Don’t you love it when a non-teacher family member over Thanksgiving says something like, “Oh, you only have 1 month until Christmas Break. Lucky you, that’ll come quick.”
Ha, yeah, only a month until Christmas Break, and we’re probably just gonna watch Christmas movies the whole time and make paper snowflakes.
Yeah that’s not how it works. This month between Thanksgiving and Christmas is what I like to call “The Chaos,” my overdramatic term describing one of the most difficult times of the year. It’s a period of time there’s like a full moon 24-7. Where sugar from Christmas cookies and candy canes is constantly pulsing through kids’ veins. Those same family members saying that “You only have 1 month until Christmas Break” comment, are saying it to students too. And that’s telling many kids, “Hey, only 1 month till break, teachers shouldn’t give us real work to do."
Or, "I can be on my phone all I want." "I can’t wait to go skiing over break!" "I can stand on tables and act out of my mind too!"
I’m telling you, it’s The Chaos. This is a tough month to teach. Not to mention, the kids in our classes who aren’t looking forward to 2 weeks off from school. Because 2 weeks off means 2 weeks of inconsistent meals, 2 weeks without their teachers, and those loving and caring relationships. It might mean two weeks spending all day in an unsafe place. And you’ll notice many students who have that reality act out and feeling restless as well.
The chaos is real, but I also think this can be the most meaningful time of year.
It’s the perfect time to change the setting of your classroom.
Find 30 minutes of a class period for you and your students to decorate your room. Let them go nuts with scissors and construction paper. I always put a call out to students to bring in any extra Christmas lights if they them have at home, and we make the room look different, festive and cozy. I also loved putting up a tree in my room, and asking all of my students to bring in one ornament to hang on it. Some made them, others had them already. A few students brought in menoras to hang on it.
It’s about creating community, and actually giving many students an experience they don’t necessarily get at home. It makes your classroom a specific setting kids love to be in for this month. And you’ll find when kids love to be in your room, they also listen better and work harder.
Design seasonal activities.
I also think this month is an awesome opportunity to design activities that fit the season. One of my favorite ELA activities ever is reading the short story “To Build a Fire,” by Jack London, and then taking my students outside in the snow and acting the story out, and actually building a fire in the snow.
There’s so many ways to make curriculum come alive this time of year. History teachers, could you have your students learn about, then act out the World War 1 Christmas Day Armistice? Science teachers, what if your class learned the science behind candy canes, and then attempted to make them? Math teachers, what if your class organized a food drive for a local homeless shelter, and students graphed food as it came in so they had a visual of their current status and their ultimate goal.
The ideas are endless, and this is a great time to brainstorm them.
Utilize the energy in the room.
And lastly, you know your students now, and they know you. Instructionally, you’re probably starting to get the flow. Use it to make this month before break special. This can be a tough time to be in the classroom, for many students, but also for teachers. But I think if we embrace this time of year, and think of it as special, and then craft our time with students accordingly, The Chaos can be a pretty great month.
And if all else fails, It is only a month until Christmas Break after all.