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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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).
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.
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.
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 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.
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:
A new printable version of the story for independent or small group reading is now available.
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 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:
- sound poems: “I heard . . . ”
- “I love”
- shape poems.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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
The calendars are also available as printable 2019 calendar bookmarks.
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.
Remember, a readilearn subscription also makes a special gift to let early childhood teachers know their work is appreciated. Contact me for details.
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