Surviving the last week before Christmas break can make even the most seasoned teachers feel frantic. To make the days less stressful I’ve rounded up a few of my favorite ideas and activities to help save your sanity, survive the week, and have fun with your students! These simple ideas, with minimal prep, will help you keep behavior in check, spread kindness through your classroom, get your parent gifts done, and keep everybody engaged and still learning that last crazy week before break!
By now, you may be hanging on for dear life trying to get your duties all done, report cards finished, and the last of your parent gifts completed. Here are 5 ideas, and some free downloads, for the last 5 days before Christmas break that your class will love!
Hold A Holiday Book Exchange
Receiving a new book is always exciting! It’s also a great way to keep our kids reading over the upcoming break. During the last week, hold a holiday book exchange. I use Scholastic bonus points to purchase books to give each student and always get a few extras to add to our holiday book exchange. I build up the excitement by purchasing books that I know they all love and have been drooling over in the monthly book club fliers!
Set up your book exchange by having students bring in gently used books from home wrapped in their favorite way. I lay out all of the books as they come in so that students get excited all week! On our chosen day, I draw 3 or 4 names at a time for students to choose their books. This is a fun thing to do with reading buddies too. Keep it super-easy by downloading this FREE editable parent letter.
Secret Santa of Kind Words
Spread some holiday kindness around your classroom and throughout your school by holding a Secret Santa of Kind Words. Have students draw names and make cards for their classmates, reading buddies or school staff. The smiles are priceless as students read the words of kindness in their cards.
Over the years we’ve made them not only for classmates and reading buddies, but for our office, cafeteria, and custodial staffs too.
We deliver them on the last day before break and the reactions from both the givers and the receivers are treasures!
Count Down the Days Until Break
This is one of my most favorite week before break activities. It is honestly one of the best things I’ve ever done with my class. They get so excited to see what each day will bring and of course, we sing an alternate version of “The 12 Days of Christmas”.
Count down the last 5 days until break by rolling down the chart each morning to reveal a daily gift/treat.
Students then use the treats to do the tasks! I place the gifts and activity pages on everyone’s desk before they arrive. It’s a fun, hands-on option to replace morning work that week or to add to your center activities. The resource we use is available in versions for Grades 1-4. I’ve included both “Christmas break” and “Winter break” terminology in each set along with an alternative, winter-themed version for students who don’t celebrate.
Managing this is easy. If you’re short on time and don’t want to get fancy, no worries! Simply pass out the pages for the day and place a handful of treats on a napkin on students’ desks. Find all of the simple treats from the dollar store for around $10.00. I’ve made versions of this resource for Grade 1, Grades 2-3, and Grade 4. Students use the treats to practice grade level specific math and language arts skills. If you do decide to make the chart, all the parts are included. It’s a win-win for me because everybody is thrilled (which means engaged and on-task) AND they’re still learning. I’m freed up to complete a number of other things on my “must get done before break to-do list”.
Decorate for Data
I love to include a lot of gingerbread math ideas during the last week before break, and decorating gingerbread men as glyphs is a great one for data and graphing. Click here to see how we took it a step further and animated our glyphs using the ChatterPix app to describe what each item represents.
If you don’t have time to decorate real ones, decorate virtual cookies online!
Rotate students through computers and iPads to decorate virtual gingerbread cookies on Blenderbox.com. Students can even print their creations!
Wrap Parent Gifts in Gingerbread Houses
Getting parent gifts done is always high on the priority list the last week before break. These adorable gingerbread house gift bags made using lunch sacks from the dollar store, are a fun and easy way to wrap them.
The easiest thing ever to prep, they include a one-page template that students can color and cut out.
Glue the gift tag on the back and you’re all set! If you do a gingerbread week be sure to check out this post, Comparing Favorite Versions of The Gingerbread Man, for lots of book activities and some freebies! Don’t miss the FREE gingerbread-themed Caught Being Kind coupons in the post to help keep behavior in check!
Read versions of The Gingerbread Man
Review a lot of the skills you’ve taught this past quarter by reading versions of The Gingerbread Man. These books lend themselves so well to teaching about central message, character traits, why authors use repetition, gaining information from illustrations, and how characters respond to major challenges.
Click here to see how the Gingerbread Man turned my readers into thinkers and add a few of these ideas into your last week before break.
Clean off Your Desk
Lastly, before you leave clean off your desk. Save the planet by tossing all of those ungraded papers straight into the recycle bin (after your students leave) and feel good about yourself. You’ll come back to a fresh start and do better next time.
I hope you’ve found some ideas you can use to help you get through that last cRaZy week before Christmas break! If you like these ideas, why not share with other teachers? Pin them for later or share on Facebook!
Do you need parent gift ideas? Check out this post with lots of easy parent Christmas gifts. For volunteer and staff gift tags and lot of FREE printables, check out 10 Free Christmas Printables for the Last Week Before Break!
Planning a bit for January before you leave for break? The first week back in January is a great time to write New Year’s resolutions and to set new learning goals! Click here for New Year’s activities and ideas for your classroom.