3 Ways to Keep Students Engaged in Learning through December

It’s December! Busy, chilly, stressful, fun, frantic, fabulous December. Your students’ excitement is building while you are just trying to cross off your gift to-do list (what do I get my parents?!) while still maintaining some sense of classroom normalcy. Keeping the engagement level high during December can be difficult. But, with some creative ideas, your classroom will continue to thrive!
Visits with Santa, assemblies, holidays around the work, Holiday cards, work celebrations, and, oh yeah, lesson plans too! You have been good this year but if you don’t have a plan, you might end up on the naughty list. These few weeks can prove difficult. Here’s how to keep those little ones engaged through all the excitement.

1. Stop Teaching, Start Reviewing

At some point, you have got to call it quits. I don’t mean plop down in your teacher chair with your feet up while waving a white flag. I just mean, stop trying to teach new information. Push aside the scope and sequence and ignore the pressure to stay on track with all the things. Just stop and review.
Think about what your students need some extra practice with and find some fun ways for them to review. This will do your students more good than you even realize. Reviewing is an essential tool that is often forgotten because of the shift toward rigor. Reviewing isn’t necessarily rigorous. But it is absolutely valuable.
A few of my favorite holiday-themed review craftivities include:
Stretching Christmas Tree Sentences {free in my store}
Subtraction Stockings (also includes 2 and 3 digit addition options)
Place value (includes 2 and 3 digit options)

2. Rotate

Whenever a holiday rolls around, my team comes together to plan a day for holiday-themed rotations. This is always a great break from our regular schedule and I get to pretend I teach middle or high school!
For my rotation, students make this Christmas tree out of strips of paper after we learn about traditions in Germany!
I teach the same lesson 5 times (my class + the four other 2nd-grade classes). Our rotations last about 25 minutes so it takes up a nice chunk of the day. Our students love it and it is a great way to get to know other students in the grade level. I get a million “Hi Mrs. Stahl”s in the hallways at recess afterward 🙂
Maybe your team isn’t down for this or you are the only teacher in your grade level. You can still do rotations within your own classroom! Invite some parents in to help or assign a responsible student to oversee each activity.
Keep things simple and low prep. Use materials you already have! Seriously. Throw a bunch of leftover art supplies at a station and call it STEM! The kids will love it! Here are a few other (FREE) activities I love:

3. Class Reward

Rewards don’t have to be tangible objects. They don’t have to cost anything. I know people think you shouldn’t need to reward expected behavior. I also shouldn’t need a glass of Pinot Grigio after school on a Monday. But it’s mid-December and needs are unique this month.
Here are some free ideas:
  • episode of Magic School Bus
  • extra recess
  • free computer time
  • swap seats for the day
  • mystery reader
  • directed drawing
  • holiday bookmark (free!)
Have your class work to earn as many rewards as they can this month.
Use a visual tracking system to help motivate them! I have this currently displayed in my classroom. We are working to earn six light bulbs and we are halfway there! If they earn it before the break, we will just start over again with a different reward. And since it includes over 20 different behaviors, it will still be fresh and new!
I hope you thrive during the last school days before winter break. And, if you are merely surviving, there’s always Pinot Grigio (my favorite is Bota Box…just in case you need a gift idea 😉
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