I am that anti-holiday teacher. I just say no to glitter. Class party? No thank you. Yes, I can be a little Scrooge-y when it comes to holidays in the classroom. During any pre-holiday season, I’m convinced that students eat chocolate chips drowned in strawberry milk with a dollop of whipped cream for breakfast. They are so amped! But here’s the thing, we still have to teach them. We need to show up for our students during the holidays even when we want to melt down ourselves. The real key to surviving any holiday in your classroom is to plan ahead.
It is critical to have a structured and engaging activity when you know your class is about to go sideways due to Halloween, Valentine’s Day, or any day prior to a three-day weekend.
Strategies that I have found successful include:
- Centers. Keep your activities short and engaging. Even if you simply break up a normal lesson into discrete parts and move the kids around the room in groups, you will have changed the normal structure of your class in a way that shakes things up–for the better!
- Get outside. Can you take your normal lesson outside? Why not write on the playground or kickoff your class with a read aloud under a tree out in front of your school? Just changing the location of your class can make a difference.
- Have a read-in. Scour the internet for a famous writer’s birthday or the anniversary of some historical event, invite your students to wear jammies to school (if this isn’t in violation of the school dress code!), and cuddle up with a good book. If you play that 10-hour crackling fire video that can be found on the internet on your interactive whiteboard, you’ll earn extra points for ambiance.
- Do an engineering design challenge. I started this practice years ago. When I taught in rural Arizona, we lost so much funding one year that field trips were off limits. I purchased, with my incredibly meager salary, a pre-made engineering design kit for $50 on the internet and used that time to promote team building and design thinking. Now I’m a huge fan of using the engineering design process to promote creativity and hands-on/minds-on thinking in my classroom, particularly prior to any big holiday.
I’m such a fan of engineering design projects that I’ve started to design a few of my own. From my experience in the classroom, these would work best for fourth to seventh grades.
Students will build a catapult or slingshot to fling a soft piece of candy at Cupid’s target. includes engineering design posters, teacher and student instructions, worksheets, and more!
Here are some images from my Valentine’s product. I had a blast creating different designs for my catapults and slingshots. Did you know that most Valentine’s Day candy’s are hard? Conversation hearts are not ideal for making catapults in the science classroom! After searching two stores for soft, Valentine’s Day candy, I opted to use fun, striped marshmallows.
Already have a favorite engineering design challenge activity, but need student worksheets and posters to support the learning in your classroom? Check out this 22-page resource that can be printed or used digitally.
This one is a freebie from my store! Use readily available supplies to create a noisy device to scare away mice!
Students will create a sled using different materials. Measure the distance the sleds go, and learn the engineering design process as you create!