of other resources that support learning based on the Who’s Hiding at Christmas? story, including:

descriptions of Christmas characters to assist children with their writing

Christmas character descriptions

Christmas characters to cut out and use for storytelling or puppet shows

Christmas character cut-outs

a set of thematic word cards about Christmas

Christmas word cards

New!

printable version of the popular interactive stor

A new printable version of the story for independent or small group reading is now available.

a Christmas themed crossword puzzle

Another great follow-up activity to reading the story is the printable Christmas crossword puzzle. Children read clues similar to those in the story and use the resources Christmas character descriptions and Christmas word cards to help complete the crossword.

Christmas poems

Christmas poems is a digital collection of poems suitable for teaching poetry writing to children. The poems are ready to display on the interactive whiteboard. The resource includes templates for writing class poems. These can also be used as a modelled writing lesson after which children can write their own poems on printable templates, which are also available.

There are five different poetic forms, each with at least one example and a template for writing your own.

The types of poems are:

  • acrostic
  • sound poems: “I heard . . . ”
  • haiku
  • “I love”
  • shape poems.

Christmas poetry

The poems and templates are also available to download individually, or as a collection in Christmas poetry – writing with children. Choose the format that suits your requirements best.

lessons for teaching children to write poetry on a Christmas theme

Be sure to consult the resource Writing Christmas poems for additional information and suggestions.

Logical thinking and problem solving

Logic puzzles are great for developing thinking skills, and they involve the use of other skills in an integrated way.

logic puzzles Christmas lower primary

Which gift? Playing Secret Santa consists of two logic puzzles; Secret Santa boys and Secret Santa girls. Great for reading comprehension and creative thinking; and for collaboration in a paired activity!

The story children play a pretend game of Secret Santa. They take toys from the shelf, wrap them in Christmas paper, and give them to each other as pretend gifts.

The children’s job is to work out who gave what gift to which child, and what paper it was wrapped in.

The puzzles can be used with the whole class to introduce children to the steps involved in completing logic puzzles. They can be used in conjunction with each other or independently, or use one to introduce children to logic puzzles and provide one for practice.

Alternatively, they make a great independent or buddy activity if children already know how to complete logic puzzles on their own.

interactive 9 square Christmas puzzle

The interactive 9 square Christmas puzzle works like any other 9 square puzzle, with 9 puzzle pieces arranged to form a 3 x 3 grid. The picture-pieces on the sides of each square must match to make a whole. Children simply drag and drop the puzzle pieces onto the mat to complete the puzzle. While it is easier than paper or cardboard puzzles as the pieces are already correctly orientated and do not need to be rotated, it is still quite challenging to complete and may require a number of attempts.

When used with the whole class or small groups, this puzzle provides opportunities for problem solving, discussion, and development of vocabulary related to position including left, right, top, bottom, middle, centre, above, below, between.

9 square Christmas puzzle

The printable version of the 9 square Christmas puzzle provides a challenging activity for fast finishers or waiting times, or can be given to students as part of a Christmas gift to use at home. Not just for fun, these puzzles help to develop problem-solving, persistence, and a willingness to have a go. Children can discuss alternative placement of pieces and work together to solve the puzzle using positional language.

Fine Motor skills

fine motor Christmas activities

Fine motor skills are important to develop, in pre-school settings, the first 3 years of schooling and beyond! They allow children to build their hand-eye coordination, concentration and finger/hand/arm muscles. All of these skills are needed for pencil grip, using scissors and other general life skills such as buttoning, zipping and using cutlery.

What’s great is that it is easy to combine them with Christmas activities.

Fine motor Christmas activities suggests six Christmas themed fine motor activities that can be used both in the early years classroom and at home. Most are suitable for small groups or independent work and some can even be used to decorate your classroom and share the festive spirit!

Other Christmas resources
New!

2019 calendar to download and print

A cute printable 2019 calendar with all your favourite Who’s hiding at Christmas? characters makes a lovely, but inexpensive, gift for children, their parents, or classroom helpers.

New!

2019 calendar bookmarks to print and gift

The calendars are also available as printable 2019 calendar bookmarks.

Christmas gift labels

A set of Christmas gift labels, also featuring the Who’s hiding at Christmas? character are available to download and print.

All twenty-three of the Christmas themed resources mentioned here, along with all other readilearn teaching resources for the first three years of school, are available to subscribers for the one low annual fee of A$25.

Subscribe now for access to all readilearn resources or Register to begin using free resources.

gift subscription to early childhood teaching resources for the first three years of school

Remember, a readilearn subscription also makes a special gift to let early childhood teachers know their work is appreciated. Contact me for details.

readilearn: teaching resources for the first three years of school
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Comments

    Well of course the printable about Christmas poems is close to my heart! I love the idea of a school days countdown to Christmas calendar too. As you say, advent calendars are good for home but not so much for the classroom. Wonderful educational ideas for the holidays, Norah 🙂

    Thank you so much for reading and commenting, Christy. I appreciate your poet’s approval of the poetry. 🙂 I hope teachers and parents find the resources useful.

    I love the friendship trees activity, Norah! What an esteem booster to children, but truly for anyone. I recently saw a large number of holidays that are celebrated between October and November. Truly it is the holiday season. Inclusivity is so important. In some ways, I find it odd, the hold Christmas has over us and yet I also love all the festivities and traditions.

    The children always enjoy the friendship trees activity, Charli, as do I. I am always impressed by the kind and thoughtful messages they write, and how they personalise them for each of their friends. Sometimes I am amazed at the things they comment on and how encouraging they can be, even to the children who are not in their close friendship circle.
    I wish I knew more about all the traditions and festivities. I can read about them, but it is much more meaningful to learn about them from those who genuinely celebrate them, which is why I always recommend starting with the children and the traditions of their families.

    Brilliant concepts here Norah. You’ve combined the excitement for Christmas built right into the learning tools, good way to pull one over on the kids having fun counting the days and learning while staying in the spirit of Christmas 🙂 x

    Thanks so much, Debby. I always think it’s a good idea to mix a bit of fun in with learning. 🙂

    I love all the Christmas activities you include in this post. They are so fun as I can tell because I had done some of them. I also made a tree to decorate the classroom. I traced the students hands on green construction paper, they cut them out, I stabled them on the bulletin board in a Christmas tree shape. In the US, we must teach Christian tradition in cultural and historical context. So your theme a highly appropriate for us to use here.

    Thank you, Miriam. I very much appreciate your supportive comment. I’m pleased that teachers in the US will find the activities as useful as will teachers in Australia. That’s just what I had hoped. 🙂

Please share your thoughts. I love it when you do.

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